Game #48: Berwick Rangers v Gretna 2008

Game #48:
Berwick Rangers v Gretna 2008
Scottish Cup, 2nd round
Ground: Shielfield Park, Berwick
Date: 20/10/2018
Result: 3-1
Attendance: 356

Berwick Rangers have always been the odd ones out in the SPFL, being the only team actually based in England. Just by looking at a map it’s clear why it makes sense for them to play in the Scottish leagues though. Berwick-upon-Tweed as a town has changed hands various times and it’s not close to any main town/city in England, whilst it’s considerably further north than some places in Scotland, including Gretna Green where their opponents in the 2nd round of the Scottish cup are from. I took the train from Dundee to Berwick, with a journey time of just over 2 hours considerably closer than some places in the south of Scotland for me. After exploring the lovely town that is Berwick and visiting some good local pubs, I headed for Shielfield Park.

Berwick Rangers got founded in 1884 and affiliated to the SFA in 1905, when they entered the Scottish Border League and the East of Scotland league after the first World War, which replaced the Scottish Border League. In 1951 they joined Division C of the Scottish Football League. They became full members of the league when Division C got disbanded in 1955 and they got placed in the new Division Two. In 1967 they had a major success when they beat Rangers 1-0 in the Scottish Cup, sparking a crisis at Rangers. In 1979 they won the Division Two title, but after that it went downhill and they have been close to going out of existence on a few occasions. In 2007 they won the Third Division, but they got relegated a year later. They have remained in League Two ever since, coming close to a relegation play-off spot a few times, but never actually finished bottom.

“The Borderers” play at Shielfield Park, where they moved in 1955. In 1992 they were forced to sell the ground to a greyhound company, who locked Berwick Rangers out, meaning they had to groundshare with other Second Division clubs. In 1995 they returned after the Supporters Trust bought the ground. The ground is shared by a speedway club, meaning that there is a track around the ground. There is a seated main stand with covered terracing on the opposite side and plenty space for uncovered standing around the pitch. It’s not the prettiest ground, but it is a traditional one and a good place to watch football.

The game in the Scottish Cup was against Gretna 2008 from the Lowland League. The visitors have not impressed much in their league this season so far and they were clearly weaker than the hosts. Berwick looked comfortable from the start and dominated, only late on when it was 3-0, the guests managed to score a goal, resulting in the final score of 3-1. The day out was excellent, the people in Berwick and at the club were all very friendly. This was one of the friendliest clubs I’ve visited. It was definitely worth a visit and I’m sure I’ll be back one day.

   

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Game #47: Dunfermline Athletic v Alloa Athletic

Game #47:
Dunfermline Athletic v Alloa Athletic
Scottish Challenge Cup, 3rd round
Ground: East End Park, Dunfermline
Date: 13/10/2018
Result: 2-2 (pen. 4-5)
Attendance: 1,469

For some reason I’ve never been to Dunfermline, even though the ground is quite close for me. This time I decided to make the 45 minute drive to East End Park for the third round of the challenge cup against Alloa Athetic. Both clubs play in the Championship, with Alloa having been promoted through the play-offs last season. Alloa beat Stirling Albion (3-1 at home) and Dundee United (away, 1-1, won on penalties) to get to the last 16. Dunfermline meanwhile, beat Inverness Caledonian Thistle (2-1 away) and English side Boreham Wood (away, 0-0, won on penalties).

Dunfermline FC got founded in 1874, which was the football section of a cricket club. A conflict with the cricket section resulted in the football section breaking away and forming Dunfermline Athletic FC in 1885. They joined Division Two of the Scottish Football League in 1912. They were largely a second tier club with the occasional promotion to the top flight. Not long after their promotion in 1958 their most successful period started, with Jock Stein as manager in his first managerial job. They won the Scottish Cup in 1961 & 1968. They also regularly played in European competitions, reaching the semi finals of the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup in 1968/69. In the 1970’s they declined and dropped out of the top flight, they even had 2 spells in the third tier. They had a resurgence in the 2000’s, reaching 3 domestic cup finals, but losing all to Celtic. However, after financial trouble and a points deduction, they got relegated to League One in 2013. The fans group Pars United took over the club. They returned in 2016 and have remained in the division since.

“The Pars” play at East End Park, where they moved in when they were formed in 1885. Originally the ground had some wooden stands. In the Second World War, Polish and British Troops used East End Park as a base. The ground remained quite primitive, but got redeveloped in stages between 1957 and 1970. In the late 1990’s the ground got redeveloped to the all-seater stadium that it is today. The current capacity is 11.480 and the ground got sold out twice: for a title decider against Raith Rovers and a cup game against Rangers. For this game, 2 stands were closed. It is a fairly modern stadium, but does have some character and it’s a good place to watch football.

The game was good for a neutral. Alloa took the lead early on, but Dunfermline equalised and it was 1-1 at half time. In the second half, Dunfermline were better and took the lead. However, bad defending resulted in an equaliser for Alloa. As of this season, drawn matches in the Challenge Cup go straight to penalties, without extra time being played. Most penalties were excellent and the first 9 were all scored. Dunfermline missed their last one and Alloa went through to the quarter finals. It was a good day out and an enjoyable game.

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Game #46: Plymouth Argyle v AFC Wimbledon

Game #46:
Plymouth Argyle v AFC Wimbledon
EFL League 1
Ground: Home Park, Plymouth
Date: 6/10/2018
Result: 1-0
Attendance: 8,542

For the first time this season, I went south of the border. This time I went as far as I could: Plymouth Argyle, the southernmost League club in England. When I moved to Scotland, my friends at AFC Wimbledon challenged me to go to Plymouth. Last season, that game was on a Tuesday night, but this time I decided to go. It’s a long journey obviously, flights were expensive, but I managed to get cheap train tickets. I took the Caledonian Sleeper on Friday night down to London, then the train from there to Plymouth. I stayed overnight and took the train back on Sunday, changing at Birmingham New Street & Haymarket.

Plymouth Argyle FC got founded in 1886, as Argyle FC. The club got disbanded in 1894, but re-formed in 1897 as a part of Argyle Athletics Club. They joined the Southern League in 1903, which was effectively the third tier in England back then. They won the league in 1913 and got admitted to the Football League in 1920 in the Third Division with most of the other Southern League clubs. They have mostly been a “yo-yo-club” between tiers 2 and 3, until they got relegated to League Two in 2011, largely because of a 10 point deduction due to going into administration. In 2016, AFC Wimbledon beat Plymouth Argyle 2-0 in the League Two play-off final at Wembley. One year later, they did get promoted by finishing second. Last season they finished 7th, with AFC Wimbledon just surviving. Both are poor so far this season, with Plymouth Argyle not having won any games this season and AFC Wimbledon just outside the relegation places.

Plymouth Argyle play at Home Park, a stadium with currently a 12,800 capacity. The stadium is currently being redeveloped with the capacity due to become 17,900. The ground got opened in 1892. The main stand, Mayflower Stand, is closed and demolition work has began. The other 3 stands got rebuilt in the ground’s redevelopment in 2001, all linked together in the corners. The view is excellent anywhere inside the ground. I do understand why they had to redevelop the main stand, but I do find it a shame, as it looks like a typical old fashioned football stand that had a “romantic” feel over it.

The game was very poor, usually you’d expect a better standard of football when going south of the border, but that wasn’t the case this time. Both teams were bad and it was clear that the first team to score would win the game. That first team became Plymouth and the game finished 1-0. Altogether, I had a great time out with 90 minutes of football being the only downside of it.

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Game #45: St. Mirren v Hibernian

Game #45:
St. Mirren v Hibernian
Scottish Premiership
Ground: St. Mirren Park, Paisley
Date: 29/9/2018
Result: 0-1
Attendance: 6,082

For the first time, I went to a Premiership game on a Saturday afternoon. The other 7 grounds in the division I’ve been to so far were on other days, mainly due to live TV. St. Mirren got promoted to the Scottish Premiership last season after winning the Championship. This season, they didn’t start greatly with only one win in their first 6 games, against bottom club Dundee. Remarkably though, their other point was a home draw against champions Celtic.

St. Mirren got founded in 1877 as a multi-sports club, also including cricket and rugby. They are named after Saint Mirin, the founder of a church at the site of Paisley Abbey and Patron Saint of Paisley. In 1890, they were founder members of the Scottish Football League. In 1908 they reached their first cup final, but they lost to Celtic. They were successful in 1926, 1959 and 1987. In 2001, they got relegated from the SPL, but they returned 5 years later. In 2010 they were runners up in the League Cup after losing the final against Rangers, but 3 years later they won the cup for the first time after beating Hearts 3-2 in the final. In 2015 they got relegated again and they returned in 2018.

“The Saints” played in their early years at 4 different grounds. In 1894 they moved to Love Street, or “St. Mirren Park”, close to the town centre. In 2009 they moved slightly further out, to the new St. Mirren Park. The old ground was sold to developers, in favour of a new 8,034 capacity stadium. The ground has 4 all seater stands, I sat on the main (east) stand, the opposite west stand is slightly larger, with a section of singing fans in the corner, near the north stand where the Hibs fans were housed. Behind the other goal is the similar south stand, which wasn’t very busy. It’s a good ground for St. Mirren, but a bit too modern and standard for my liking. It is also the regular home for Scotland U21.

The game wasn’t the best one I’ve seen, Hibs were the stronger side and took the lead midway through the first half. St. Mirren didn’t create many chances to equalise and Hibs managed to keep the lead and get a deserved 1-0 win.

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Game #44: Stranraer v East Fife

Game #44:
Stranraer v East Fife
Scottish League One
Ground: Stair Park, Stranraer
Date: 22/9/2018
Result: 0-2
Attendance: 366

Since my visit to East Fife last month, I only needed one more ground to finish League 1. However, this was the ground out of the 42 that is the furthest away from Dundee: Stranraer. I decided to make the long train journey to watch Stranraer v East Fife. Unfortunately, an incident in Ayr made the journey even longer as when I was in Ayr, I had to take a rail replacement bus service to Stranraer.

Stranraer FC got founded in 1870, making it the third oldest club in Scotland behind Queens Park and Kilmarnock. They played in the Southern Counties until 1949, when they were admitted to the C division of the Scottish Football League. In 1955 they becaume full members of the league when the C division got disbanded and they got placed in Division Two. After the league reconstruction and a Second Division championship in 1995, they were in the First Division. They relegated straight away, got promoted again in 1998 and again relegated the year after. A number of promotions and relegations followed. In 2012, Stranraer lost the play-off final for promotion to the Second Division on penalties against Queens Park. However, they were promoted anyway due to the liquidation of Rangers and their subsequent restart in the Third Division.

Stranraer FC play at Stair Park, inside a public park with multiple sports facilities. The first stand was built in 1932. When Stranraer entered the League, a covered terrace called “The Shed” was erected. In the 1990’s the ground was significantly improved. The Shed has got a seated stand with terracing next to it. There is a covered terrace behind one of the goals and the main stand is opposite The Shed. It’s a real traditional football ground that I like to see. A great place for watching football, contributing to a good day out. The football itself was fairly poor though, the first half was close with some chances for both sides. East Fife scored twice in quick succession early in the second half, which decided the game. A long journey back followed, but the trip was worth it.

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Game #43: Celtic v Rosenborg BK

Game #43:
Celtic v Rosenborg BK
UEFA Europa League, group stage
Ground: Celtic Park, Glasgow
Date: 20/9/2018
Result: 1-0
Attendance: 47,287

For the first time, I’m visiting one of the “old firm” teams. I went to Celtic Park for Celtic’s first Europa League group stage game. They were facing familiar opposition in Norwegian champions Rosenborg BK. They faced each other in the Champions League 2nd qualifying round in June, with Celtic winning 3-1 on aggregate. Celtic lost the 3rd qualifying round of the CL against AEK Athens and dropped into the Europa League play-off round in which they beat Lithuanian champions Sūduva Marijampolė 4-1 on aggregate, qualifying for the group stage. Rosenborg dropped into the 3rd qualifying round of the Europa League after their defeat against Celtic. They beat Irish champions Cork City (5-0 on aggregate) and Shkëndija from Macedonia (5-1) to qualify for the group stage. Last season, Celtic and Rosenborg also faced each other in the Champions League 2nd qualifying round, with The Hoops winning 1-0 on aggregate.

I traveled to Celtic Park, also called “Parkhead” or “Paradise”. The latter name started being used when people in the old days went from the graveyard behind the stadium into the stadium. A journalist said the move was like “leaving the graveyard to enter paradise”, which led to the ground being nicknamed “Paradise”. Celtic have played there since 1892, with the ground having been improved several times. In the mid-1990’s it got redeveloped and it has now got a capacity of 60,411 with 2 tiers. My ticket was for block 118, in a corner with the fanatic “green brigade” in the other corner and the away fans (approx. 100) in the block next to us. The stadium is impressive and the atmosphere was good when the players got on the pitch. Because the game was really poor, this didn’t last though. Celtic were slightly the better team, but not many chances got created and it looked strongly like I would see the first 0-0 draw since my move to Scotland. However, substitute Leigh Griffiths scored in the 87th minute, sending the crowd into raptures and getting a very important win for Celtic.

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Game #42: Edinburgh City v Annan Athletic

Game #42:
Edinburgh City v Annan Athletic
Scottish League Two
Ground: Ainslie Park, Edinburgh
Date: 15/9/2018
Result: 2-1
Attendance: 247

From 2015, it is possible to get promoted from non-league into the SPFL. So far, this has happened once. Edinburgh City are so far the only club to achieve this and they are the club I visited this time.

Edinburgh City FC got founded in 1928 and joined the Scottish Football League in 1931. Their period in the league wasn’t very successful. In 1946, they were placed the C division and in 1949 they resigned from the league. Instead, they joined the juniors, playing in the Edinburgh & District Junior League. They got disbanded in 1955, Edinburgh City FC Ltd. were only continuing as a social club and not as a football club. In 1966, a club called Postal United got formed, they became Edinburgh City FC after approval from the social club in 1986. In the mid 1990’s they became full members of the SFA and played in the Scottish Cup every year since. In 1997/98 they beat SFL club East Stirlingshire in it. In 2002, they applied to join the Scottish Football League, but they lost the vote to Gretna. When Gretna got liquidated in 2008 they tried again, but lost to Annan Athletic. In 2006 they won the East of Scotland Football League. They were founder members of the Lowland League in 2013 and won the league in 2015 and 2016. In 2016 they won a play-off against Highland League champions Cove Rangers. A play-off with the bottom team of League 2, East Stirlingshire, followed. Edinburgh City won 2-1 on aggregate and thus became the first non-league side to ever get promoted to the SPFL. They survived the first 2 seasons in lower mid-table. This season they have started off well and are top after 5 games.

The original club played at Powderhall Stadium and City Park during its time in the Scottish Football League. The present club originally played at Saughton Enclosure, now the home of East of Scotland League club Lothian Thistle Hutchinson Vale. In 1996, Meadowbank Thistle left Meadowbank Stadium just east of the city centre. They moved to Livingston and became Livingston FC. Edinburgh City then moved into the vacant stadium. In 2017, Meadowbank Stadium got closed due to major redevelopment works. The new stadium is due to open in 2020. In the meanwhile, Edinburgh City groundshare at Ainslie Park, just north of the city centre and home of current Lowland League champions Spartans FC.

Ainslie Park is a tidy ground, with a main stand, a pavilion building behind one of the goals and terracing around the ground. Edinburgh City showed why they are top of the league. This wasn’t their best game, but they didn’t give many chances away and when they took the lead, they never really looked like giving it away anymore. They scored a second goal late in the second half, it got exciting late on when Annan scored the 2-1, but they held on and won deservedly. I get the idea this is a well-organised club and they have done well building the club up slowly in recent years. I feel they deserve higher attendances, but hopefully that will happen once they are back home.

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Game #41: Tayport v Fauldhouse United

Game #41:
Tayport v Fauldhouse United
East Superleague
Ground: The Canniepairt, Tayport
Date: 8/9/2018
Result: 4-1
Attendance: 80

This is my first game in the juniors this season, and quite some things changed. No less than 24 out of 60 East Juniors, including nearly all East Superleague teams south of the Tay, switched to the East of Scotland league. Much has been said about the situation, but I’m not getting involved in the politics of the game. I just watch football at any level, which still includes the juniors. Tayport and Fauldhouse are both new to the East Superleague. Fauldhouse finished second in the East Premier League, meaning they would have been promoted regardless of what happened. Tayport finished 4th, but got promoted due to the restructuring of the East juniors. There are now 3 divisions: a 12 team East Superleague, with the (also 12 team) East Premier League North & South feeding into it.

Tayport are just south of the Tay, meaning it’s a very short journey for me. I took the bus from Dundee across the Tay Bridge, which dropped me off near the ground. Tayport FC got founded in 1947 as Tayport Amateurs as a second club in the town with the other (and much older) one being Tayport Violet. In the first 2 decades, Tayport Amateurs often struggled to survive. This got changed in the late 1960’s when a new committee transformed the club into top amateurs. In 1990 the club took the step to become a junior club. As a junior club, Tayport have been successful in a relatively short period. They won the Scottish Junior Cup 3 times: in 1996, 2003 & 2005 an finished runners-up a further 3 times. They won the East Superleague in 2003 and 2006, but in recent years, they have been moving between the 2 top divisions a few times. In 2010 and 2016 they won the East Premier League. In 2017 they got relegated again, followed by a fourth place finish last season.

When Tayport became Junior, they joined the Tayside league rather than the Fife league, because of Tayport’s close links & geographical location to Dundee & Angus. In the current events in junior football this puts Tayport in a difficult situation. Clubs north of the Tay couldn’t join the East of Scotland league if they wanted to, as that league feeds into the Lowland League and clubs north of the Tay fall under the territory of the Highland League. If the remaining juniors get included in the pyramid (the SJFA voted in favour of pyramid entry at the start of this season), Tayport could end up in the situation that they are separated from the Dundee sides. Hopefully for them, a solution can be found to this situation.

Tayport have been playing at The Canniepairt from 1975. It is a nice, tidy, ground. They’ve got a good clubhouse and a large covered terrace on one side of the pitch. Behind one of the goals is just a hedge and no standing room, but all around the rest of the pitch there is plenty of standing room. As the weather was lovely, few people used the covered stand and most were standing in the sun around the pitch. From the back of the ground there is a lovely view across the Tay to Broughty Ferry.

Tayport were the better side in the game, although the difference wasn’t as big as the final score suggested. The first half was fairly even, but bad defending on Fauldhouse’s side resulted in a 2-0 Tayport lead at half time, the guests were unlucky not to score though. In the second half Fauldhouse didn’t create much and Tayport scored another 2 goals before a consolation goal settled the final score. Tayport were deserved winners, although 4-1 felt slightly harsh on the visitors. I definitely enjoyed my trip & Tayport is a friendly club that was worth the visit.

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Game #40: Motherwell v Rangers

Game #40:
Motherwell v Rangers
Scottish Premiership
Fir Park, Motherwell
Date: 26/08/2018
Result: 3-3
Attendance: 9,545

One of the advantages of games being moved for live TV, is that it can enable me to watch more than one game in a weekend. After having seen one of the poorest grounds & games while doing “the 42”, this fixture had everything to make up for it on both counts. Motherwell were playing Rangers at home. Neither side have been convincing in the league so far. However, Rangers have impressed in the Europa League qualifiers, in which they are performing really well. Motherwell meanwhile have a record of making it tough for the Old Firm. Both teams have a history with each other as well. In the Premiership play-off in 2015, Motherwell beat Rangers, saving their Premiership place & keeping “the Gers” in the Championship. This tie didn’t exactly improve the history between both sides. Fir Park is also a good, traditional, football ground, so it seemed this had all ingredients needed for a good football afternoon. I took the train from Dundee to Glasgow, where I had to change to a rail replacement bus that took me to Motherwell. Once there, I met up with a group of Dutch groundhoppers, doing a groundhopping trip across northern England & Scotland.

Motherwell FC got founded in 1886. In 1893 Motherwell got elected to the Scottish Football League, where they were the first Lanarkshire club. In 1903 they got promoted to Division One, where they have spent most of their existence since then. The play-off win against Rangers in 2015 ensured their long run in the top flight continued, they have been there uninterrupted since 1985, only Aberdeen and Celtic have been there longer. “The ‘Well” have won the league once, in 1932 and finished runners-up 7 times. They won the Scottish Cup twice, in 1952 and 1991, and the Scottish League cup once, in 1951.

Motherwell have been at Fir Park since 1895, after playing at a few different grounds in the town in their early years. Originally, the main stand was their only stand. This stand got rebuilt in 1962. In 1977, terraces have opened behind the goals while the main stand was renovated. All stands got again renovated & reverted to all-seater in the early 1990’s, with the main stand becoming two tier. The opening of the single tier North Stand in 1995 was the last major change. I sat on the North Stand, near the away supporters who were behind the goal on the West Stand. Strangely enough, there was another block of away fans on the main stand in the corner the furthest from the West Stand. The ground is a traditional football ground and one of my favourite larger grounds in the SPFL so far. It’s a great place to watch football and as I was close to the pitch, the singing Motherwell fans and not far from the Rangers fans, I really enjoyed the atmosphere there. Fir Park is great for creating a good atmosphere and this game showed it.

Also in terms of the game, this was one of my most enjoyable SPFL trips so far. The football was good from both sides. Motherwell took an early lead, followed by a Rangers equaliser and a quick reply from Motherwell. Later on in the first half, Rangers scored twice, resulting in a 2-3 score at half time. I though that Rangers would be able to hold onto this lead now and possibly extend it. However, it was Motherwell who had the best of the game in the second half. They had various chances, but they didn’t find that equaliser. Until in the final seconds of the game they got a corner, they scored a good equaliser to the delight of their fans. I feel that a draw was a fair result, this was a very enjoyable afternoon out resulting in a 3-3 draw that was great for a neutral like myself.

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Game #39: East Fife v Arbroath

Game #39:
East Fife v Arbroath
Scottish League One
Bayview Stadium, Methil
Date: 25/08/2018
Result: 0-3
Attendance: 639

After having been away for the 3 previous weekends due to holiday, I went to a game again. This time I went to my 9th League One Ground, East Fife. In a way it was odd that I haven’t been there, as it’s only a short drive from Dundee and I’ve done many grounds that are much further by now. I was actually planning to go previously, but due to different circumstances I never got round to it. Now I finally went there.

East Fife FC got founded in 1903. After playing in the Fife League, Eastern League and Northern League, they joined the Central League in 1909. In 1921 they joined the Scottish Football League as the Central League became the Second Division. In 1927 they reached the final of the Scottish Cup, where they were beaten by Celtic. In 1930 they won the Second Division and got promoted to the top flight for the first time, but they relegated straight away the year after. They greatest success to date was when they won the Scottish Cup in 1938 after beating Kilmarnock in the final. Their best period was shortly after the Second World War, playing in the top flight from 1948-1958 and winning the Scottish League Cup 3 times in 1948, 1950 and 1954. After this period, they only played 3 seasons in the top flight in the 1970’s, they largely moved between lower divisions. In 2016 they got promoted to League One where they have stayed since.

East Fife play at the Bayview Stadium on the edge of the town of Methil. The ground got opened in 1998 and has a capacity of 1,980. There is only one stand, along a long end of the pitch. The pitch used to be overshadowed by Methil Power Station, but that got demolished in spring 2011. There were plans to expand the stadium, but this never happened except for some temporary stands when East Fife were playing Rangers & Dunfermline. From their formation in 1903 until their move to the Bayview Stadium, East Fife played at Bayview Park in the town centre.

The new ground isn’t particularly exciting, just one stand isn’t really attractive. It’s a modern stand as wall and as a fan of old grounds that means I’m not exactly getting what I like here. The game was poor as well. East Fife looked like they took the lead, but the referee disallowed the goal fairly late on. Arbroath comfortably won 3-0. The difference between top and bottom of the league, was too big, even at this early stage of the season.

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