Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Abbey Park (Kilwinning Rangers v Lugar Boswell Thistle)

When I found out that the Saltcoats Vics v Darvel match was abandoned I decided to take the train from Saltocats to nearby Kilwinning for the Kilwinning Rangers v Lugar Boswell Thistle league match. After a fifteen-minute walk I arrived at Abbey Park in time for the second half of the West Region Ayrshire District League match between the Buffs and the Jaggy Bunnets.

Kilwininning Rangers, founded in 1899, have won the Junior Cup twice, in 1909 and 1999. They were runners-up in 1910 and 1922. They won the West Region Superleague Premier Division as recent as 2004 but they have been relegated to the third tier since. The Buffs' opponents on 12th November were founded as early as 1878 as Lugar Boswell but have never won the Junior Cup, although they were runners-up in 1956.

When I arrived at Abbey Park Kilwining were already 2-1 up but Lugar appeared the stronger side at times. Although the visitors had goalscorer Krist Stewart sent off after a second booking a draw still seemed possible. Stuart Hannah's goal in the dying minutes ensured three points in the bag for the homeside although the fans did not seem impressed with the hard-fought win.

Entering Abbey Park from Church Street

The enclosure in the west end of the ground.

The north side terrace. These railway sleepers are lethal when wet!

Another look at the north side terrace

Looking towards the small terrace in the east end of the ground

Lugar's Kris Stewart was sent off after picking up a second booking

The club buildings do not look too impressive

A closer look at the south side of the park

Saturday 12th November 2011
West Region Ayrshire District League
Kilwinning Rangers 3 Lugar Boswell Thistle 1
Kilwinning: Lewis 8, Hart 11, Hannah 90.
Lugar: Stewart 10.
Att: 170 (est.)

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Campbell Park (Saltcoats Victoria P-P Darvel)

I had not updated the old blog for a few weeks because I have been busy with many things lately and adding posts to the site was not one of them. That does not mean I have stopped going to football matches so I will update you on my most recent trips in the upcoming days.

On Saturday 12th November I decided to take a train to Saltcoats to see the Emirates Junior Cup second round tie between Saltcoats Victoria and fellow Ayrshire side Darvel. This fixture had already been postponed twice in the previous couple of weeks but it seemed it was finally game on and the weather forecast looked fine. I picked this fixture as it was a relatively short trip (only thirty minutes on the train from Paisley) and it gave me the opportunity to tick off another Wetherspoon pub, the Salt Cot. I had forgotten about this pub but fellow groundhopper Stephen aka Groundhopper 2000 reminded me just in time.

I got off the train at Saltcoats at 1pm, exactly one hour before kick-off. From the train station it was a short walk to my first stop, The Salt Cot, one of the smaller JD Wetherspoon pubs I have been to but with plenty of real ales available. After I had finished my pint of Avalanche I made my way to Campbell Park, home of Saltcoats Vics and a fifteen-minute walk from the town centre.

When I arrived at Campbell Park it seemed very quiet, and I got that eerie feeling that is well known to most groundhoppers...a quick check on the Saltcoats Vics internet side confirmed that the game was off. It also mentioned that the game was supposed to be be played at Ardeer Stadium, home of Ardeer Thistle. So not only was the game postponed, I had shown up at the wrong ground as well. Unfortunately the SJFA website had the game still down as 'on' at that time and no mentioning was made of a ground switch.

It looked like I had wasted my money on train ticket but I quickly checked the Junior fixtures and found out Kilwinning Rangers were playing at home against Lugar Boswell Thistle. I decided to take the 2:35pm train to Kilwinning.

The Junior Cup tie was rescheduled to Saturday 19th November and the venue was switched to Darvel's home ground, Recreation Park. Despite losing home advantage Vics thrashed their opponents 8-0.

First a pint in the Salt Cot

The gate to Campbell Park remained closed...

Saturday 12th November 2011
Emirates Junior Cup second round
Saltcoats Victoria P Darvel P

Friday, 11 November 2011

Valefield Park (Kilbirnie Ladeside v Livingston United)

Another weekend, another Emirates Junior Cup round two match. All it takes is a bit of wind or a prolonged rain shower for a junior game to be called off. The many postponements in the juniors can be frustrating for clubs and fans but it gives me the chance to see a few matches at this stage of the competion.

Last Saturday I went to Valefield Park to see West Region Super League Premier Division team Kilbirnie Ladeside take on Livingston United, a side playing in the East Region South Division, which is a third-tier league. Kilbirnie have struggled in the league so far this season, losing seven of their first nine matches but they started as favourites nevertheless.

I got on my train at Paisley Gilmour Street and got off at Glengarnock station twenty minutes later. From this station it is a ten-minute walk to Kilbirnie's home ground. Valefield is a well looked after junior ground with two enclosures next to each other on one side and a small terrace on the other side. There is also terracing behind both goals. You can buy refreshments at the pie hut or the small licensed bar, selling drinks at the usual affordable Junior prices (I had a bottle of Miller at £1.50). I was disappointed there was no programme issued however. The weather was pretty good for November, slightly chilly but dry and sunny.

Despite the Blasties' poor league form they were much too strong for the West Lothian side, as expected. It only took seven minutes for Kilbirnie to open the scoring as Mark Seagrave's shot went in. Mathew Mclean made it 2-0 only five minutes later. When Stevie Miller converted a penalty five minutes (YouTube clip) before the half-time whistle the tie looked already over.

The home team had a good second half as well but it took them almost 30 minutes to score again as McLean added a second to his tally. Roberts scored a consolation goal for the visitors seven minutes before time.

Tomorrow I will travel to Ayrshire once more for my third Junior Cup round two match this season and it will be an all-Ayrshire affair this time: Saltcoats Victoria are taking on Darvel Juniors. There is a forecast of heavy rain for tonight but hopefully this game will not be postponed for a third time.

Entering Valefield Park

Today's team sheet

The two enclosures

The dressing rooms, pie hut and bar

Great flag

Quote from the Non-League Scotland website: 'The cheapskate supporter can find many ways of viewing games here for free, either by standing on the large hill that overlooks Valefield or by looking through the mesh fence that surrounds three sides of the ground.'

A closer look at the enclosures

The terrace in the north end

The south end terrace

The Kirkland Road entrance

Saturday 5th November 2011
Emirates Junior Cup round two
Kilbirnie Ladeside 4 Livingston United 1
Kilbirnie: Seagrave 7, McLean 12, Miller (pen.) 40, McLean 72.
Livingston Utd: Roberts 83.
Att: 200 (est.)

Friday, 4 November 2011

Portland Park (Troon v Lochore Welfare)

Last Saturday I made the 30-minute train journey from Paisley to Troon in South Ayrshire to pay my first visit to Portland Park, home of Troon FC. It is a very short walk from the local railway station to the football ground, it will not take you much longer than five minutes. You can see Portland Park on your right hand side just before you roll into Troon station if you are travelling from the Glasgow direction.

Troon play in the Ayrshire District League, a third tier division in the West Region Juniors set-up. Last week's game was a second round Junior Cup game against representatives from the East Region. Lochore Welfare hail from Crosshill in Fife and ply their trade in the East Region Central Division, which is also a third tier division.

Portland Park is a nice and welcoming Junior ground with a social club and a covered enclosure. There are a few holes in the enclosure's roof but I was kept fairly dry despite the rain that was lasing down for some time during the match. As I had had a fairly late breakfast at home I was not in the mood for trying any of the pies on sale so I cannot comment on the food on offer this time. No programme was issued on Saturday.

The game itself was entertaining although it became fairly one-sided in the second half. Jonathan Baillie opened the score for the home side after 20 minutes. Ten minutes later Troon scored their second but Lochore Welfare's Alan McDonough scored five minutes before the interval.

In the second half the rain got worse and the wind got stronger which was definitely in the home side's favour. Within the the first ten minutes of the second period Troon doubled their goal tally. Lochore could count themselves lucky that the Ayrshire forwards were very wasteful in front of Lochore's goal and 4-1 was the final score.

I am planning to see another Junior Cup tie in Ayrshire tomorrow. Kilbirnie Ladeside will be favourites against Livingston North at Valefield Park.

Entering Portland Park

The pavilion and enclosure

A small terrace in the south end.

Andy Rae's shot after five minutes went just wide.

Lochore Welfare are about to take a free kick

A closer look at the enclosure

A queue at kiosk at half-time but no pie for me today

Mascots are rare in the Juniors but they have one at Portland Park. I hear you thinking: 'Is that a good thing?'

Troon's home ground can be easily spotted from the train

The sun, and a nice rainbow, came out in the second half

Saturday 29th October
Emirates Scottish Junior Cup round two
Troon 4 Lochore Welfare 1
Troon: Baillie 20, ? 30, ? 50, ? 55
Lochore Welfare: ? 40.
Att: 120 (est.)

Monday, 10 October 2011

Tinto Park (Benburb v Cambuslang Rangers)

I had not planned to see a match this weekend but when my wife told me she wanted to see some shops in Glasgow on Saturday it gave me the opportunity to visit one of the local junior sides. I had not been to Tinto Park in Govan yet but it was high on my to-do list, mainly because of its close proximity to my hometown of Paisley. Benburb play in the Central Division One, the third tier of junior football in the West Region. These days the Bens are a club with fairly modest ambitions with their heyday long behind them. The boys from Govan won the Junior Cup twice, in 1934 and 1936, and the West of Scotland cup four times, the last time as recent as ten years ago.

After I got off my bus at Bellahouston Park I walked to the ground, a five-minute stroll from Paisley Road West. Tinto Park is situated only a few hundred yards away from Ibrox Stadium, home of a slightly more illustrious team in the Govan area of Glasgow. After I had paid my four quid to get in and had bought a programme I immediately noticed the large terrace which runs along the complete western side of the ground. I have read suggestions that it is the largest terrace still in existence in Scotland and it may very well be although with the state of disrepair it is in you cannot expect it to hold more than a few hundred spectators.

It was a miserable day on Saturday but apparently it was even worse last weekend when I enjoyed temperatures of 28/29 degrees in London. The Junior Cup first round tie between Benburb and fellow Central Division One side Cambuslang Rangers was originally penned in for Saturday 1st October but it was postponed due to a water-logged pitch. Yes it is that time of the year again, i.e. October to April.

It is a shame that, on an 'international weekend' when the Old Firm were not playing, not more fans of Glasgow's 'Big Two' make it to these kind of games. Both Celtic and Rangers fans have been protesting, with some justification, against the over-regulation of the way supporters are supposed to behave but Junior football really is the promised land for people who want to experience football as it was viewed decades ago. Crumbling terraces, great banter between supporters of both clubs and you can even take your 'kerry oot' inside with you (do not worry about the 'no alcohol' signs outside some Junior grounds, no-one else does!). There were only about 100 in attendance on Saturday, most of them Cambuslang fans. Bonus points go to the father and son wearing St Mirren jackets. Let the records state that I did not see anyone drink alcohol on the terraces of Tinto Park however, they were a well-behaved bunch (apart from the Cambuslang supporter behind the away dug-out who kept throwing profanities towards the poor referee).

If you have been to a few junior games you will notice there are a few things exactly the same at every single junior match. One of these staples is The Dog. I have not been to any junior game, that was not also witnessed by a canine, usually a very bored-looking one. On Saturday I spotted an Alsation, I am not sure if it was the same one as at Dunterlie Park. Then there is the aforementioned Harmless but Verbally Abusive Fan. Another certainty is the Old Man Looking for Conversation. I felt a bit sorry for the Lang fan who kept on walking from one fellow fan he recognised to the other, whilst negotiating the crumbling steps of the enclosure with the aide of a walking stick, without anyone seeming particularly interested in his company or the sweeties he was offering. I admittedly did not feel sorry enough to start a conversation with him myself.

Unfortunately the football in the lower levels of the Juniors can be quite poor and Saturday's match is a contender for 'worst game of 2011' for me. Both teams were hardly able to create any goal-scoring opportunities with a goalless half-time score the logical outcome. I headed for the pavillion for a pie and bovril (£1). The pie was a good-quality Scotch pie. During half-time I took some pictures of the overgrown terraces opposite the enclosure and in the southern end of the ground. I then quickly fled the rain for the relative comfort of the enclosure.

The second half was slightly better and Cambuslang were starting to look like the stronger team. Eventually Billy Stevenson broke the deadlock after 26 minutes when he scored for Cambuslang. Although Benburb looked frantically for an equaliser it was the Lang who secured their passage into the second round when Aiden Malone intercepted a silly Benburb back pass and walked it into an empty net. Cambuslang will face Yoker Athletic, another Central Division One side, in the second round.

Entering Tinto Park.

The large covered enclosure fifteen minutes before kick-off.

Inside the enclosure.

Luckily the health and safety police are not interested in Junior football.

About 100 fans on the impressive terrace today.

A Benburb foul in front of the home dug-out.

The roof of the Ibrox main stand can be seen between the houses.

An overgrown terrace behind the away dug-out. One elder gentleman did not mind the vegetation.

It does not really make for comfortable standing, especially not in this weather.

Also overgrown terracing in the southern end of the ground.

A closer look at the overgrown south terrace.

At half-time a pie and bovril in the pavillion.

Pennants on display inside the pavillion...

...and some old photographs as well.

Cheers as Cambuslang open the scoring.

Saturday 8th October 2011
Emirates Scottish Junior Cup round 1
Benburb 0 Cambuslang Rangers 2
Goals: Stevenson 71, Malone 90.
Att: 100 (est.)
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