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Interesting Times

I’ve been away for a few days and took the oportunity for a rest from the internet.

As a result it was only today I found out Sons manager Ian Murray has resigned and will take up the manager’s job at St Mirren.

This is not entirely an unexpected development; I knew he had been interviewed for his new post.

Whatever, Ian Murray will always be remembered fondly for turning round our first season in the second tier for over 25 years, leading us to 5th (17th in Scotland) in the next – not to mention a Cup quarter final – and consolidating us in the season just gone. Any good wishes will be tempered by the hope we thump his new team when we meet them in the season to come.

So will this mean a new dawn or the end of the recent good times? Can a new manager take us on any further or will we be returning to the struggles of the lower divisions?

In many ways this comes at a bad time. Only three players are signed up for next season. Planning for it will of necessity be delayed while the club seeks someone to fill the position.

Interesting – and worrying – times.

Dumbarton 2-2 Raith Rovers

SPFL Tier 2, The Rock, 2/5/15.

Not bad for an end of season game with nothing riding on it (except pride, players’ contracts, points and the money that comes with them.)

The first half was pretty uneventful till Garry Fleming hit the post with a shot from just outside the box. It rebounded, hit the goalie’s back and fell into the path of Jordan Kirkpatrick who tucked it away. Raith came into it more towards the end.

In the second half Raith equalised when they cut their way right through our defence and the forward finished very tidily.

Beyond feeling the cold I hadn’t much noticed the wind in the first half but it badly affected Danny Rogers’s kicking from the outset of the second. This culminated when he hit the ball straight to a Raith player who promptly chipped it back over him into the net in a great finish. Rogers’s kicking is a major weakness in his game.

Raith were on top but things chnaged when young Donald McCallum came on for Jordan Kirkpatrick. The goal stemmed directly from McCallum skipping past the full back. His cross was headed straight to Scott Agnew who performed that rarity scoring with his right foot.

Ryan Clark got a few minutes on the pitch too. He had a strong run ended by a cynical clip on his heels. Welcome to the adult game, son.

So the season ends on a slightly less gloomy note after five losses in a row. How easy it’s going to be to keep the club’s best part-time team in Scotland tag next season is anyone’s guess. With Livingston’s great escape on Saturday there will be a maximum of one other such club in our league for 2015-16. I suspect the manager may move on soon; he’s already lasted longer than most Sons bosses of recent times. I’d take eighth place right now, before a ball is kicked.

Alloa Athletic 3-0 Dumbarton

SPFL Tier 2, Recreation Park*, 11/4/15.

Well it was only fair. We rolled over to Cowdenbeath last week so to give Alloa the same courtesy this, seems equitable.

So many things pointed to this result. They had a new manager. They hadn’t beaten us for fifteen games. They needed the points and we didn’t.

Yet the only difference in the first half was that their shots were on target and ours went just past the post – though our best was screwed well wide by Archie Campbell. We had more attempts in the first half than they did, their second goal wasn’t even a chance really but their two goals were both wonder strikes, one from a free-kick (the ref did not give us one in a similar incident and realtive position later in the half) but the other ought to have been closed down.

The second half was a bit meh. Their goal came after one of their players seemed to handle the ball on the halfway line but Danny Rogers ought to have made sure to get the ball when coming out for it rather than let the attacker lift it over him to leave an empty net.

As last week there weren’t many positives to take from this.

Our season now looks in danger of petering out but I suppose the players will be up for next week’s game against Rangers.

Despite us losing here, Cowdenbeath’s failure to win against Livingston means we cannot be caught for 7th place. Scotland’s best part-time team again!

*I will never think of it as the Indodrill Stadium.

Cowdenbeath 3-0 Dumbarton

SPFL Tier 2, Central Park, 4/4/15

Well this was dire. We started brightly enough but Mark Duggan flicked out at a cross instead of meeting it and could only just get his head to a rebound but was unable to turn it in. We then fell out of it.

Three at the back just didn’t work for us even though Andy Graham did a good impression of an attacking left back for a while.

They scored just before half time when the ball came back up after they had pushed three men up on our back three while we had the ball but lost it and others broke too. When Danny Rogers parried the first effort about three of theirs were on hand to tap in.

The second just after the break was almost a carbon copy. Again Rogers parried the ball but their player was again first to it.

We had lost all cohesion by the third but it has to be said the cross onto Colin Rhyming Slang’s head was a peach.

Given the relative incentives for the two teams this was always likely to be a win for Cowden but I had hoped that our safety might have produced a carefree performance rather than an error strewn one. (Though the pitch didn’t help with the errors: but the pitch was the same for both sides.) Maybe if we had scored first….

Job Done!

And without a ball being kicked. (Not by us anyway.) Plus with six games to go.

Congratulations to manager Ian Murray and the squad.

Tonight’s 1-0 win by Falkirk over Cowdenbeath means that Sons will play SPFL Tier 2 football again next season. Survival in this league has to be our first aim every season we’re in it. Anything beyond that is a bonus.

While it is true that either Cowdenbeath or Alloa can outdo our current points tally of 33 the arithmetic means it is not possible for both of them to do so since they play each other in the last game of the normal season. (What a tasty encounter that may be: though I think the last time they had a crucial last day game against each other – in 1991, for promotion in that case – I believe it was a 0-0 draw.) The lowest we can now finish is in eighth place, one above the play-off spot. Our present seventh position is way more likely, though.

We’re 9 points behind Raith Rovers with 18 to play for. Catching them would be a tall order but still worth striving for.

To emphasise what an achievement this is for the club it is worth pointing out that no part-time team has stayed at this level for so long since league re-organisation in 1994. (Cowdenbeath may yet equal us in this regard but are 1 point behind Alloa at the moment with the possibility of having to negotiate the play-offs to do so.)

Livingston 1-2 Dumbarton

SPFL Tier 2, Almondvale Stadium, 21/3/15

What an odd game.

We started brightly and had two efforts on goal from Garry Fleming neither of which were on target. Then Chris Turner dangled his leg out to stop a Livi player getting past and was booked. An unneeded foul which I said to Onebrow would be even more unnneeded if they scored from it. So what happened? 1-0 Livi. Danny Rogers seemed a bit immobile as it went in.

There followed a succession of fouls by Livi layers on ours all of which went unpunished – even the one that resulted in Darren Petrie having to be substituted. Dylan Easton came on but this wasn’t really the sort of game where he could shine as Livi were very physical. Despite that it was two more of our players who got booked. In Mark Wilson’s case it looked to me as if he played the ball onto their player. I thought it wasn’t till late in the game that the ref saw fit to book any of their players but the BBC says one was yellow carded after 45 mins. The worst refereeing decision came in the second half when Garry Fleming was given offside despite the fact that he had run on to a pass misplaced by one of their players.

From five minutes into the second half Livi were time-wasting. That was an irritating spectacle. I was thinking we’ve beaten way better Livi teams than this.

The time-wasting came back to bite them late on when Scott Agnew drove a free-kick into the net. Is that Aggie’s first goal from a free-kick since we got promoted to this division?* It wasn’t even in the corner, hit on the goalie’s side of the wall, but I wasn’t caring.

No time-wasting by Livi now. But it was us who scored again, Garry Fleming latching on to a ball after a set piece wasn’t fully cleared and fairly belting it into the net. He simply wanted it more than the defender.

So a win that sees us 11 points clear of 8th place with 7 games left (with Alloa only having 18 points to play for and Cowdenbeath 24.) Livi are 17 points behind us with only 21 to play for. I think we won’t finish last, then.

*Edited to add:- Apparently not. I seems he got one in the 4-1 demolition of Hamilton Accies last spring. I wasn’t at that game.

Heart of Midlothian 4-0 Dumbarton

SPFL Tier 2, Tynecastle Stadium, 14/3/15

Well I didn’t expect much from this game but at half-time we had held out well only really extended when Danny Rogers had to make a magnificent one-handed save, pushing the ball onto the woodwork from where it fell kindly back to him. We had two attempts on goal – both from Chris Duggan, one of which he made entirely for himself.

The atmosphere in the away end was livened up by the presence there of “Swiss Sons” – quite why a group of fans from Switzerland has adopted us is a bit obscure. I liked the scarf on which was written “Float like an elephant, sting like a rock.” Said scarf was brandished from the lower gangway as its bearer led the Sons choir. Great stuff.

Sadly the game went away from us. They scored after a corner but it looked as if Danny Rogers had been impeded. Their second was from another corner, a free header this time. They didn’t score from open play until we started to try to take it to them a bit in the last ten minutes. 4-0 was harsh on us.

Marvellous fun chanting, “Shall we sing a song for you,” at the comatose home support, “There’s only one Ian Murray,” then, “We forgot that you were there” when they finally roused themselves, “What a shitey home support,” after the circa 15,000 crowd was announced, “We can see you sneaking off,” when the early exodus started, as well as the usual “Dumbarton,” clap, clap, clap and “Oh when the Sons, go marching in,” – plus the Swiss inspired, “Dih, dih, dih-dih, Dumbarton.”

Still, in the second half we were restricted to long range shots. Chris Duggan wasn’t in the box enough, having to forage wide to get the ball. We miss a focal point.

Our defensive outlook here is undersatndable given the disparity in resources between the two clubs but too often our passes failed to reach their target. Theirs tended to be more into space for a man to run onto, but their players are quicker all round. We didn’t get time on the ball.

More attacking intent next week please, though.

Hibernian 3-0 Dumbarton

SPFL Tier 2, Easter Road, 21/2/15.

Painful. That’s the word I would have used at half-time to describe our performance. Nothing that happened in the second half changed it.

We looked utterly toothless. Our set-up was strange (what’s new this season?) – the absence of Darren Petrie from midfield, as last week, was baffling considering his debut at Falkirk. Also not starting was new loanee Chris Duggan.

Hibs dominated throughout. While the two first-half goals came from poor defending and the third was a deflection we also had Danny Rogers to thank for good goalkeeping and that Hibs clearly relaxed and didn’t force things once the game was won.

The substitutions were odd too. Fair enough Dylan Easton being replaced by Chris Turner but why take off Mark Gilhaney rather than Archie Campbell? Gils could have taken up his usual position on the right where he is generally effective. And perhaps they ought to have been made at half-time rather than after Hibs had scored again. And Darren Petrie for Scott Linton with nine minutes to go?

It is painfully obvious that Chris Turner isn’t half the player he was in his first two half-seasons. Since his injury he’s lost pace (and that was never his strong suit) and his confidence looks shot.

This was 3-0 going on a total doing.

Before the game, considering we had lost our last two home games to Livi and Cowden, I was looking at the fixture list and wondering where the points are going to come from. After it I’m deeper in gloom than ever.

Falkirk 3-3 Dumbarton

SPFL Tier 2, Falkirk Stadium, 31/1/15.

Well, this was an odd game. I’d have taken a point before the start but didn’t think we’d even score; never mind get something out of this. What with Colin Rhyming Slang offski – apparently in the huff about not being given the vacant assistant manager’s job (though his record in charge of the under 20s was, frankly, dire) – Chris Kane back to parent club St Johnstone and Garry Fleming suspended, I couldn’t see where goals might come from, especially since that’s been our failing this season.

Unsurprisingly Falkirk had most of the early posssession but when a set piece came back out to him loanee centre back Stuart Findlay sent over a beautiful cross and Scott Taggart hit the net then 1-0 was dreamland.

It didn’t last. What felt like a minute later the ball broke to an unmarked Falkirk attacker in the box. 1-1. Then we lost the sort of goal that happens to teams in relegation bother. Two ricochets on the way through and the final shot deflected into the net off the attempted block by Findlay.

Falkirk again had most of the second half. But a Scott Linton throw-in wasn’t cleared and fell for debutant loanee Darren Petrie and he didn’t panic and slash at it, but still smashed it past the keeper.

What a difference a goal makes. Our five minute spell of ascendancy ensued and after good work on the right by Mark Gilhaney, the ball came over for Mitch Megginson to cut it back into the path of Archie Campbell who steered it into the far corner.

While we might have scored another on the break as Falkirk had to press for the equaliser and Scott Agnew did have an effort just over the bar they were always going to get one more chance. (If the ref had had his way, he said, darkly, they would have had more than one. Even a Falkirk fan on the Pie Shop said some of his decisions were plain wrong.) It duly came with ten minutes to go.

Still we rode it out and gained an unlikely point. Four attempts on goal, three on target, three goals. About time we had such a ratio.

As well as Darren Petrie – solid in midfield and took his goal very well – it was also my first view of fellow loanee Dylan Easton, who runs about a bit like Josh Falkingham but has none of that player’s irritating qualities. Dylan had a tendency to over-elaborate but had confidence, dig, some sublime touches and is capable of the superb pass.

All in all I’m much more relaxed than I was this time last week in the wake of the home thumping by Livingston, not least because of the dumping of the 3-5-2 for this game in favour of 4-2-2 (or was it 4-4-1-1 or 4-5-1?)

Raith Rovers 2-1 Dumbarton

SPFL Tier 2, Stark’s Park, 17/1/15

If you had told me at half-time that we would come near to taking a point out of this game I would have laughed. We were woeful. No oranisation, no bite, no shape, no nothing. All we had to show for it was a couple of long-range efforts from Garry Fleming. We badly missed Chris Kane up front. There wasn’t even Colin Rhyming Slang – on the bench throughout – to contest (contest?) for the ball. Though new loanee Stuart Findlay looked good, reasonably quick and comfortable on the ball. I think we were supposed to be playing 3-5-2 but it was all over the place really and they were able to get in behind us too easily.

Chris Turner had probably his worst game for us that I have seen. He’s not the player he was last season. It was his clumsy challenge that gave away the penalty and he simply wasn’t up to speed all game. There doesn’t seem to be anybody in the squad to allow him a rest what with the injuries to Jordan Kirkatrick and Mark Gilhaney.

Having said all that, Raith ought to have put us away. They didn’t and instead of going for the jugular second half opted for containment and hitting on the break. As a result we came into it. We actually looked like a team and had several Scott Agnew efforts for encouragement. One of those was parried by the keeper and Mitch Megginson pounced to score the rebound. A few minutes later the keeper spilled a cross under pressure from Garry Fleming and Mitch had a gaping goal, easier than the one he scored. He hit it too hard and it went over, off the bar. In stoppage time their keeper made a great save and in the subsequent passage of play a defender headed it off the line. On another day…..

Then again, Raith had missed a golden opportunity earlier in the half on one of their breaks upfield and also hit the post but a symptom of Raith’s second half approach was that even at 2-0 they had started time wasting.

Archie Campbell, despite his pace, doesn’t look the answer to our striking deficiencies.

Improvement next week is vital. Or at least to play for the whole game the way we played in the last twenty minutes yesterday.

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