Saturday, 15 August 2009

Almondvale Stadium (Livingston v Montrose)

Today it was off to Livingston, to pay my first visit to Almondvale Stadium. This time I did not take the train because both Livingston North and Livingston South railway stations are quite far away from the ground. Instead I took the X15 First bus from Buchanan Bus Station in Glasgow which takes about an hour to take you to the Almondvale Shopping Centre which is very close to the ground. A return ticket is £8.60 but make sure you have the exact fare on you as you do not get any change.

Approaching Almondvale Stadium.

Only days before the Livi Lions were supposed to play their first game at Ross County in the First Division the Scottish Football League decided the West Lothian club were to be demoted to the Third Division because they had gone into administration at the end of June. Livingston had lost their appeal against the SFL's decision last Thursday and initially it was reported the club would not play the game against Montrose, just as they had not turned up at Ogilview Park last week to play East Stirlingshire as Livingstone believed playing this game would prejudice their case against the relegation to the fourth tier in Scottish football. However, the SFA gave assurances that playing today's game would not prejudice their case so Livingstone decided to go ahead with the game after all.

A view of the ground from the nearby multi-storey car park.

Meadowbank Thistle were a relatively unpopular league team from Edinburgh, founded in 1943 as Ferranti Thistle and renamed Meadowbank Thistle when they entered the SFL. They were moved to the 'new town' of Livingston in 1995 to play in the newly-built Almondvale Stadium in an NFL-esque way, very similar to what happened when Wimbledon became MK Dons. It is remarkable however that Livi still count the 1986 Second Division league title and the 1974 'Scottish Qualifying Cup (South)' when they list their honours. In 2001 Livingston were promoted to the SPL. I was at their first ever SPL game when they drew 1-1 at Ibrox. Livi ended the season in third place and qualified for the UEFA Cup. In 2004 they won the League Cup after beating Hibs 2-0 in the final at Hampden. By then the bubble had started to burst. They went into administration for the first time in February 2004. In 2006 they were relegated to the First Division.

Turnstiles leading to the West Stand, the only stand open today.

The ground is compact, just over 10,000 seats which was just enough to enter the SPL under the old requirements. A lot of Scottish football fans criticize the ground for being too 'plastic' but as new grounds go this is not a bad effort at all. Even though there were only just over 600 supportes in the ground according to the official attendance figure they were able to create quite some noise at times. It was clear that the Livi fans were dying to see their team play again, no matter what division they were playing in. Andrew Halliday scored the opening goal for the home team. Montrose then had Sean Crighton sent off after 35 minutes. From this moment it did not look like Livingston could ever lose this game even though after Halliday's second goal in the 54th minute the West Lothian team were not able to find the net for a third time despite a few decent chances. After the final whistle the team were given a rapturous applause by the clearly relieved home contingent. I hope for them the SFL will not come down too harshly on the club for not playing the game against East Stirlingshire. There has been talk of a 15-point deduction which would make it difficult to either avoid relegation from the First Division or win promotion from the Third to the Second Division.

The Carling Bar. A stadium with a bar can never be a bad ground although they were not serving any pints of lager today, only bottled beers. Both lagers on draught, Carling (obviously) and Peroni Nastro Azzuro (presumably introduced by former owner Angelo Massone?) were off unfortunately.

The South Stand.

The North Stand.

The East Stand.

The West Stand, the only stand in use today. The Montrose fans were seated in the far left corner.

Saturday 15th August 2009
Scottish Football League Third Division
Livingston 2 Montrose 0
Goals: Halliday 18, 54.
Att: 632

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