Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Recreation Park (Alloa Athletic v Aberdeen)

Last night I took a train from Glasgow Queen Street to Alloa for my first visit to Recreation Park, home of Alloa Athletic. Alloa is a small town seven miles east of Stirling. The railway link re-opened in May 2008 and it takes less than an hour to travel from Glasgow to the home of the Wasps. Recreation Park, a small but tidy ground, is only a five-minute walk away from the station.

The SFL Second Division side were playing hosts to SPL leaders Aberdeen in the second round of the Co-operative Insurance Cup. The Dons, who started the season perfectly in the league, were of course favourites to win this tie easily but there is always the chance of an upset.

However after 15 minutes Alloa goalie Stephen Robertson brought down Fraser Fyvie and of course Paul Hartley scored from the spot once more. Rory McArdle's header ensured a 2-0 lead for the Dons at half time. Chris Maguire made it 3-0 with a long-range effort. It was a comfortable win for Aberdeen but the Wasps had a opportunities to score a consolation goal but they missed composure faced with substitute goalkeeper Thomas Flynn.

Recreation Park has an artificial pitch, which was blamed after the game by Dons boss Mark McGee for the knee injury sustained by Fyvie. Alloa manager Allan Maitland however did not think anything was wrong with their plastic pitch and felt the 18-year-old was partially to blame for wearing blades on the artificial surface.

I arrived early at the turnstiles so no queues. The people you see queueing have tickets for the grandstand.

The Main Stand.

The covered terrace in the Clackmannan Road End.

Aberdeen fans in the Railway End...

...and more Aberdeen fans in the Hilton Road Stand.

Paul Hartley's penalty.

Celebrations after Hartley opened the score.

Queuing up for an excellent steak pie.

Tuesday 24th August 2010
Co-operative Insurance Cup round 2
Alloa Athletic 0 Aberdeen 3
Goals: Hartley (pen) 18, McArdle 38, Maguire 60.
Att: 1,649

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Celtic Park (Celtic v FC Utrecht)

Last Thursday night I went to Celtic Park for the first UEFA Europa League encounter between Celtic and Dutch side FC Utrecht. The winner over two legs will qualify for the Europa League group stages. Celtic had been put out of the Champions' League qualifiers by S.C. Braga and were given a second chance in the Europa League. FC Utrecht qualified for Europe after finishing seventh in the Eredivisie last season, which meant 'European' play-offs which Utrecht won. One of the teams they beat in the play-offs were my team, Roda JC.

I have no special connection with either Celtic or FC Utrecht but as a follower of both Scottish and Dutch football any encounter between teams of the two countries has my attention. The match was not broadcast on television, neither in the UK nor in the Netherlands, however there was no capacity crowd. This has become a common sight at Celtic Park, which used to be filled to capacity for most league and European games up until fairly recently.

The atmosphere was good however, better than at the league games I have witnessed in Parkhead. The Utrecht fans in particular were in good form even though they became a little quieter after Efrain Juarez put Celtic ahead in the 19th minute. Georgios Samaras, who had set up the first goal, doubled the tally fifteen minutes later. FC Utrecht had some good chances at the start of the game but seemed to have too much respect for Celtic. This became particularly evident after the interval when Utrecht played like they were defending a 3-0 lead whereas I had expected them to try and nick what could have been a vital away goal. As it stands now it will be very, very difficult for the Dutch club to progress to the group stages.

On a positive note there did not seem to be any problems with hooliganism tonight. FC Utrecht's support have a bit of a reputation and in 2003 they were ordered to play their UEFA Cup first round home game against Slovak side MSK Zilina behind closed doors after their fans had caused trouble against Legia Warszawa the year before. Jan Willem van Dop, the FC Utrecht chairman, praised the travelling support's conduct in Glasgow on the official website: 'It was one big party, in the city centre and inside the ground as well,' he said. He also mentioned that everyone behaved well despite the fact that 'no extraordinary security measures had been taken.' The poor guy must have become a little out of touch as chairman of a Dutch football club for him to think that the police presence we saw on Thursday night, including a helicopter hovering over Celtic Park, is normal.

Some spice was added to this encounter by the sympathy many Utrecht fans have had for Rangers since their star striker Michael Mols moved to Ibrox in 1999. I counted a few Rangers flags and union jacks and when the game was coming to a close the travelling support were treated to a well-meant 'Go home ya huns' - the Celtic fans sang this whilst they were on their way home ten minutes before time, the Utrecht fans were kept inside the ground until long after the game. Some Celtic fans also showed their 'Pope Benedict XVI' scarves to the Dutch fans which may provoke angry reactions amongst some sections of Scottish supporters (which is probably their intention) but in a European context I find it cringe-worthy.

And finally, it was mentioned a few times in the Scottish press last week, and it was repeated in the match programme as well, that FC Utrecht are the only Dutch club outside the traditional Dutch 'top three' not to be relegated from the Eredivisie. I cannot remember Roda JC making the drop since their promotion in 1973...

For more pictures of Celtic Park see this post (v St Mirren) and this one (v AZ Alkmaar).

Approaching Celtic Park.

Tonight's visitors...

...and the home team's starting eleven.

Both teams entering the pitch.

Around 1,500 Utrecht fans had travelled to Scotland.

There was a large police presence including the infamous Strathclyde police helicopter.

Celtic are about to take a free kick.

Utrecht were unable to find the net, despite several good chances.

You'll Never Walk Alone at half time. The Utrecht fans joined in.

Utrecht players thank the travelling support.

The Celtic-Utrecht 'friendship scarves' looked like a bit of a rush job. The 'Utrecht' part came with the catchy slogan 'Your text here' in Dutch. I think the makers were inspired by this custom banner.

Thursday 19th August 2010
UEFA Europe League
Celtic 2 FC Utrecht 0
Goals: Juarez 19, Samaras 34.
Att: 35,755

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Philips Stadion (Sweden v Turkey)

Again some old pictures, these were taken at the Philips Stadion during a Euro 2000 group match just over ten years ago. This was the first time that the European Football Championship was hosted by two countries, Belgium and the Netherlands. I still lived in the Netherlands at the time and had managed to get tickets for Sweden v Turkey at the Philips Stadion in Eindhoven and Denmark v Czech Republic at Sclessin in Liège in Belgium.

Sweden v Turkey on 15th June was my first Euro 2000 game. Also it was my first visit to the Philips Stadion which had been slightly expanded prior to the start of the tournament. It currently has a capacity of 35,000 and has a four-star UEFA rating. The 2006 UEFA Cup Final (Sevilla 4 Middlesbrough 0) was staged at the home of PSV.

The Sweden v Turkey game I had chosen to see was a dreadful affair, almost as bad as the pictures I took, and ended goalless. Almost four years later, in February 2004, I saw my first PSV game at the ground. Roda JC were visiting and I watched the game from the away end. It was a famous win as it was the first time Roda had won in Eindhoven since August 1989. Remarkably Roda would take all three points another three times at PSV in the next five seasons.

Thursday 15th June 2000
UEFA Euro 2000 Group B
Sweden 0 Turkey 0
Att: 24,500

Sunday 29th February 2004
PSV 1 Roda JC 2
PSV: Vennegoor of Hesselink 35.
Roda JC: Arouna Koné 11, Cristiano 18.
Att: 33,000

Brig O'Lea Stadium (Neilston Juniors)

These are some pictures of Brig O'Lea, home of Neilston Juniors, which I took on Saturday 1st May 2010 whilst visiting relatives in Neilston, where my mother-in-law grew up. Neilston Juniors, founded in 1945, currently play in the West Region Super League First Division after being relegated last season. According to Wikipedia the ground has a capacity of 2,000. I still have to see a game in Neilston, which is very easy to reach by bus from Paisley.

The main gate.

The covered terrace.

There are no other enclosures or stands.

Saracen Park (Ashfield)

After the Glasgow Perthshire v Ashfield game at Keppoch Park yesterday I decided to have a look at Saracen Park next door, home of Scottish junior club Ashfield FC, who currently play in the second tier of the SJFA West Region. Saracen Park, located in Possilpark in the north of Glasgow, has a capacity of 3,500 according to Wikipedia and is one of the few junior grounds with a grandstand. The ground is shared with the Glasgow Tigers speedway team. The need to fit the speedway track inside the stadium is also the reason why the pitch has a width of only 50 yards.

Luckily one of the gates was open yesterday and I was able to sneak inside for a few pictures. I will come back soon to see an Ashfield home game at Saracen Park.

The entrance to Saracen Park.

And there we see an open door!

Terracing behind the goal.

The speedway track used by the Glasgow Tigers.

The grandstand.

Keppoch Park (Glasgow Perthshire v Ashfield)

Yesterday I took a bus to the north of Glasgow once more for a Sectional League Cup junior game staged at Keppoch Park in Possil, home of Glasgow Perthshire, who currently ply their trade in the West Region Central District First Division after narrowly avoiding relegation to the Second Division last season. Yesterday's visitors were next door neighbours Ashfield who play their home games only 150 metres away at Saracen Park.

I took the number 9 First bus from Paisley to Hope Street in Glasgow where I jumped on the 75 First bus to Milton. The bus dropped me off very close to Keppoch Park. Today's visitors play in the West Region Super League First Division and it was obvious they were the stronger team however Perthshire gave them a good game.

There are no turnstiles at Keppoch Park, which is normal for a junior ground. I wonder however how many supporters in attendance today actually paid the guy who was standing at the gate with a biscuit tin to throw your four quid in. At kick-off there were perhaps 40 people inside the ground including many youngsters (and not-so-youngsters) with their carry oots in stylish blue carrier bags. A certain brand of tonic wine appeared particularly popular. A few minutes after kick-off when the 'bloke with biscuit tin' had left his position the numbers swelled to over a 100.

Ashfield's Jim Smith scored from a penalty that was given after only a minute. Ashfield appeared the stronger side, as expected, but were not creating many chances. Perthshire equalised after 30 minutes however and the score was level at half time. After the interval Ashfield went ahead once more and again it was a penalty by Smith. The tie appeared to be over but Perthshire were not giving up and were given a lifeline by 'Field goalie Chris Prior's howler. This meant the Shire were back in business however they were not able to find the net again. Ryan Cairley made sure Ashfield would take the three points back to Saracen Park when he scored the fourth 'Field eight minutes before time.

After the game I walked to Saracen Park to take a few pictures of this ground as well. I then took the number 3 bus back to Glasgow city centre.

Keppoch Park is not the most impressive ground you will ever visit.

The entrance to Keppoch Park.

Ashfield's first goal was a Jim Smith penalty.

The very small enclosure attached to the club building.

Also the second Ashfield goal was scored from the spot by Jim Smith.

The attendance grew to over 100 as the game went on.

On Google Maps you can see there is only about 150 metres between the pitches of Keppoch Park (on the left) and Saracen Park.

Saturday 14th August 2010
Surridge Sectional League Cup Section 6
Glasgow Perthshire 2 Ashfield 4
Glasgow Perthshire:
Ashfield: Smith (pen.), Smith (pen.), Chalmers, Cairley
Att: 110

Friday, 13 August 2010

St Mirren Park (Scotland U21 v Sweden U21)

Last Wednesday I made the short journey to St Mirren Park where the Scottish under-21 team were hosting a friendly (or 'challenge match' as they are called these days) against their Swedish counterparts. On the same night the Scottish first team were ripped apart in Stockholm 3-0 the U21 team fared slightly better and managed a creditable draw against the Scandinavians.

The atmosphere in St Mirren Park left something to be desired especially in the first half. I know it can be quiet on Greenhill Road but I had never heard it as quiet as this! Helsingborg's Denni Avdić scored for Sweden on sixteen minutes. The Scandinavians looked the better side but they were not able to add to their tally before the half time whistle. After the interval (and a fifteen-minute for a steak pie that was sold out) Scotland created more chances and the reshuffled side looked a lot more dangerous. In injury time Dons player Chris Maguire, who had an excellent game, had an impressive run forward and provided Hibee David Wotherspoon with the only Scotland goal of the night.

For pictures of St Mirren Games at St Mirren Park see this post and this one.

It was pay-at-the-gate tonight.

The main facade of St Mirren Park.

A healthy crowd in the West Stand.

The national anthems before the match. The South Stand was not open tonight...

...and neither was the North Stand.

Celebrations after Avdić's goal for Sweden.

Sweden U21 manager Jörgen Lennartsson.

Wednesday 11th August 2010
Under-21 International Challenge Match
Scotland 1 Sweden 1
Scotland: Wotherspoon 90+1.
Sweden: Avdic 16.
Att: 2,726

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Lochburn Park (Maryhill v Clydebank)

Yesterday I went to Glasgow with my wife to do a bit of shopping but I managed to see a junior game in between Primark and Matalan, with permission of course. I took a 61 bus to Maryhill in the northwest of Glasgow and got off at Lochburn Road, or more precise the stop after Lochburn Road. From what I had seen on Google Maps I expected Lochburn Park, home of junior side Maryhill FC, to be visible from Maryhill Road but it is actually hidden behind a bed store and one of the many Glasgow job centres.

Yesterday's visitors at Lochburn Park were Clydebank, who now play two divisions above Maryhill after the Hill dropped down to the Central District Second Division last season, their third consecutive relegation. In contrast, the Bankies only just missed out on promotion to the Super League Premier Division after losing the two-legged play-off against Lanark United. Today's game was for the Sectional League Cup, a competition that traditionally kick-starts the season in the junior leagues.

In the end favourites Clydebank won this season opener comfortably although there were no goals before half time. Twelve minutes after the interval Steven Dymock opened the score for the Bankies and he doubled the lead four minutes later. Play was then interrupted for a few minutes as the referee ordered the hosts to fill a hole in the pitch, a bit of a surreal sight. This unexpected break probably did not do Maryhill's concentration much good and Darian MacKinnon scored the third for Clydebank from 25 yards twenty minutes before time.

The home side were left with ten men after Scott Banks picked up his second booking but Paul McWhirter, an ex-Clydebank player, pulled one back for the Hill with twelve minutes left on the clock. Another ex-Bankie, Mark Maxwell, dashed all hopes of a late comeback four minutes before time however when he was also sent off after receiving a second yellow card. Remarkably Clydebank were still able to give away a penalty shortly before the final whistle. Fortunately for them Alan Russell was not able to convert it as Stefan Gonet saved it comfortably.

After the game I hopped on a 23 bus back to Glasgow city centre where I was happily reunited with my wife...

Approaching the turnstiles at Lochburn Park.

An excellent bridie for £1, a can of coke is only 90p.

Today's team sheets.

The health club and social club can be seen on the other side of the pitch. This is also one of the few junior grounds with floodlights.

The covered terrace.

The social club at half time.

Some uncovered seats behind one of the goals.

The referee spotted a hole in the pitch which took a few minutes to fill up.

Maryhill ended the game with nine men. Scott Banks was the first player to be sent off after picking up a second booking.

Alan Russell's late penalty was saved by Bankies goalie Stefan Gonet.

Saturday 7th August 2010
Surridge Sectional League Cup Section 6
Maryhill 1 Clydebank 3
Maryhill: McWhirter 78.
Clydebank: Dymock 58, 62. MacKinnon 71.
Att: 250 (est.)
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