Gordon Lennon 1983-2009

June 8, 2009
Gordon Lennon

Gordon Lennon

I was shocked this morning to read of the death of Dumbarton’s captain Gordon Lennon. The Northern Irishman was killed in an off-road accident near Dingwall yesterday.

I watched him play only a few weeks ago as Dumbarton ran riot over Elgin City. He had a great game, as the whole team didn’t put a foot wrong all afternoon. As you can see from my photograph above, he also led the celebrations afterwards as results elsewhere meant that Dumbarton had all but won the Third Division title that day.

This interview from The Lennox Herald shows how happy he was when The Sons’ finally clinched the title the following week.

It seems that fans of all the clubs he played for all still think fondly of him. There are lots of nice tributes to him on the Pie and Bovril forum. There’s also a nice tribute and a good photograph on The Ben Lomond Free Press site. The same here from Sons’ Diary. The Sons Supporters Trust site has a similar post.

Doctorvee was also at the Elgin City match and has a piece up about the tragedy. Doctorvee’s father Jack Deighton has a tribute at his own site. Another piece this time from Onebrow.

Simon Barrow has his tribute at his site Only Just Offside.

Dumbarton manager Jim Chapman spoke about his captain to The Sun.

Game Fifty – Auchinleck Talbot vs. Clydebank

June 1, 2009

The Cup Final teams

Auchinleck Talbot 2 vs. 1 Clydebank

Scottish Junior Cup Final
Sunday 31st May 2009, Kick-Off 3pm
Rugby Park, Kilmarnock

When I set out on this daft journey to go to 50 football matches last summer, I did not think for a minute that number 50 would see Clydebank in a national cup final.

The town is somewhat abuzz with excitement. The Clydebank Post has a 12 page pull-out this week. The highlight of the section is the cut-out Stefan Gonet face mask.

In the Daily Record, writer and Clydebank supporter Paul Jain has been providing some features on the club. There is this one on Clydebank chairman Gordon Robertson. As well as a feature on current Bankie and ex-Toulouse man Iain Anderson. There has also been Chris Mackie’s cup final diary. There’s a good article in The Scotsman too.

Instead of travelling by myself on the train, I decided to book a seat on one of the 40 buses leaving from Clydebank Town Hall.

It’s a glorious day. The weekend has seen the best couple of days weather in the west of Scotland so far this year.

I’m down at the Town Hall at about 11.25am. There’s already a small crowd assembled outside. I go and sit in Solidarity Square and watch the numbers slowly build. Cars toot their horns as they go past and the sense of occasion is building.

After hanging around for a bit I go inside to pay for my ticket onto the bus. There’s talk around the desk of “What happens if someone’s name’s not down?” which worries me slightly, but my name is on the list so no problems there.

There’s also a stall in the Town Hall where you can buy some cup final and general Clydebank merchandise. I opt for the cheapest and smallest item there – a tasteful cup final pin badge.

By five past twelve I’m on one of the first buses getting ready to leave. One of my mum’s neighbours takes the seat next to me. Despite knowing me for over 30 years, he appears to have no clue who I am.

I’m obviously on a pretty placid bus. There’s no singing, no rowdiness of any kind and very little chat.

We arrive in Kilmarnock at around 1.15pm. The ground is a short walk from where the bus parks. When we get to the ground the gates are shut. So I wander around a bit, first of all having a look in the Kilmarnock club shop. Then i go in to the adjacent Park Hotel for a Diet Coke.

Several hundred Auchinleck and Clydebank fans are milling around the ground and in the bars within the stadium.

Queues are now building outside some of the gates. I would have a moan here about how come they gates weren’t opened earlier when Kilmarnock FC should have known full well fans would be here more than an hour ahead of kick off. However, it’s no big deal really as even although there are queues there’s no real need as there are enough gates to accomodate all of us quite quickly.

I meet some more of my mum’s neighbours (ones who do recognise me this time) in the queue. They were regulars at Clydebank when the team was a senior side. This is the first time they’ve come to see them as a junior team.

Clydebank fans

There’s quite a lot of people here today I suspect have never seen Clydebank as a junior side. I spot several folk I haven’t seen since school, some of whom always professed to have no interest in football. Cup Final Fever.

There are also several generations of Clydebank tops on display. I spot someone in a yellow and purple vertical striped away top I forgot even existed.

Once inside the ground I head for the pie stall and plump for the legendary Killie Pie. It tastes quite nice and by no means ‘Stinking’ like a few of the boys on the bus were saying.

Of the two stands allocated to Clydebank supporters I’m in the West Stand. This one is completely in the shade, while the stand behind the goal allows the fans there to bask in the glorious sunshine. Because we have the run of the place I opt for a nice padded seat with arm rests. With such a day however, the heat this set-up generates isn’t really beneficial.

Nutz the Kilmarnock mascot is in action today and he has his work cut out. Cos he’s supposed to be neutral he’s having to pose with fans of both sets of clubs, gee up two lots of supporters and dance around to the names of two team line-ups. Hope he was on double-time.

The Auchinleck fans seem to be all in their club colours as their end is swathed in gold and black.

With all the excitement of the day, it’s easy to forget that there’s actually a game of football to be played.

Clydebank fans

Clydebank start very well forcing four corners in the opening eight minutes. We also seem to be playing the ball back to Stefan Gonet in goal an awful lot.

There’s a couple of decent half-chances that Bankies fail to snap up. The best being when Charlie Hobbs slides in on a Chris Mackie cross in the six-yard box, but just fails to connect.

Auchinleck get a bit more of a grip on proceedings as the first half develops, Gonet getting a fingertip to turn a shot over the bar. But it’s nil-nil as we go in for half-time.

It feels like it’s going to be a nervy 45 minutes when the sides come out for the second half and to be honest it does seem like it’ll be ‘next goal the winner’.

All season I’ve listened to fans scream at referees for supposed bias when I couldn’t see any. Maybe it’s because today I’m not a neutral, but I notice the ref making two or three blunders. He misses a blatant Talbot handball, then later when Chris Mackie appears to be fouled, the ref awards against the Clydebank forward. He lets another couple of spicy Talbot challenges go unpunished as well. To be fair to the ref he does want to let the play go on a lot, which is always good to see, and I don’t think there’s a single booking during the entire 90 minutes.

Chris Mackie is played through in 58 minutes and he unleashes a rasping shot which Adam Strain in the Talbot goal is equal to.

It’s Auchinleck who take the lead in the 60th minute. Craig Pettigrew crossed for McIlroy to nod in at the back post.

The Talbot fans had been pretty quiet up until this point, but now they were in raptures. When play resumes they start their first song of the day.

Seven minutes later Clydebank are level. A great break away by Charlie Hobbs sees him fire in an in-perfect cross onto the head of the on rushing Chris Mackie who heads the ball straight down the middle into the Talbot goal.

The Bankies fans have something to shout about. The team deserved a goal for the work they put in.

The Talbot fans go quiet once again as the Clydebank support get more vocal.

Less than ten minutes later Talbot are back in front. A tame shot from just inside the box trickles slowly in at the far post. The Gold and Black sections of the ground errupt once more.

They may have came here in decent numbers and got decked out in the club colours, but ‘You only sing when you’re winning’ was never more aptly applied than to the Talbot fans today.

Clydebank keep fighting to get back into it and the best chance comes in the third minute of injury time. Mark Hailstones leads the chase for a long ball. He races into the area under pressure from a defender. He beats the onrushing keeper to the ball and gets his shot in, only to see it sail over the bar. Hailstones, like all of us in the stands, sinks as he realises that’s the last chance gone to save the final.

Having seen him play a few times this season I really like Mark Hailstones. Happy to take on defenders he reminds me a wee bit of the Bankies players I grew up watching like Gerry McCabe and Gerry Ronald.

The final whistle sounds just seconds after that shot. Talbot have won their record eighth Junior Cup.

It can’t really be grudged. I don’t think there was much between the teams, but Auchinleck just shaded it on the day.

Myself and most of the Clydebank support stay behind to see them lift the trophy.

On the way back to the bus I meet my nephew who’s a Rangers fan, but was persuaded to come along by some of his mates.

On the bus back to Clydebank I’m sat in the second row of seats. There’s a group of five old guys sat in the rows of 2 & 3 behind the female driver. On the road out of Kilmarnock the old guys attempt to mack her with trivia about Al Jolson.

“He was the first singer to sell a million records, Lesley.”

“You know what his real name was? It was Asa Yoelson.”

“He was a rabbi you know. You having a few drinks the night Lesley? Going out into the garden? A few scooby snacks?”

One of them takes some time out by reading every sign for Glasgow we pass. “Glasgow 18 miles…Glasgow 16 miles…Glasgow 12 miles…”

Clydebank took 3766 fans to this final. Remarkable. Hopefully a lot more of them will attend the odd league game every now and again.

It’s back to league business for Clydebank and there is now the chance that the side could land an unexpected place in the promotion play-off. If they win their last three league games Bankies will land a play-off with Glenafton Athletic.

As for me, I’ve reached the fifty games mark, but the season isn’t quite over. The junior fixture list still has a few weeks left, and while my evenings are tied up for just over a week, I’ll hopefully get along to a few more games before season 2008/09 finally comes to an end.

There are more photographs of the day here. There is a match report in The Scotsman.

Clydebank players applaud the crowd

Auchinleck Talbot: Strain, Latta, McVey, Pettigrew, Collins, Spence (White 78), Young, Slavin, McIlroy (Mallan 72), Gillies, Davidson.

Scorers: McIlroy (60), Davidson (76)

Clydebank: Gonet, Lynn, Soutar, McInnes, Allum, Smith (Rushford 46), Blair (Anderson 62), J. Jack (Selkirk 78), Hailstones, Hobbs, Mackie.

Scorer: Mackie (67)

Attendance: 8122

Referee: John Beaton (Motherwell)

Game Forty-Nine – Airdrie United vs. Ayr United

June 1, 2009

Ayr players and fans celebrate

Airdrie United 0 vs. 1 Ayr United (Ayr win 3-2 on Aggregate)

Irn-Bru Scottish Football League Divsion One Play-Off Final Second Leg
Sunday 24th May 2009, Kick-Off 3.15pm
Shyberry Excelsior Stadium, Airdrie

I’m no real fan of play-offs, but here we are a bit of guaranteed excitement at the end of the season.

As I’ve said here before I’m also no fan of Airdrie United, so the chance to see them relegated was one I didn’t want to miss. I’ve also enjoyed watching Ayr United a couple of times this season, so I go in with their large travelling support.

The kick-off time of 3.15 is the most contrary for any match I’ve been to this season. I presume it has something to do with the SPL matches finishing earlier in the day. It means that I’ll be cutting it fine to get the train back as I have to be somewhere in Glasgow at 6pm.

The Ayr fans are in fine voice, while Airdrie United’s supporters are pretty much silent. The away fans also outnumber the home support.

Ayr get into the lead on 29 minutes when Ryan Stevenson picks up the ball at the edge of the box after another shot has been blocked. He cracks a shot that flies into the Airdrie United net.

Ayr fans celebrate

Just before half-time Ayr’s Dean Keenan, who had an excellent game for the most part, goes up for an aerial challenge with Airdrie United’s Paul Lovering. Both players defintely have elbows out, but it’s Lovering who comes off worst as Keenan cracks him one on the side of the head. The Ayr player is probably lucky to escape with just a booking. Many referees would have had no hesitation in getting out the red card.

There’s blood streaming from a wound and Lovering looks fuming. However, he shakes hands with Keenan as he comes back on to the pitch after receiving treatment.

At half-time I discover there’s something of a party going on in the toilets, with Ayr fans singing, dancing and turing the lavs into a smoking shed.

There’s little incident of note in the second half as Airdrie United struggle to threaten Ayr’s goal.

At full-time the Ayr fans errupt. The Airdrie stewards tamely attempt to stop a pitch invasion, but there’s little they can do to stop the Ayr supporters streaming onto the pitch and hugging their heroes.

I have to rush off for the train and can’t stay for most of the celebrations. Well done to Ayr. I’m glad to see them go up. They’ve played some good football in the games I’ve seen them in this season.

This link should take you to a video taken by some very disgruntled Airdrie United fans of the Ayr supporters on the pitch.

I have more photographs here.

Ayr players and fans go wild

Airdrie United: Robertson, McLachlan (Watt 79), Lovering, McDonald (McDougall 61), Bobby Donnelly, Smyth, Darren Smith, McKenna, Di Giacomo (Lynch 61), Baird, McLaughlin. Subs Not Used: Hollis, Nixon.

Ayr United: Grindlay, Keenan, Easton, Walker, Martin Campbell, Stevenson, Borris, Aitken, Prunty (Gormley 67), Roberts, Kenneth Connolly. Subs Not Used: Mitchell, Henderson, Woodburn, Williams.

Scorer: Stevenson (29).

Attendance: 3,303

Referee: Iain Brines

Assistants: Gary Sweeney, Brian Templeton

Fourth Official: Colin Brown

Game Forty-Eight – Clydebank vs. Annbank United

May 30, 2009

Clydebank defend

Clydebank 1 vs. 0 Annbank United

Stagecoach West of Scotland League Division One
Saturday 23rd May 2009, Kick-off 2pm
Holm Park, Yoker

Clydebank’s last game before the Junior Cup final. It’s safe to say that there’s a fair bit of ‘Cup Final Fever’ on display here.

Other commitments mean that this is my first game for three weeks. I think that may be as long a lay-off as I’ll get in the close season.

Along with match programmes, on sale today are tickets to Clydebank Town Hall for next Sunday’s post Junior Cup final party. Win or lose there will be a reception for the players at the Town Hall with tickets going for £1.

The club shop also has on sale a range of cup final merchandise. This includes a T-shirt with all the cup run games listed on the back, a DVD of highlights from the run, pennants and badges.

The business of the day however, is another league game and the outside chance of Clydebank finishing in third position and a play-off place.

There’s only a couple of hundred in today, which seems a poor crowd considering there is sure to be thousands next Sunday.

The game itself is not much to write about. Clydebank look the better team, but not by much.

Annbank are hovering precariously above the relegation zone, but with a couple of games in hand on most of their rivals. They don’t seem to play like a club needing every last point though. They have a couple of chances, but never seriously threaten the Clydebank goal in the first half.

At the other end the Bankies go close a couple of times, but at the interval it’s goalless.

At the start of the second half Charlie Hobbs plays a ball into the Annbank penalty area where his strike partner Chris Mackie is waiting to knock the ball past the keeper.

Mackie scores the winner

Both Mackie and Hobbs then go on to blow a good few decent chances in front of goal.

Annbank create very little in the way of goalscoring opportunities in the remainder of the game.

Late on in the match goalscorer Mackie picks up a knock and limps off. There is a doubt now over his fitness for the final.

In the end Clydebank hold out for a 1-0 win in the last game before the cup final.

Chris Mackie limps out of the game

Clydebank: Tiropoulos, Rushford, Cunningham, Soutar, McInnes, Smith, Jack, Blair (Anderson 74), Hobbs (Selkirk 78), Hailstones, Mackie (Scobie 82)

Scorer: Mackie (47)

Referee: Des Roache

Assistants: Sean Carr and James Tedford Jnr

Game Forty-Seven – Dumbarton vs. Elgin City

May 9, 2009

Dumbarton players at the final whistle

Dumbarton 6 vs. 0 Elgin City

Irn-Bru Scottish League Division Three
Saturday 2nd May 2009, Kick-Off 3pm
Strathclyde Homes Stadium, Dumbarton

I enjoyed my last visit to Strathclyde Homes Stadium in September and said to myself at the time that I would come back to hopefully see The Sons win the league. Well, today was that day.

Dumbarton need both Cowdenbeath and East Stirling to fail to record wins while they take maximum points in order to take the Division Three title.

When I arrive at the ground I go into the Community Suite which is packed. As I said on my last visit I enjoy looking around the old photographs, team shirts and match programmes on the walls.

One thing I seemed to have missed last time around is that when I go to take a seat I realise that around 90% of the home seating appears to be reserved for season ticket holders. I don’t know if fans’ tickets allocate them to a specific seat, but not wishing to be difficult I endeavour to sit in a seat that’s not reserved. I had intended to sit somewhere near the halfway line and high up, but I end up in a seat in line with the penalty spot in the front row. I shouldn’t complain really as that meant I was in prime position for all four of the first half goals.

There’s a good attendance today, so most seats around me fill up before kick-off and there’s a decent atmoshpere in the ground. A beach ball is bounced around until it lands pitchside and rolls around behind the stand from where the steward refuses to retreive it.

It’s a sunny afternoon, and although there’s a slight chill, it’s a pleasant enough temprature and a good day for football.

Dumbarton take the lead on 19 minutes when Derek Carcary races onto a through ball. His shot is blocked by McNulty in the Elgin goal, but the keeper can only send it up into the air. “That’s still going in,” the man next to me says, and indeed he’s right as the ball drops into the net.

Dumbarton fans celebrate the first goal

The second goal comes in the 28th minute when Denis McLaughlin taps the ball in from close range after a cross from Pat Boyle.

News comes through that Cowdenbeath are two goals down and the fans have now decided that the title is as good as theirs.

In the 38th minute Carcary bags a lovely second goal, going round the goalkeeper then knocking the ball into the net.

Carcaray completes his hat-trick two minutes before half-time he runs at the Elgin defence, weaving his way through. It looks like he’s at too awkward an angle to find the shot, but he squeezes it in and the ball rolls over the line for 4-0 Dumbarton.

It’s great football and one of the best displays I’ve seen all season.

When the second half begins it’s obvious that Elgin have had a rollocking in the dressing room. They start much brighter than they ended the first 45. They have more shots in the first ten minutes of the second period than they did in the whole of the first.

It’s Dumbarton though who score again and Derek Carcaray becomes the first man in 36 years to score four goals in a single game for Dumbarton.

Stevie Miller has had a great game, showing some brilliant touches throughout the match. He gets on the scoresheet himself with six minutes remaining when he latches on to a loose ball in the penalty box.

At the final whistle the players gather to hear thow their title rivals have got on. They begin restrained celebrations.

After what seems like an age we hear that Cowdenbeath have drawn two-all and this means there is no way they can catch The Sons at the top of the league.

However, East Stirling have won. This means that mathematically Dumbarton can still be caught. The announcer reminds the players and fans that although it’s unlikely they’ll lose the league now, they can’t celebrate until next week.

The players reluctantly head for the dressing rooms and the fans put the party on hold until the following week in Annan.

It would now take a 19 goal turnaround on the last day to prevent Dumbarton winning the league.

“We’ve won the title, as simple as that,” the guy next to me in the toilet says.

A report from Dumbarton’s website is here. I have more photographs here.

Dumbarton players at the final whistle

Dumbarton: McEwan, Lennon, Dunlop, Gordon, Boyle, McStay (Geggan 77), Clark (Canning 74), Forbes, Murray, McLaughlin, Carcary (Brannan 73). Subs Not Used: Chisholm, McGeown.

Scorers: Carcary (19, 39, 43, 66) McLaughlin (28), Murray (84)

Elgin City: McNulty, Edwards (Niven 61), Kaczan, David W Craig, Nicolson, Cameron (Crooks 54), Gillespie (Stephen McKenzie 73), O’Donoghue, David A Craig, Campbell, MacKay. Subs Not Used: MacDonald, Robertson.

Attendance: 1,396

Referee: Eddie Smith

Assistants: Tom Murphy and Stuart McMillan

Game Forty-Six – Rangers U19s vs. Hibernian U19s

May 7, 2009

The two teams line up

Rangers U19s 1 vs. 2 Hibernian U19s (AET 90 mins 1-1)
Youth Cup Final
Wednesday 29th April 2009, Kick-Off 7.30pm
Hampden Park, Glasgow

The Youth Cup final’s been pencilled in my diary for a wee while now. I’m expecting a good match.

Rangers have won the cup for the past two years while Hibs just pipped the Ibrox club to the Youth league, so they’re going for the double.

This is Hibernian’s first Youth Cup final since they defeated Ayr United to win the trophy in 1992.

On the approach to Hampden there are several vendors punting Rangers flags, hats and scarves.

Getting there early I opt to hang around the main entrance for a while. Ibrox mascot Broxi Bear is patrolling the top of the stairs posing for pictures with anyone who asks.

While there I spot Gordon Marshall, Mixu Paatelainen, John Greig and Andy Cameron all making their way inside the stadium.

Whereas yesterday I was in the Celtic end today I opt to sit with the Rangers supporters.

When I get inside the ground I’m handed a free programme, which is a nice touch. In the concourse at Hampden Park there is free face painting for the fans. A lot of them seem to come away with what looks like a French flag painted on their faces.

There’s no John Fleck in the Rangers team, but that’s no surprise as he played a full 90 minutes against Celtic Reserves yesterday.

From early on you can see that the Hampden Park pitch is cutting up quite a bit, as it becomes laden with divots.

I’m sitting a bit away from it this time, but once again the police see fit to chip a few folk out. This appears to be for repeatedly standing up as a patch of the Rangers support can’t resist the urge to bounce up and down in defiance of the stewards.

There’s also a healf-hearted sing-song in the shape of ‘No surrender’ by what appears to be a number of teenage Rangers fans.

The first goal of the game comes from Hibernian. In the 33rd minute David Wotherspoon’s cross is met in the box by Kurtis Byrne who drives the ball home. The thing that’s quite frightening about Byrne for me is not his talent, on show in abundance tonight, but that his dad is younger than me.

Hibs take the lead

There are huge queues at the pie stall at half-time, so I settle for watching a bit of the Man U-Arsenal Champions League semi-final on the TV screens.

Three minutes into the second half Rangers get back into it. Archie Campbell runs at the Hibs defence, weaving his way through the penalty area and slotting a shot past Hibs keeper Thomas Flynn. A really nice goal.

Rangers suffer a blow when their goalkeeper Grant Adam, brother of Charlie, is injured in a collision with Fergus Bell. He has to be replaced by Arturs Vaiculis. The big Latvian does a decent job deputising.

The game goes into extra-time and just when it’s looking like we’re heading for penalty kicks the game gets its last minute decider.

The match is just going into injury time when Byrne breaks into the Rangers penalty area, he appears to have his shirt pulled but he carries on and gets a shot off. His shot is blocked and the rebound played back into the penalty area where Byrne gets his head onto it. Time seems to stand still for a moment as the looping header goes up and drops into the net.

The large Hibs support go mental, as the players race into the crowd to celebrate. There’s no time left for Rangers to get back into the match and the final whistle sounds seconds after the restart.

It was hard lines on a good Rangers team. Both sides served up a very entertaining final.

A surprising number of Rangers fans stick around to see Hibs lift the trophy.

Rangers players

There’s a match report in The Scotsman. Hibs have a write up of the game on their site. The report on Rangers site is here. I have more photographs here.

Rangers: Adam (Vaiculis 72), Cole, Perry, Wilson, Wylde, Hutton, Stirling, Ness, Naismith (Bagci 85), Campbell, Hemmings (Dick 65). Subs not used: McGeough, Durie.

Scorer: Campbell (48)

Hibernian: Flynn, Park, Moyes (Welch 111), Smith, Booth; Russell, Wotherspoon, Currie, Bell (Kelly 88), Byrne, Deane (Taggart 82). Subs not used: Graham, Murray.

Scorer: Byrne (33, 120)

Attendance: 4200

Referee: Euan Norris

Assistants: Alan Hogg and Rodney Marshall

Fourth Official: Kevin Clancy

Game Forty-Five – Rangers Reserves vs. Celtic Reserves

May 4, 2009

Celtic celebrate

Rangers Reserves 0 vs. 1 Celtic Reserves

Scottish Premier Reserve League
Tuesday 28th April 2009, Kick-Off 2pm
Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow

With Celtic only requiring a draw to land their eighth Reserve League title in a row there’s a decent turn out for this afternoon’s match at Ibrox.

I opt to go into the Celtic end as I presume they may have more to shout about than the home support.

This must be a unique occasion in that the Celtic fans at Ibrox easily outnumber the Rangers supporters. From where I’m sat it’s hard to see how many Rangers fans there are, Celtic’s website estimates that the Celtic support eclipse the home fans two to one, while the Daily Record writes it is 3 to 1. Fan forums suggest this just means that Rangers fans with jobs outnumber employed Celtic supporters by similar numbers.

I choose a spot down the front next to the dugout. Due to the retractable tunnel being in place for the players to walk in and out of, I don’t really think of the close proximation to the Rangers support this seat provides, as at this point I can’t really see them.

When I take my seat the song on the PA system is ‘Jump‘ by Van Halen. This makes me think that almost everyone responsible for pre-match music at football matches hasn’t got much of a record collection that extends beyond 1989.

The Celtic fans are certainly in good voice this afternoon. The most vocal of the support sets up farthest away from the Rangers support, at the bottom end of the pitch. There are plenty of flags and banners at this end too.

John Fleck seems to enjoy the boos and heckles he receives from the Celtic fans, sticking his tongue out at them as he runs down the tunnel after the pre-match warm up.

After a few weeks of watching Junior games on pitches that aren’t the country’s best, it’s nice to see the ball rolling as smoothly as it does on the Ibrox grass today.

The game starts off at a decent pace, with Celtic knocking the ball around a little better than their opponents.

About fifteen minutes into proceedings a small group of Celtic fans arrive to join their pals already there. They seem to immediately start on shouting abuse at the Rangers support.

You could call it ‘Good natured banter,’ but it really wasn’t. It could more accurately be described as ‘Goading’.

Initially no more than a handful of Rangers fans are interested in responding, but after about five minutes of it a large portion of the home support rise to it and a prolonged period of verbal jousting begins.

Celtic and Rangers fans

The stewards come into both ends and attempt to get people to settle down. They have very little joy in this regard.

There’s then a faint murmer of ‘Up the ‘Ra’ singing from no more than a handful of folk in the Celtic end. This is then matched by a similarly tame rendition of ‘The Sash’ from the other end.

I think to myself that I haven’t seen a policeman all day. Not at the subway station, not on the approach to the ground and not inside the stadium itself. Just as I think that, I see a police hat peak out from through the tunnel. The police have now arrived in a sizeable number. The Rangers stewards lead them into either end where they begin to pick folk out for ejection.

Really there was never any chance of the commotion turning into anything physical, but it was an ugly enough distraction from the game.

The first half comes to a close at 0-0 with Celtic still looking the better team.

At half-time some Celtic fans with flags, no doubt having seen the argy-bargy from a distance further down the seating plan, decide it would be a good idea to wave their banners at the Rangers support in the second half. The police immediately clamp down on this idea and there’s a prolonged period of debate before again folk are removed.

Out on the pitch the sprinklers are turned on forcing the Celtic substitutes to scuttle away from the penalty area and find somewhere drier to kick the ball around.

In the second half Allan McGregor takes a constant pounding from the Celtic support with “Let’s all do the V-Sign” and “Scotland’s Shame,” being directed at him.

Celtic are looking the much better team and in particular Paddy McCourt is the man tearing through the Rangers defence. The Northern Irishman is at the heart of every Celtic attack.

One guy is still determined to make something of the earlier blustering, going on about how “That lot [Rangers fans] won’t give us a square go in the toilets.”

With 20 minutes to go Celtic get the goal they’ve been threatening for some time. Ryan Conroy put over a cross to the back post from the left wing. It dropped perfectly for Simon Ferry who rifled a vollley past McGregor for the winner.

Ferry picks up a caution for taking his shirt off to celebrate his goal. Always a needless booking I think. Although I’m sure he won’t care.

At full-time the Celtic players do a brief lap of honour for the fans.

On Celtic’s website Ferry jokingly compares his strike to Marco Van Basten’s goal for the Netherlands in the 1988 European Championship final.

The report of the match is on Celtic’s site here. Rangers have a report on their site.

The Evening Times has a write-up of the game here. A feature on the game and Paddy McCourt is in The Scotsman. The same from The Herald, and again, in a slightly more tongue in cheek fashion, from the Daily Record, along with some odd remarks in the comments section about the singing.

I have more photographs here.

The Celtic team

Rangers: McGregor, Durie, Scott, Webster, Forbes, Naismith (Craig 54), Fleck, Little, Lennon, Bagci (Wright 66), Niguez (McCabe 79). Subs not used: Smith, McGeough.

Celtic: Brown, Marr, Lafferty, Misun, Kurakins, McGinn (Towell 88), Ferry, McCourt, Donati (Millar 75), Conroy, Cawley (McGlinchey 69). Subs not used: Kennedy, Gallagher, Hughes, Tidser

Scorer: Ferry (70)

Attendance: 2400

Game Forty-Four – Clydebank vs. Pollok

April 29, 2009

The queue to get in

Clydebank 0 vs. 1 Pollok
(Agg 3-3, Clydebank win 4-1 on penalties)

Scottish Junior Cup Semi-Final 2nd Leg
Saturday 25th April 2009, Kick-Off 2.30pm
Millburn Park, Alexandria

I’m back for the second leg of this Scottish Junior Cup tie. It’s also the final match in a trilogy between the two clubs, all played at different venues. Last week’s game was a cracker so I’ve high hopes for today’s encounter.

With Holm Park being deemed unsuitable to host the crowds expected for this tie, Clydebank’s home leg of this semi-final is taking place some 8 miles or so down the road in Alexandria at Millburn Park, the home of Vale of Leven.

My mate Ronnie comes along with me for today’s game, having enjoyed his last match when we went to see Third Lanark Athletic. He took some of the photographs on this post.

Much like the first leg last week it’s a glorious spring day. We’ve opted to get down here early as I anticipated a decent sized crowd. Alexandria is about 40 minutes by train from Glasgow Queen Street. The journey is quite pleasant, once you have passed Dalmuir that is. There’s a fair few Bankies fans on the train. When we alight, about half of them opt to go to the pub before the match, we just head along to the ground.

The admission price here is again, the same as the first leg, seven pounds. This has apparently been governed by the SJFA and it’s the same cost at the other semi-final in Auchinleck.

We’re here about 50 minutes before kick off and there’s already a decent sized crowd in. The merchandise stall is set up and is doing brisk trade. The most eye catching item on sale is the new ‘Never Mind the Polloks’ Sex Pistols parody T-Shirt. There’s also face painting for the kids.

Face Painting

Ronnie notices that former referee Hugh Dallas is in the crowd. Dallas is currently the SFA Referee Development Officer.

Much like I would imagine the warning sign that you’re watching too much pornography is when you start to know the names of the actors, I think the clue that I’m watching too much football is that I recognise today’s fourth official by sight as Ross Haswell. Mr. Haswell refereed Tuesday’s reserve match between St. Mirren and Dundee United.

In addition to the three games between these sides all being played at different grounds, the teams have also worn three different strips each. Today Clydebank line up in white shirts with red shorts and red socks while Pollok wear red shirts with white shorts and white socks.

With ten minutes to go before kick-off there’s quite a queue building up outside the ground.

When the game kicks off Pollok go at Clydebank straight away. An early goal will get them right back into the tie.

Clydebank seem to be getting the breaks from the referee. There are a couple of tame free-kicks awarded in their favour early on. Even when the ref does award Pollok a free-kick it comes not without some admonishment or other for one of the away players.

There’s a Pollok fan sat next to me on the terracing who gives the referee pelters for every decision that goes against the away team.

Mark Hailstones tries to get a cross into the Pollok box.

Mark Hailstones tries to get a cross into the Pollok box.

Pollok get the goal they’re looking for with ten minutes gone. A throw-in into the Clydebank penalty area gets nodded on and Andy McClay runs onto it. He hits a right footed shot first time from the edge of the box. The shot finds the goal at the far post. “He scores once every five years,” the Pollok fan beside me remarks. The tie is now level at 3-3.

Clydebank aren’t really in it as an attacking force in the first half. It’s all Pollok and at this stage Clydebank are just fighting to keep in the tie.

Clydebank vs. Pollok

In the second half the Bankies look livelier. They mount several attacks on Kris Robertson’s goal. The Pollok keeper has a heart in mouth moment when he attempts to clear a backpass up the pitch, only to kick fresh air as the ball bobbles behind the goal for a corner kick.

Clydebank have a few chances from corners, but it’s Pollok who come closest to scoring with only minutes left when David McGeown has his shot saved by Stefan Gonet.

The game goes straight to penalty kicks if it’s a draw. With about five minutes left to play Ronnie and I take a gamble and head for the terraced end of the pitch with the thinking that this will be the end the kicks will be taken at. There’s no home or away end as such, so there’s no real advantage or disadvantage for either side in shooting at a particular set of supporters. In addition the other end has just flat ground behind the goal and a rope keeping fans from the pitch.

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We come a cropper however as a coin toss decides the kicks will be taken at the end of the ground where we were standing just five minutes previously. We make our way back round. As it is there’s not much movement towards that end as most people are happy with the view that they have.

Clydebank take the first kick. Gary Lynn, scorer of two penalties in the first leg, steps up and has no problems putting his kick away down Robertson’s left hand side.

Robert Downs is first for Pollok. Gonet dives to his right and saves it. A loud cheer goes up from the Bankies faithful.

Allan Jack is next for Clydebank and he makes it 2-0.

Davie Turnbull gets one back for Pollok, but Gavin Rushford’s successful attempt and another Gonet save from Carruth leave Clydebank 3-1 up and needing to score the next kick to reach the final.

As the ball comes back out following Gonet’s save, Chris Mackie eagerly scoops it up and places it on the spot for his kick. I tell Ronnie to prepare for the pitch invasion if this one goes in. No sooner had I said that than, “Get ready to run onto the pitch,” one of the wee boys in front of us says to his pal.

Mackie bounces up and down a couple of times before stepping forward and banging his kick to Robertson’s left. The Pollok keeper guesses right, but he can’t get there and Clydebank are in the final.

Mackie hits the winning penalty

Sure enough there’s a good natured pitch invasion and Ronnie and I join in.

There’s much jumping up and down for the Clydebank fans as the players look for their friends and loved ones in the crowd.

It’s really a tremendous achievement for Clydebank to reach the final. They weren’t fancied to progress much further than the quarter-finals. It’s nice to see the town and the fans have something to cheer in football terms once again. After the disgraceful way the senior side was allowed to go out of business it’s a real triumph that the side that rose from the ashes are into the final of the Scottish Junior Cup.

Clydebank celebrate

The players eventually escape the clutches of the over the moon supporters and disappear into the dressing room. It’s not long though until they are brought back out onto the pitch, as the fans aren’t for going anywhere in a hurry. Unfortunately they’re not quite sure what to do when they get out there, so kind of stand around as the fans shout, sing and generally jump around them.

“I want to kiss every one of you,” Ronnie overhears one of the fans telling the players as they line up for photographs.

Clydebank players after the final whistle.

Clydebank players after the final whistle.

When we realise that there’s nothing much more happening, Ronnie and I head over to The Laughing Fox for a couple of drinks alongside tens of Bankies fans.

The biggest day in the club’s history will be Sunday 31st May as they take on Auchinleck Talbot at Rugby Park in the final.

Stefan Gonet receives his man of the match award from Jim O'Donnell

Stefan Gonet receives his man of the match award from Jim O'Donnell

Ronnie has more photographs here. I have more photographs here.

The video highlights are below. It’s about a minute of the actual match. The rest is the penalty shoot out, celebrations and a post match interview.

Clydebank: Gonet, Lynn, McInnes, Rushford, Soutar, J. Jack, Smith (Allum 80), Anderson (Blair 67), Hobbs, Mackie, Hailstones (A. Jack 89). Subs not used: Cunningham, Scobie

Pollok: Robertson, Carruth, Aitchison, McClay, Wingate, Miller (Downs 57), Hardie, McGeown, Dingwall, Turnbull, Essler (McKay 75). Subs not used: Waddell, Cruickshank, Newall

Scorer: McClay (10)

Attendance: 1659

Referee: Stevie O’Brien

Assistants: Stephen Mitchell and Colin Steven

Fourth Official: Ross Haswell

In a postscript, Pollok gaffer Jim Sinnett quit his post days later.

Game Forty-Three – Rutherglen Glencairn vs. Cambuslang Rangers

April 27, 2009

Mural outside the social club

Rutherglen Glencairn 3 vs. 1 Cambuslang Rangers

Stagecoach Central District League Division One
Wednesday 22nd April 2009, Kick-Off 7.00pm
New Southcroft Park, Rutherglen

Rutherglen Glencairn have been leading the Central League First Division for some time, so I’ve been meaning to go see them for a while. Tonight they welcome their local rivals Cambuslang Rangers to their new ground for the first time.

New Southcroft Park was opened in July of 2008 after their old ground was demolished to make way for a motorway extension.

I made my way to the game tonight by train. There are three exits from Rutherglen train station. Two are well signposted, the third is a sneaky one off to the side. That’s the one you want to go through.

Don’t do what I did and take the exit onto Main Street. Don’t also do what I did and go back and take the exit that leads onto Dalmarnock Road. Do what I finally did and take the exit that leads you down onto a wee fenced in path, then up the stairs, take a right onto the bridge and follow the path round onto Quarry Road on your left bringing you out to Glasgow Road.

When I get onto Glasgow Road I spot the social club with its distinctive mural right away. I stop to take some photographs, before realising this is not actually where the ground is. I go up the street towards the Sportsman pub and on hearing shouts and the sound of a football being kicked around I spot the ground about 200 yards away through a housing scheme.

The number 20 bus stops just at The Sportsman and that’s probably the easiest way to get there if you’re using public transport. It’s a couple of stops after Shawfield Stadium if you’re coming from the town centre.

It’s a nice, tidy little ground. The first thing that strikes me is the turnstyles that lead into the ground. Someone remarks that this makes it look like a prison. The sign above the entrance advertising the next game hasn’t been amended since January.

The ground also has proper toilets, which is always nice to see since so many of the junior grounds still have troughs or brick walls instead of any indoor facilities.

There’s no denying that the club are making right good use of their loudspeaker system. The guy on it barely shuts up all match.

Rutherglen Glencairn vs. Cambuslang Rangers

Rutherglen have put together a great programme. There’s plenty of good reading in it and for a pound it’s decent value.

This is a clash between first and second in the table. At kick-off Cambuslang sit 14 points behind their hosts with two games in hand.

Cambuslang start the game off looking the stronger side. They have a couple of attacks on the Glencairn goal early on.

It appeared that in addition to keeping an eye on the action on the
pitch the Cambuslang coaching staff also had to look out for their kids playing on the terracing behind them. “Put him down,” one of the coaches demands of a child lifting another child into the air. “Not on that concrete! You could drop him.”

The first goal comes for the home side when a lapse in the Cambuslang defence allowed Tony Fraser to knock the ball in to the back post where Ryan McArdle hammered it home.

Glencairn went close a few minutes later as Davie Dickson shoots just past the post and Cambuslang threaten to cave in.

But it’s 1-1 a few moments later when Rutherglen fail to clear their
lines and a shot comes in from the edge of the box. Hoey’s drive is
blocked by the Glens keeper, but the rebound falls to Kevin Ogilvie who thumps it in.

The referee takes a pounding from the home support as he leaves the field at half-time. This is due to him turning down a decent claim for a penalty kick. “You got a pair of specs ref?” shouts one inquisitive fan.

There’s a decent attendance here tonight and among them you have your typical cross section of junior football goers. As well as the die-hards and committee men there’s a guy with a dog, who goes down well with the animal lovers in the crowd, some children running around and a team of jakeys.

I presume that there’s a gap in the fence somewhere where you can get in for nothing as there was a group of older guys who seemed more interested in their fortified wine than in any football match. Three of them leave before the first half is out.

The second half sees Rutherglen wrestle control of the match. Not
before a scare however, when a speculative lob from Mark Bishop at the edge of the box threatens to dip over the head of Mark Wilson in the Rutherglen goal. The keeper does brilliantly though, getting a hand to the ball and keeping it out.

Glens go ahead ten minutes into the half when a long ball into the
Cambuslang box from Willie Galloway is headed on by Richie Burke. ‘Keeper Jon Connolly rushes from his goal, but instead of reaching for the ball he attempts to hurdle Glens Stephen O’Keane, only succeeding in flattening the pair of them. The loose ball falls to Colin Boylan who hammers it across the goal. McArdle manages to bundle it over the line for his second of the evening.

New Southcroft Park, Rutherglen

‘Lang attacker Ross Donaldson was singled out in the match programme as being one of the handful of Glens old boys it would be ‘Nice to welcome back.’ It certainly wasn’t nice to be back for him. First of all he picks up a booking for persistant back chat to the referee. A couple of minutes later a needless challenge as the ball runs out of play leaves the ref with little option. It’s a second yellow, followed by a red and the long walk down the touchline into the dressing room.

Despite the fact that the ground seems to have working floodlights they are not switched on. The light is clearly fading in the last fifteen minutes or so.

The win is wrapped up with five minutes to go as a move started by the goalkeeper is wrapped up when McDougall knocks in the rebound after Connolly blocks a shot from McArdle with his legs.

The Rutherglen side and their supporters are delighted with this goal and begin an animated celebration on the sidelines. When the final whistle sounds their is much punching of the air and cries of “Yeees!”

The win leaves Glencairn one victory away from confirming promotion to the West Region Super League Division One.

I have more photographs here.

There are some highlights below.

First Half

Second Half

Rutherglen Glencairn: Wilson, Galloway, Fraser, Prunty, Paul, Dickson (Boylan), McArdle, Gentile (McShane), Carr (McDougall), O’Keane, Burke. Subs not used: Hughes and Imrie.

Scorers: McArdle (22, 55), McDougall (85)

Cambuslang Rangers: Connolly, Ferguson, Rea, Doak, Bishop, Hoey, Irvine (Marshall), Kenna (Renwick), Ogilvie, Donaldson, Queen (Docherty). Subs not used: Weir and Templeton.

Scorer: Ogilvie (28)

Sent Off:
Donaldson (70)

Referee: Frank Connor

Game Forty-Two – St. Mirren Reserves vs. Dundee United Reserves

April 21, 2009

New St Mirren Park, Paisley

St. Mirren Reserves 1 vs. 0 Dundee United Reserves

Scottish Premier Reserve League
Tuesday 21st April 2009, Kick-Off 1.30pm
New St. Mirren Park, Paisley

This was my first visit to New St. Mirren Park. Opened in January of this year, it replaced the old St. Mirren Park (more commonly known as Love Street and soon to be a Tesco) and cost £8M to build. There’s a decent guide to the ground on the Scottish Grounds website.

It’s as close to Paisley St James train station as you could wish for. There doesn’t seem to be anything else nearby, shops, people etc. There is a burger van right enough, directly opposite the ground.

The ticket office at the front of the stadium is open and doing a brisk trade in tickets for this coming Saturday’s Scottish Cup semi-final with Rangers.

The club shop is also open today, although the guy behind the counter doesn’t seem happy about it. It’s quite small, comprable to a corner shop. They’re selling a book on the history of Love Street, as well as a DVD of same. There’s retro replica shirts in the same style the team wore when they lifted the 1987 Scottish Cup. Billy Abercromby’s autobiography ‘Aber’s Gonnae Get Ye!’ is also on prominent display. The book is officially launched tomorrow.

Another item given pride of place is a shirt emblazoned with the details of Saturday’s semi-final. When did that start happening? It used to be that clubs would only garnish their shirts in this fashion on reaching a final. The punting of replica shirts with text adorning the club crest would usually be after a cup win. Doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.

I walk round to the open turnstiles. We’re sat in the 2,516 capacity West Stand. The attendance for this afternoon is a reasonable 80 or so. It costs £4 to get in. The pie shop is open and I opt for a £1.60 pie, but baulk at paying £1.80 for a draught cola.

There are no team sheets when we come in as apparently, “The lassie in the office is at her dinner.”

When I sit down an old guy asks me where I got my pie from and rushes off to get himself one. I discover shortly afterwards that he’s Davie Provan, the former Rangers defender. Capped 5 times for Scotland, Provan also had a brief spell playing with St. Mirren as well as a short time working with them as a coach.

Dundee United are playing today in their all white away strip, meaning that St. Mirren are also in their change kit, an all red number. I can’t really see any need for a change in strips, but there you are anyway.

The game begins at quite a decent pace with both teams going at it from the off.

At the heart of St. Mirren’s defence this afternoon is Andy Millen. The oldest player to have played in the Scottish Premier League, Millen is currently two months short of his 44th birthday. He seems as fit as anyone on the pitch and strolls through the game.

The home side have most of the chances in the first 45 minutes, the best of those being a cross along the ground that fell in front of Paul Quinn in the six yard box, but he just couldn’t get to it in time.

At the interval there’s a good conversation between a few of the older supporters as they discuss the strengths of various St. Mirren teams through the years. Strong cases are made for the 1959 and 1962 teams, but the consensus is that the best St. Mirren side in memory was that of the late 70s and early 80s. Among the players St. Mirren had on their books in those days were Peter Weir, Frank McDougall, Frank McAvennie, Frank McGarvey, Billy Stark, Billy Thomson and Tony Fitzpatrick.

The girl in the office is obviously back from her lunch as team sheets are handed out during half-time.

The second half gives us a goal when Gary Mason bursts into the penalty area to get hold of a pass from Jon McShane and knocks the ball over the United keeper.

The Buddies have a few more chances to extend their lead, but it finishes 1-0. I believe this is the first 1-0 game I’ve attended all season.

Not a great game, but a reasonable afternoon’s entertainment.

St Mirren Res vs. Dundee United Res

St Mirren: Mathers (Semple 53), Barron, Devlin, Millen, McAusland, Mason, Bradley, Brady, McShane (McLean 86), Quinn, Burns Subs Not Used: Gray, Faulds, Carson

Scorer: Mason (56)

Dundee United: Grant, Lee, Irvine, Howie, Shaw, Stokes, Swanson (Scott 76), Allan, Murray, McCord, Hilson (Burns 81) Subs Not Used: Traynor, Hindley

Referee: Ross Haswell

Assistants: Andy Tait and Gary Kirkwood

Attendance: 80 based on a headcount