Sunday, 28 March 2010

Borough Briggs (Elgin City v Forfar Athletic)

Yesterday, just like I had done the previous weekend, I made use of the Sunday Mail/First ScotRail promotion, which meant I could travel by train to any destination in Scotland for only £15. And just like last week, when I went to see Ross County take on Inverness Caley Thistle in Dingwall, I was making sure I got my money's worth by travelling to another former Highland League ground. Borough Briggs is the home of Elgin City, who were founded in 1893 but only entered the Scottish Football League in 2000 together with another Highland League outfit, Peterhead. Peterhead were promoted to the Second Division in 2005 but Elgin have not been able to rise above the lowest tier of the SFL. In fact, after yesterday's results, they are the bottom team in the league.


After a two-and-a-half hour journey I arrived in Aberdeen. From the granite city it is another hour and a half to Elgin. I arrived in Elgin at around 13:30 and made my way to the ruins of Elgin Cathedral first, something I had come across when I was preparing this trip. As you can see, my trips are not all about drinking cans of lager on trains and visiting Wetherspoon pubs across the country! If you want to see the ruins from up close you have to cough up another £4.70 however. I had decided against paying the admission fee to see the ruins of Arbroath Abbey (also because of time constraints) however I regretted it afterwards so decided to drink just two pints less today. It was all quite interesting, only climbing the tower was a bit of a let-down as there was nothing to see at the top, not even windows you could look out of (and photograph Borough Briggs!).


After spending some time around the ruins of Elgin Cathedral I made my way to Elgin City's ground. Admittance at the gate was only £8, which makes it the cheapest ground in the SFL. It is a typical Third Division stadium with a small main stand (containing 478 seats) and a roofed terrace on the opposite sides. There are small terraces behind both goals.

The game was quite entertaining. In the first half City looked the better team however play-off hopefuls Forfar had a couple of chances as well. Despite this neither team were able to find the net. This changed in the second half, for Forfar at least, when Ross Campbell scored less than two minutes after the interval. Gavin Morrison should have equalised from the spot only minutes later but his penalty was saved by Forfar goalie Alistair Brown. Graham Gibson made sure the three points went to Forfar when he scored after a counter-attack six minutes before time. Since Montrose drew 1-1 against Berwick Rangers yesterday Elgin City are now at the bottom of the Third Division.

After the game I had my tea in the obligatory Wetherspoon's pub, The Muckle Cross. At 18:00 I took the train back to Aberdeen and I arrived home shortly after 23:00.


The main facade of Borough Briggs.


This free kick did not go in...


The main stand.


The covered enclosure opposite the main stand.


Elgin's second-half penalty was saved. The West terrace can be seen in the background.


Again the main stand. Elgin's Hummel shirts are very similar to St Mirren's.


The Muckle Cross, the local JD Wetherspoon's.


And finally a few more pictures of the cathedral, which is well worth a visit should you ever find yourself in Elgin.




Saturday 27th March 2010
Scottish Football League Third Division
Elgin City 0 Forfar Athletic 2
Goals: Ross Campbell 47, Gibson 84.
Att: 329

Monday, 22 March 2010

St Mirren v Rangers (2010 Co-operative Insurance Cup Final)

Yesterday we went to Hampden Park for this year's edition of the Co-operative Insurance Cup final. St Mirren had reached their first major final since 1987 (and their first League Cup final since 1955) after beating East Stirlingshire, Ayr United, Kilmarnock, Motherwell, and Hearts. The Saints had never won the Scottish League Cup, Rangers had won it 25 times. Rangers were of course overwhelming favourites to bag their first major trophy of the season, and not just because of this disparity in League Cup pedigree.

However today it was not a case of simply turning up for the Ibrox men. St Mirren were the stronger team in the first half with a few decent chances but, as so often this season, they were unable to find the net. After the break Saints continued in the same vein. Then Rangers saw red: first Kevin Thomson was sent off, followed by Danny Wilson not much later. The Buddies could not capitalize on the numeric advantage though, and it seemed to spur on Rangers.

After 83 minutes Kenny Miller scored with a header that followed Steven Naismith's cross and in doing so cruelly crushed the hopes of the 10,000 Buddies in attendance. We all knew it would be difficult to beat Rangers in a cup final, but Saints should have done it yesterday. Instead Rangers won it for the 26th time.


Approaching Hampden Park.


Rangers fans show their favourite flag.


Saints fans on the South Stand.


Unfortunately St Mirren were unable to sell their complete allocation of 14,000. About 4,000 tickets remained unsold.


More Buddies on the East Stand.


Kevin Thomson was sent off after a late lunge on Stephen Thomson.


Danny Wilson was sent off after pulling back Craig Dargo.


Even against nine men Saints were unable to score.


Sunday 21st March 2010
Co-operative Insurance Cup Final
St Mirren 0 Rangers 1
Goal: Miller 84.
Att: 44,538

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Grant Street Park (Clachnacuddin)

Today I was in Dingwall for the Highland derby between Ross County and Inverness Caledonian Thistle. On the way back I had to wait in Inverness for 90 minutes for the connecting train to Perth, where I would have to change again for Glasgow. I had planned to make good use of the time and walked up to Grant Street Park, home of Highland Football League side Clachnacuddin, to take a few pictures.

Grant Street Park is only a short walk from Inverness railway station. Clachnacuddin were founded in 1886. The Clach's ground opened a year later and has a current capacity of 3,000. The small main stand has 154 seats (according to Wikipedia, I have not counted them). The Lilywhites have won the Highland League no less than 18 times.


The turnstiles.


The roofed terrace.


The club buildings, including the turnstiles, at the other end.


The main stand.


Again the main stand.


I then had just enough time to visit a 'new' Wetherspoon's pub, the King's Highway in Church Street before I took the 18:43 train to Perth.

Victoria Park (Ross County v Inverness Caledonian Thistle)

Today I finally I made use of the Sunday Mail/First ScotRail promotion, which offered return tickets to any destination in Scotland for only £15. The offer ends on 31st March so time was running out. Because of the bad weather in recent weeks I had not dared to venture very far however I did not want to miss out on today's Highland derby and in fact I had ordered the ticket for the match a few weeks in advance on the internet. With the previous games against Inverness Caley Thistle, both home and away, well attended this seemed the most attractive fixture if I was to travel all the way to Victoria Park in Dingwall, home of Ross County.

It is a fair journey travelling from Paisley to Dingwall. After the three-and-a-half hour journey from Glasgow Queen Street to Inverness it was another 30 minutes on the train to Dingwall. I arrived in Dingwall about 50 minutes before kick-off. There were a few pubs near the station, which also happens to be very close to Victoria Park, but they were all very busy and I decided I was not that thirsty. With not much else to do I walked straight to the ground and I was not the only one, many fans, both home and away, were in the stands early. Today's attendance of 5,928 exceeded the population of the town of Dingwall which is only 5,026 according to the 2001 census.

The match itself was an entertaining and lively derby game but unfortunately there were no goals today. Also I left about 15 minutes before time because I did not want to chance missing the connection to the last train from Inverness to Glasgow, especially with St Mirren's first appearance in a cup final since 1987 scheduled for the next day. Luckily the game remained goalless in my absence.


Approaching Victoria Park.


The home turnstiles.


The away turnstiles.


The Jail End Terrace.


View from the Jail End Terrace.


The West Stand.


The East Stand.


The North Terrace housed the Caley Thistle fans.


Plenty of incidents in this Highland derby.


...


Another view from outside, almost 6,000 were still inside, I decided to catch the 16:37 train to Inverness.


Saturday 20th March 2010
Scottish Football League First Division
Ross County 0 Inverness Caledonian Thistle 0
Att: 5,928

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Murrayfield Stadium (Scotland v England)

Yesterday my wife and I took the train to Edinburgh for this year's edition of the Calcutta Cup. The Calcutta Cup is the trophy Scotland and England play for every year when they meet in the Six Nations Championship. However there are also points at stake and England needed to win this match if they wanted to retain the chance to win this tournement. After Scotland's defeat in Italy two weeks ago Scotland probably had to win this game to avoid ending the Six Nations with the wooden spoon.

Yesterday's game had a late kick-off time of 5pm which meant there was plenty of time for some pre-match refreshments in the centre of Edinburgh. We started the day at the Tiles Bar in St. Andrew Square which has become a bit of a traditional starting point when we go to Edinburgh to watch the rugby. After a few pints here and having watched Robbie Keane put three past hapless Kilmarnock we headed for Rose Street. We skipped The Standing Order, the massive JD Wetherspoon's pub, this time and went for a couple of the smaller pubs in Rose Street. As is the norm when Scotland play any of the home nations all pubs were packed to the rafters.

At around 16:00 we decided to make our way to the ground on foot. We normally leave about one hour before kick-off and we usually arrive in our seats just in time. Had our seats been in the South Stand instead of the North Stand we would have been in time for the national anthems as well.

I suppose the game itself was not for the purists but it was a close affair and tense from start to finish. Scotland never managed to score any tries (which was no surprise of course) but luckily neither did England. Glasgow's Dan Parks scored all 15 points for Scotland. Jonny Wilkinson became the all-time leading scorer in the history of the Five/Six Nations but he was replaced injured after having scored 9 points for the English. Leicester's Toby Flood scored two more penalties for England but in dramatic fashion missed a late penalty which would have won the game for England and Gloucester's Rory Lawson blocked his even later drop-goal attempt.

The 15-15 draw was the first draw between the two sides since 1989 but the 18th overall, which is apparently a record between two nations. The result did not suit any of the two teams but it meant the Calcutta Cup stays in England for at least another year.


Scotland win the line-out.


The West Stand.


The East Stand.


The South Stand in the background.


Dan Parks is about to score three of his 15 points today.


Saturday 13th March 2010
RBS 6 Nations Championship
Scotland (9) 15
Pens: Parks 4; drop-goal: Parks
England (6) 15
Pens: Wilkinson 3, Flood 2
Att: 66,891

Saturday, 13 March 2010

JD Wetherspoon


Along with visiting all 42 Scottish Football League grounds I have now also started a quest for the 48 JD Wetherspoon pubs in Scotland (this number does not include the various pubs at Scottish airports). On most of my football journeys I visit the local Wetherspoon's if there is one so I have decided to list them on this site as well since football grounds and pubs go hand in hand, or at least they do so in my book!

I know the Wetherspoon concept has its critics and some people probably prefer to visit a more authentic or typically local pub but I feel that the value for money offered by the Wetherspoon chain pubs is mostly excellent although I find the quality of the food served somewhat variable.

For an excellent list per UK region see this link. I have visited the following pubs so far (click on the name for a photo of the pub):


Scotland

  1. Aberdeen: The Archibald Simpson
  2. Aberdeen: The Justice Mill
  3. Airdrie: The Robert Hamilton
  4. Arbroath: The Corn Exchange
  5. Ayr: The West Kirk
  6. Braehead: Lord of the Isles
  7. Dundee: The Capitol
  8. Dundee: The Counting House
  9. Edinburgh: The Alexander Graham Bell
  10. Edinburgh: The Playfair
  11. Edinburgh: The Standing Order
  12. Edinburgh (Corstorphine): The White Lady
  13. Edinburgh (Leith): The Foot of the Walk
  14. Edinburgh Airport (landside): The Turnhouse
  15. Elgin: The Muckle Cross
  16. Glasgow: Camperdown Place
  17. Glasgow: The Counting House
  18. Glasgow: The Crystal Palace
  19. Glasgow: The Edward Wylie
  20. Glasgow: The Hengler's Circus
  21. Glasgow: The Sir John Moore
  22. Glasgow: The Society Room
  23. Glasgow (Shawlands): Sir John Stirling Maxwell
  24. Glasgow Airport (airside): The Sanderling
  25. Glasgow Airport (landside): The Sandpiper
  26. Greenock: The James Watt
  27. Inverness: King's Highway
  28. Kilmarnock: Wheatsheaf Inn
  29. Kirkcaldy: The Robert Nairn
  30. Paisley: The Last Post
  31. Peterhead: The Cross Keys
  32. Saltcoats: The Salt Cot


England

  1. Blackpool: The Auctioneer
  2. Gatwick Airport (airside): The Flying Horse
  3. Gatwick Airport (airside): Lloyds No. 1 Bar
  4. Gatwick Airport (airside): The Red Lion
  5. Gatwick Airport (landside): The Beehive
  6. Gatwick Airport (landside): The Village Inn
  7. London (Whitehall): The Lord Moon of the Mall
  8. Newcastle: The Mile Castle
  9. Newcastle: The Union Rooms
  10. Nottingham: Lloyds No. 1 Bar
  11. Nottingham: The Company Inn
  12. Nottingham: The Joseph Else
  13. Nottingham: The Roebuck Inn
  14. Nottingham: The Trent Bridge Inn
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