Monday, 21 March 2011

Ravenscraig Stadium (Greenock Juniors v Thorniewood United)

On Saturday I saw my first game at Ravencraig Stadium in Greenock, a ground I have been passing by on my way to work for the last ten years but I had never seen it from inside. Ravenscraig is the home ground of both Greenock Juniors and Port Glasgow Juniors. It is also an athletics stadium with a running track and a large stand which seats about 650 spectators. Unlike Dam Park in Ayr, which I visited two weeks ago, this athletics venue is in a terrible state of disrepair. I just found out however that Ravenscraig is about to undergo a major refurbishment and Saturday's game was Greenock's last at the stadium for the time being. I am glad I was still able to take a few pictures of the 'old' Ravenscraig but the refurbishment, which is set to start this week, looked long overdue.

The game I saw on Saturday was an encounter in the Central District First Division, the third tier in the West Region set-up of the Scottish Juniors. Home team Greenock Juniors were playing Thorniewood United of Uddingston in Lanarkshire. It was a very entertaining six-goal thriller and it was a shame only about 50 people, many of them supporting Thorniewood, turned out to see it. I do not know what kind of numbers Port Glasgow Juniors usually attract in terms of home support, however looking at the distance between Ravenscraig and the town of Port Glasgow it cannot be much more than that either. Despite the small crowd there were still pies and Bovril (but no tea or coffee) on sale during the interval. After the game I headed to Branchton train station again, a ten-minute walk, for the 25-minute train journey back to Paisley.

Approaching Ravenscraig Stadium.

The stand seen from outside. It is in dire need of a bit of TLC...

The stand holds about 650.

Wooden benches in the stand.

The view from the stand. Small terraces can be seen on the other side. The high-rise building that dominates the Greenock skyline is Inverclyde Royal Hospital.

Lee Mitchell scores for Greenock: 1-0.

Thorniewood's Steven Mullen scores the equaliser: 1-1.

Thorniewood take the lead after Chris Queen's scores: 1-2.

After the interval Greenock's Thomas Docherty equalises again: 2-2.

Thorniewood go 3-2 up again thanks to a Chris Lafferty free-kick.

Greenock player manager Stevie Mooney was then sent off after picking up a second booking...

...however Greenock still manage to draw level. Ryan MacDonald scores 3-3.

Saturday 19th March 2011
West Region Central District First Division
Greenock Juniors 3 Thorniewood United 3
Greenock: Mitchell 20, Docherty 54, MacDonald 80.
Thorniewood: Mullen 22, Queen 32, Lafferty 56.
Att: 50 (est.)

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Dam Park Stadium (Whitletts Victoria v Clydebank)

Yesterday I went to Ayr for the Scottish Juniors West Region First Division clash between Whitletts Victoria and Clydebank. This was a vital game for both clubs as both are vying for promotion to the Super League Premier Division and were sitting in the top two spots in the First Division league table before Saturday's match, which was played at Dam Park. Whitletts' traditional home is Voluntary Park but this ground, which is also used for greyhound racing, was closed recently by South Ayrshire council as there were major health and safety concerns. Dam Park is a council-owned athletics venue and spectators are quite far from the pitch but the facilities are better than at many other junior grounds. Clydebank, in their previous incarnation, had played at Dam Park once before. This was for a league cup tie against Ayr United in 1972. Clydebank lost 5-0 almost 40 years ago but they had a much easier ride yesterday.

Tommy Martin missed the chance to put Bankies ahead after only twenty minutes when his kick from the spot went about a yard over the crossbar but when Whitletts' Rikki Harvey was sent off not much later for a dreadful stamp on Martin Clydebank's dominance became too much for Whitletts with goals from Stevie Dymock and Mark Hailstones before the interval and a Gordan Moffat goal two minutes after the break. Craig Main scored for the home side with seven minutes left on the clock, but as the footballing cliché goes, it was all too little, too late. Clydebank are top of the league now although all other rivals for promotion have at least two games in hand.

Approaching Dam Park.

The stand at Dam Park holds 478.

The ground is primarily an athletics venue.

Tommy Martin missed a penalty in the first half.

Whitletts' Rikki Harvey was sent off for a stamp on Tommy Martin.

A closer look at the stand at half-time.

Whitletts Goalie Steven Douglas saved this effort...

...but Gordon Moffat scored for Clydebank from the rebound.

Another look at the stand after the sun had come out late in the second half.

Saturday 5th March 2011
West Region Super League First Division
Whitletts Victoria 1 Clydebank 3
Whitletts Victoria: Main 83.
Clydebank: Dymock 35. Hailstones 44. Moffat 47.
Att: 250 (est.)

Friday, 4 March 2011

Celtic Park (Celtic v Rangers)

Two tribes...

On Wednesday night I made the short journey from Paisley to the East End of Glasgow for the fifth round Scottish Cup replay between arch rivals Celtic and Rangers. The first game on 6th February ended in a 2-2 draw after Rangers had been up 2-1 at the interval. Celtic were playing with ten men after their goalie Fraser Forster was sent off late in the second half but somehow Scott Brown managed to equalise with 25 minutes left on the clock. His subsequent celebrations in front of Celtic hate-figure El-Hadji Diouf have since been known as 'doing the Broonie.'

Since Celtic and Rangers will also meet in the Co-operative Insurance Cup Final and, as always, four times in the league, there will be seven Old Firm encounters this season. This may have been one of the reasons for tickets for this game going on general sale two weeks ago. Normally it is almost impossible to get tickets for any of these matches through the official channels if you are not a season ticket holder for either of the clubs. Since I had not seen an Old Firm derby at Celtic Park yet I was not going to pass up on the chance to get my hands on one of the coveted briefs. Remarkably however tickets were still available shortly before the game and Celtic even advertised the match on the radio.

I was inside the ground about 30 minutes before kick-off and took my seat amongst the home support. The football on show tonight was disappointing and comparing the players on the park with those I watched in Old Firm clashes when I moved to Scotland ten years ago shows how much standards have dropped in the SPL, although Bert Konterman may still struggle to be in the Rangers starting eleven in 2011...So I will not say much about the football but I do not think that is what these games are about anyway.

It is all about the hype that is created by the supporters and the media before these games and sometime after. And, as we have seen time and time again, even seasoned professionals often cannot handle this hype. Celtic truly dominated the game after Steven Whittaker was sent off after 37 minutes after picking up a second booking for fouling Emilio Izaguirre. Somehow this led to a spat between El-Hadji Diouf and the Celtic bench and it all kicked off again when both teams went to the dressing rooms at half-time.

Only three minutes after the break Mark Wilson scored what turned out to be the only goal of the night and, in true Old Firm style, Wilson's effort smashed off Saša Papac’s head. The Rangers left back had to be stretchered off the park but predictably the Celtic fans sang that they 'just couldn't get enough.' Celtic were unable to score a second goal even though Georgios Samaras hit the post. Madjid Bougherra became the second Rangers player to be sent off in the dying minutes when the Algerian received a second yellow card after a cynical foul on Kris Commons.

After the final whistle and Celtic's quarter final appearance confirmed (which also means Rangers cannot win the domestic treble of course) it really kicked off with Celtic manager Neil Lennon and Rangers assistant coach Ally McCoist squaring up and Diouf being red-carded after picking up a second booking for approaching referee Calum Murray. Bizarrely, despite the sending-off, the Senegalese striker still walked up to the end of the pitch to throw his shirt into the away section.

Despite all the turmoil on the pitch I did not encounter any aggression outside the stadium or on my way to Glasgow Central (I did not see anything untoward after last year's Old Firm at Ibrox either) and I arrived back home just after eleven. The football was dire but the entertainment was top-notch!

For more pictures of Celtic Park see these posts: (v St Mirren, v AZ, v FC Utrecht)

Celtic Park seen from the Gallowgate.

The two teams coming on the pitch.

Celtic free-kick in the first half, Rangers fans in the corner.

Steven Whitaker received a second yellow after fouling Emilio Izaguirre.

El-Hadji Diouf argues with the Celtic bench.

You'll never Walk Alone at the start of the second half.

Celtic free-kick in the second half.

Diouf was red-carded after the final whistle but still stayed on the park and threw his shirt into the away end.

The Jock Stein Stand after the match.

The South Stand.

The Lisbon Lions Stand.

Wednesday 2nd March 2011
Scottish Cup 5th round replay (first game: 2-2)
Celtic 1 Rangers 0
Goal: Wilson 48.
Att: 57,847
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