Friday, 3 December 2010

The big freeze continues

It looks like there will be no football in Scotland this weekend with almost all SPL, SFL and SJFA fixtures scheduled for 4th or 5th December postponed. For some reason the SFL Second Division tie between Alloa and Peterhead at Recreation Park has not been postponed but surely that can only be a matter of time.

Edit 04/12: After a pitch inspection at 8:30am the game at Recreation Park is set to go ahead!

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Links Park (Montrose v Whitehill Welfare)

Yesterday I went to Montrose for the third round Scottish Cup tie between SFL Third Division side Montrose and Whitehill Welfare from the East of Scotland League. I made use of the Sunday Mail offer (a return ticket to any destination in Scotland for a fiver with Citylink) and took a Citylink bus from Glasgow to Dundee. In Dundee I got on a train and arrived in the town of Montrose 30 minutes later. I was in Montrose last year but unfortunately did not get to see any football then as the league game against Queen's Park was postponed due to high winds. Because of the rainfall during the last few days I was afraid another cancellation was a possibility. I had checked all websites and phoned the club and the game was definitely on. After entering Links Park I realised that the pitch is artificial and there had not been much risk of it being waterlogged!

Thanks to the few hours I had spent in Montrose last year I knew the town and its pubs a little and, just like last year, I had a couple of pints in the Picture House, a large Wetherspoon-esque pub in Hume Street, near the train station. From the station it is a short walk, less than ten minutes, to Links Park.

Montrose's ground is dominated by the large main stand (1,300 seats). There is also a covered terrace behind one of the goals. Behind the opposite goal there is a small uncovered terrace and there is room for standing on the side opposite the main stand as well. Due to its proximity to the North Sea it can get very chilly inside the stadium.

Today's opponents Whitehill Welfare are currently sitting fifth in the top division of the East of Scotland League, one of the three 'non-league' senior leagues in Scottish Football, the other two being the Highland League and the South of Scotland League. Whitehill reached the third round of the Scottish Cup by beating Highland League oppostion twice, first Lossiemouth and then Wick Academy.

Despite being the underdogs on the day Whitehill found the back of the net after only seven minutes as Jordan Hall scored with a 35-yard strike. Paul Tosh equalised from the penalty spot after he was fouled by William Kidd. The big turning point came after Whitehill's Alan Cornett was sent off for handling in the area and Tosh converted another penalty. After the interval, the East of Scotland League side put in a brave performance even though they were a man short. However, Gordon Pope's goal fifteen minutes before time drove the final nail in the coffin for the men from Rosewell. No doubt the Gable Endies will be hoping for a money spinner when their name is pulled out of the hat along with the SPL sides tomorrow.

Approaching Links Park.

The entrance to the ground.

The main stand.

The covered terrace behind one of the goals.

Whitehill players celebrate after surprisingly taking the lead.

Montrose were looking for the equaliser. This effort went just wide.

Despite the rain there was a group of vocal Montrose supporters on the small terrace behind the other goal. They moved to the other end for the second half.

Paul Tosh's penalty levelled the game.

The pressure on the Whitehill defence continued.

Paul Tosh converted a second penalty for the Gable Endies.

A closer look at the covered terrace.

And a closer look at the main stand as well.

Saturday 20th November 2010
Scottish Cup 3rd Round
Montrose 3 Whitehill Welfare 1
Montrose: Tosh 21 pen, 40 pen, Pope 75.
Whitehill Welfare: Hall 7.
Att: 435

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Prestonfield Park (Linlithgow Rose v Clydebank)

Today I went to Linlithgow in West Lothian, which is 30 minutes on the train from Glasgow Queen Street. The occasion was the Scottish Junior Cup second round tie between holders Linlithgow Rose and Clydebank at Prestonfield Park. I arrived in Linlithgow about an hour before kick-off so there was enough time for a couple of pints in one of the many pubs on the town's High Street. I picked Platform 3, which is an excellent small pub just outside the train station.

After two pints of Deuchars I made my way to Prestonfield, which is a ten-minute walk from the station. Lithgae's ground is a great-looking junior ground with a covered enclosure on one side and a modern-looking main stand, the Davie Roy Stand, on the other side. There is a high grass bank behind one of the goals. Behind the other goal there is room for standing and access to the social club. After the torrential rain of the past few days I had feared a waterlogged pitch but fortunately it was dry and sunny today. About 900 Lithgae and Bankies fans were in attendance.

The home team, 2010 Junior Cup winners and current East Region Superleague leaders, were the obvious favourites to progress to the third round of the biggest competition in Scottish junior football. Clydebank, who knocked out cup holders Auchinleck Talbot last season, were close to opening the score when a Ross McPherson header hit the crossbar. However Dario Quinn's header gave the Rose a deserved lead at half-time. After the interval Bankies seemed the keener side but they had trouble creating clear-cut chances and 1-0 was the final score.

After the game I had one more quick pint in the Old Post Office on the High Street before I took the 4:33pm train back to Glasgow.

First a couple of pints in Platform 3, a pub just outside the train station.

Entering Prestonfield.

The covered terrace was packed today.

The Davie Roy Stand.

A closer look at the Davie Roy Stand.

Looking towards the northern end of the park.

The grass bank in the southern end of the ground.

After the poor weather of the last few days some welcome rays of sunshine at Prestonfield.

The Bankies were unable to find the net today.

The Davie Roy Stand after the game.

The Black Bitch pub near Prestonfield is named after Linlithgow's coat of arms which shows a black dog chained to an oak tree.

Saturday 30th October 2010
Emirates Scottish Junior Cup Round 2
Linlithgow Rose 1 Clydebank 0
Goal: Quinn 34.
Att: 900

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Tour of Estadio La Rosaleda (Málaga CF)

I did not get to see a game this weekend which meant I finally I had some time to post the pictures I took during the stadium tour at Esatadio La Rosaleda, home of Málaga Club de Fútbol. On Monday 6th September 2010 my wife and I took the train from Benalmádena, the resort we were staying in, to Málaga. I do not think there is a direct bus link from Maria Zambrano, the main train station in Málaga, to La Rosaleda so we embarked on a 30-minute walk to the stadium. The alternative would have been a taxi but it is an easy walk, no steep hills or anything like that and basically one straight road.

The stadium was opened in 1941 and there have been several renovations in recent years. The current capacity is 28,963. La Rosaleda also hosted three World Cup first round group matches in 1982, including Scotland v New Zealand (5-2) and Scotland v Soviet Union (2-2). The other game was the mouthwatering clash between the Soviet Union and New Zealand (3-0). The stadium is not owned by the football club, its ownership is shared between the municipality of Málaga, the Málaga Provincial Council and the autonomous Government of Andalusia.

Before we left for Spain I had already seen there was the possibility of a stadium tour on the club's official website. Luckily we were able to get tickets for the home game against Valencia on 28th August but I thought it would be nice to see other parts of the grounds as well. Normally the tour, which includes a visit to the museum, costs €10, however there was a reduced fee of €5 in place now because the stadium was once more being renovated and we were not able to see some parts of the stadium that are normally part of the tour. That meant we did not get to see the press room, home team dressing room or the hall of fame. My wife and I were the only visitors when we arrived at the museum at 10:30 and we were given a private tour by Rocío. She spoke a little English but it would probably help if you understand Spanish (which I do not) because we were not given a lot of additional information by the guide and all plaques etc. in the museum were in Spanish only. Luckily the short film that was shown in the museum had Spanish subtitles.

All in all an interesting visit especially if you are not able to see any games at the ground.

Approaching the ground.

The ticket windows.

I assume this picture was taken after Malaga CD had beaten Real Madrid 6-2 in the 1983/84 season.

Executive seats in the Tribuna.

The Fondo stand.

The Preferencia stand.

The Gol stand.

The away dressing room had just been painted.

And again the away dressing room.

Also a new lick of paint in the massage room.

The home dugout.

The new seats for the fourth official.

The away dugout.

The Tribuna seen from pitch-level.

The Fondo end seen from the pitch.

The Gol end seen from the pitch.

Málaga won the Intertoto Cup in 2002 which meant qualification for the 2002/03 UEFA Cup. They exceeded everyone's expectations and reached the quarter finals in which they lost on penalties to Portuguese outfit Boavista.

Last season's strip I believe.

Good to see that dodgy football songs are not only recorded in Britain and Holland.

Plenty to see in the museum but some knowledge of the Spanish language would definitely be helpful.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Showpark (East Kilbride Thistle v Clydebank)

Last Saturday I went to East Kilbride to see East Kilbride Thistle take on Clydebank at Showpark in the Scottish Juniors West Region Super League First Division. It takes about 30 minutes on the train from Glasgow Central to East Kilbride, the largest town in Scotland. The Jags were only founded in 1968 (East Kilbride is one of the Scottish 'new towns') and their biggest achievement has been winning the Scottish Junior Cup in 1983. Since their promotion in 2006 Thistle have been playing in the second tier of the West Region junior set-up.

After I got off the train I still had 40 minutes to kill before the 2pm kick-off. Showpark (one word and not 'Show Park') is only a five-minute walk from the train station so I had a quick pre-match pint in the Montgomery Arms. I then made my way to the ground. Showpark looks a bit run-down like so many of the junior grounds. There is a covered terrace which is so far from the pitch that you would struggle to see any of the action on it. A crowd of about 250 was in attendance, many of them Clydebank fans.

The Jags had an excellent first half helped by a sloppy Bankies defence. Anton Heffron put Thistle 1-0 ahead after 28 minutes. It became even more difficult for Clydebank when Darian McKinnon received a straight red card for a foul on Colin Sweeney. I had missed the incident but it was a controversial decision judging by the reaction from the Clydebank players and supporters.

Surprisingly Clydebank looked the stronger team after the interval and it was not obvious that Thistle were only playing against ten men. Halfway through the second half Barry Crawford equalised after an initial effort hit the post. Then an eventful few minutes saw East Kilbride bag all three points after all, courtesy of a Jordan Murch goal five minutes before time or, as the Clydebank Twitter feed put it: "85 mins EK 5 yc for what looked like a punch at Dymock. Then Ek score then EK 9 yc for a get it up you to fans then Ek 3 rc for a foul".

Both teams will meet again three weeks from now as EK Thistle will visit Holm Park in the first round of the West of Scotland Cup and it promises to be a juicy tie.

The entrance to Show Park.

Today's team sheet.

The snack bar and a covered enclosure which seems a bit far from the pitch.

A closer look at the enclosure and snack bar.

On the left the dressing rooms.

Both sets of players leaving the dressing rooms for the first half.

A pleasant autumn afternoon at Showpark.

A crowd of about 250 turned up today.

Number 6 Anton Heffron scored East Kilbride's first goal.

Darian McKinnon was sent off at the end of the first half.

Despite being reduced to ten men the Bankies searched frantically for the equaliser.

Clydebank were 1-0 down at the interval.

A spirited second-half display led to a deserved equaliser for the Bankies after this header hit the post.

Saturday 16th October 2010
West Region Super League First Division
East Kilbride Thistle 2 Clydebank 1
EK Thistle: Heffron 28, Murch 86.
Clydebank: Crawford 74.
Att: 250 (est.)
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