Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Excelsior Stadium (Airdrie United v Greenock Morton)

Last night I took in another midweek Scottish Cup replay. This time it was off to the Excelsior Stadium in Airdrie for Airdrie United v Greenock Morton. The game in Greenock last week had ended in a 2-2 draw. The Diamonds, playing in the Second Division, were two up against First Division side Morton but the Ton still managed to earn a replay. Although this replay must surely have been one of the biggest games of the season for Airdrie ,there was not much of an atmosphere. Only about 1,000 Morton and Airdrie fans showed up and neither set of fans made much noise.

The stadium does not ooze atmosphere anyway. Built in 1998, the 10,000 capacity ground does not have much character and looks very similar to grounds like New St Mirren Park. I had planned to visit the Excelsior Stadium two seasons ago but upon arrival at the ground the game against St Johnstone turned out to be postponed due to a waterlogged pitch. This should be a much rarer occurrence these days as a 3G artificial pitch was installed last summer. Although the drainage problems of the Airdrie ground were notorious it has made the park look even more 'plastic'.

I went to Airdrie by train, a 30-minute journey from the lower-level station at Glasgow Queen Street. This train goes all the way to Edinburgh nowadays, via Bathgate and Livingston. I did not have time to go to a pub before the game but there is a welcoming social club under the main stand. I ordered a pint of lager but the barrel had to be changed so I opted for a bottle of Miller instead. Later however the lady behind the bar came over to me with a pint, free of charge, because I 'had waited for so long,' which I thought was a very nice gesture.

After having downed my free pint quickly I made my way through the turnstiles. As mentioned before there was not much of a cup atmosphere and Morton were 1-0 up after less than 15 minutes. Somehow the First Division side took their foot of the gas a little and the 1-0 score at the interval flattered the Lanarkshire club. However somehow the Airdrie fans did not appreciate they were playing against a team from a higher division and their attitude toward their own team was very negative throughout the duration of the game. In the second half the Ton scored three goals in ten minutes and by the time Allan Jenkins scored 4-0 about half of the home crowd had already left. Two late Airdrie goals made the scoreline look more respectable but Morton had the last word when Carlo Monti scored 5-0 from the spot, after Eddie Forrest was sent off.

For more pictures of the Excelsior Stadium see this post.

Approaching Excelsior Stadium.

Memorabilia in the social club.

The Morton fans were housed in the East Stand.

The North Stand remained closed... did the South Stand.

The Jack Dalziel Stand. By the time I took this picture many Airdrie fans had already left.

Airdrie's Eddie Forrest was sent off.

Airdrie's bench were not impressed with the straight red and penalty.

Carlo Monti scored the fifth Morton goal from the spot.

There are still 'Airdrieonians' bins inside the stadium. Airdrieonians FC folded at the end of the 2001/02 season, that saw them finish runners-up in the First Division behind Partick Thistle. A local business man bought Clydebank FC, relocated them to Airdrie and changed their name to Airdrie United. A year later a new Clydebank FC were founded. The 'new' Bankies play in the western region of the Scottish Juniors set-up.

Tuesday 25th January 2011
Scottish Cup 4th round replay (first game: 2-2)
Airdrie United 2 Greenock Morton 5
Ardrie: Mackay-Steven 77, Sally 80.
Morton: O'Brien 14, Jenkins 61, Graham 68, Jenkins 71, Monti 84 pen.
Att: 1,033

Friday, 21 January 2011

Rushmoor Stadium (Farnborough)

These pictures of Rushmoor Stadium (formerly Cherrywood Road) I took two weeks ago when my wife and I spent four nights in the south of England for the Lakeside World Darts in Frimley Green, Surrey. Last year we stayed in nearby Frimley and I took a bus to Aldershot to take some pictures of the EBB Stadium (formerly Recreation Ground), home of League Two side Aldershot Town FC. I had to wade through 15 inches of snow to take a few shots of the exterior of the ground as there was, unsurprisingly, no way to get inside without being classed as a trespasser.

I had thought about going to Aldershot once more but it would probably have been more of the same (minus the snow) and I had found out in the meanwhile that there was a newly promoted Blue Square South team, in the shape of Farnborough FC, that plied their trade in the vicinity. On the Saturday morning I walked to the ground from our hotel in Frimley Green, which took me about 45 minutes. Unfortunately, I was once again unable to get inside the ground. Therefore once more some exterior shots. The record attendance at Rushmoor Stadium is 3,581 (an FA Cup game against Brentford in 1995). I am not sure what the current capacity is, Wikipedia gives a figure of 4,200, however a new stand is under construction now as you can see in the pictures as well.

The Prospect Road End Stand is currently under construction.

Turnstiles leading to the Prospect Road End.

The Farnborough club shop and the new PRE Stand.

Turnstiles leading to the Charles Mortimore Stand, the main stand.

Turnstiles leading to the Moor Road End.

I was able to look over a crumbling concrete wall behind the Moor Road End. We are looking out on the East Stand here.

Once more the East Stand, this time a frontal view.

Finally we are looking out on the Moor Road End from behind the Prospect Road End.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Somerset Park (Ayr United v Hibernian)

Yesterday I made the short train journey, about 40 minutes, from Paisley to Ayr for the Scottish Cup fourth round replay between Ayr United and Hibernian. The first encounter at Easter Road had ended in a goalless draw. I had not seen that game but apparently both sides rued missed chances that could have secured their passage to the fifth round. Many in Scotland, including myself, believed Ayr could win this replay. The Edinburgh side are traditionally one of the stronger outfits in the SPL but things have not gone to plan since manager Colin Calderwood took over from John Hughes in October of last year. Prior to last night's match the Hibees had only won two of their thirteen games under Calderwood. The men from Leith have an atrocious record in the Scottish Cup anyway considering their pedigree. The last time they lifted the oldest trophy in football was 110 years ago. And then there was the CIS Insurance Cup semi-final at Hampden in 2002: Ayr United, playing in the First Division at the time, eliminated Hibs 1-0 after extra time and reached their first ever major final. The Honest Men lost 4-0 to Rangers but they probably were not too upset about it.

Nowadays United have to strut their stuff in the Second Division. They said goodbye to full-time football after last year's relegation but they are once more in contention for promotion to the second tier of Scottish football. Somerset Park is a great stadium for groundhoppers but unfortunately unsuitable for a club with the ambition to play SPL football in the near future. There is one main stand and three fairly large terraces. Although the official capacity is just over 10,000 there was a great atmosphere inside the stadium with a crowd of under 4,000. I witnessed most of the first-half action from the North Terrace, including Mark Roberts's goal after 18 minutes. From that moment the crowd really started believing an upset was possible. Hibs had a few good chances but it was one of those nights for them.

In the second half the tension was relieved temporarily when a streaker, dressed only in a Borat-style mankini, entered the pitch and ran along the Somerset Road end of the pitch. Soon after however the nail-biting resumed. Then finally, Somerset Park erupted at the final whistle, followed by a good-natured pitch invasion. In the fifth round the mighty St Mirren will visit Somerset Park so I will be back on 5th February!

For pictures of Somerset Park in daylight see this post and this one.

Long queues at the turnstiles.

The Somerset Road End.

The Main Stand.

Hibs supporters in the Railway End.

The North Terrace.

A streaker on the pitch in the second half.

Pitch invasion after the final whistle.

Tuesday 18th January 2011
Scottish Cup 4th round replay (first game: 0-0)
Ayr United 1 Hibernian 0
Goal: Roberts 19.
Att: 3,826

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Western Park (Renfrew v Lochee United)

Last Saturday I saw a match at a 'new' ground for the first time in almost two months. Renfrew FC (currently fifth in the West Region First Division) were playing host to Dundee club Lochee United (fourth in the East Region Superleague) in the third round of the Scottish Junior Cup. This was a game that was supposed to have been played on 27th November but had been postponed several times because of the arctic weather. Saturday's game looked doubtful as well because of the torrential rain we had seen in this part of Scotland in the past few days . Luckily however the match was given the green light after a morning pitch inspection. The actual journey to the ground was one of the less exciting ones as Renfrew is situated only a couple of miles from Paisley and my wife dropped me off outside the ground (I took one of the many buses back to Paisley after the game).

Despite the importance of this game I counted only about 150 supporters, which was understandable considering the horrible weather today. Still, a couple of dozen diehards had made their way from Dundee. Fortunately the terrace behind the southern end is covered and, despite a few leaks, kept everyone reasonably dry. Apart from the large enclosure there is not much too say about this ground. There are some overgrown, and very steep, terraces on the eastern side of the ground however because of the weather I did not venture too far away from the enclosure. Also there is no pie stand so I was not able to buy any refreshments within the ground which was a first for me in the juniors. I had read on the Lochee United site that there were some problems with burst pipes at Western Park so I do not know if you are normally able to buy a pie or a coffee inside the ground. Apparently Renfrew are hoping to move to a new ground near Blythswood Retail Park in 2012. Surprisingly however a programme was sold today, a decent effort at £1.

Despite the horrendous weather I did not regret leaving the house because I was rewarded with an entertaining cup tie. Lochee United confirmed their status as favourites to reach the fourth round by taking the leas quickly. Paul Blackwood and Grant Lawson ensured the Bluebells were 2-0 up after only 13 minutes and I am sure many in attendance at Western Park feared the worst for Renfrew but somehow they pulled one back just before half-time and when Lochee defender Joe Pepper was sent off things started to look rosier for the West Region outfit. Despite playing with only 10 men the East Region side seemed to be able to hang on to the slim lead reasonably comfortably however, until Renfrew equalised in they dying minutes. This means both teams will have to do it all over again in the replay in Dundee this Saturday.

The entrance to Western Park.

The club building has seen better days.

Watch the umbrellas, it was not a nice day to go to the football.

Only a grass bank at the northern end.

Despite the sending-off Lochee seemed to hang on to their lead quite comfortably...

...but both teams will have to meet again this Saturday.

Today's team sheet.

The club buildings are in a very poor state.

Thankfully Western Park has a large enclosure.

Saturday 15th January 2011
Emirates Scottish Junior Cup Round 3
Renfrew 2 Lochee United 2
Renfrew: Prentice 43, Reid 90.
Lochee Utd: Blackwood 9, Lawson 13.
Att: 150 (est.)

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Firhill Stadium (Partick Thistle v Raith Rovers)

Fore more pictures of the Jags at Firhill see this post and for pictures of a Glasgow Warriors rugby game at this ground see this one.

On 26th December I saw my first match in over five weeks at Firhill in the north of Glasgow. Partick Thistle were playing host to Raith Rovers in the the Scottish First Division. Before the arctic weather struck I had made all kinds of plans for Boxing Day. I had considered paying my first visit to Glebe Park to see Brechin City v Ayr United. I had also though about going to Blackburn where Stoke City were visiting Ewood Park. I only discovered last week however that there were no trains on 26th December apart from a few local lines in Glasgow. This meant that my options had become extremely limited. I could have taken a train to Airdrie, I still have to see a game at the Excelsior Stadium, but the Second Division clash against East Fife had fallen victim to the weather. Hibernian were playing Aberdeen at Easter Road and I have not seen the new East Stand yet but there were no trains to Edinburgh today and I did not feel like taking the Citylink bus. Celtic v St Johnstone did not look like the most attractive fixture to me and I had not expected tickets to be on sale on match day for Motherwell v Rangers at Fir Park.

Firhill therefore seemed the easiest option. This was also the first time I took pictures at a football match at the home of the Jags and the first time I have seen Partick Thistle play at home since 2003. Of the four senior teams in Glasgow Partick Thistle's ground is the closest to the city centre, a fifteen-minute walk from Sauchiehall Street. This short walk was a particularly treacherous one yesterday because the pavements were extremely slippery and a few times I was very close to falling flat on my face. Luckily however I made it to the stadium in one piece. I bought a programme and a match ticket (which you have to buy at the ticket booth outside the ground and hand in at the turnstile) and took my seat in the Jackie Husband Stand. This was the only stand open today. As far as I know away fans are usually allocated the North Stand but today the supporters from Kirkcaldy were seated in the northern end of the Jackie Husband Stand. Although I understand that it is cheaper to have only one stand open it does not do much for the atmosphere.

The match was not the most exciting one I had seen in 2010 and there were no goals. Both teams had a few chances and a draw was a fair result but I would have preferred a 1-1 or 2-2. After the game I made my way back to Glasgow Central train station on foot but black ice had made it an extremely treacherous journey. Nevertheless, as always, I made it home in one piece.

Approaching Firhill.

The Main Stand.

First you have to buy a ticket from the ticket booth outside the Jackie Husband Stand, which you then hand in at the turnstile.

The Jackie Husband Stand.

This used to be the South Terrace.

The North Stand was closed today. Away fans were seated in the Jackie Husband Stand.

The Main Stand was closed as well.

Again the Main Stand.

The Jackie Husband Stand at half time.

Sunday 26th December 2010
Scottish Football League First Division
Partick Thistle 0 Raith Rovers 0
Att: 2,036
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