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Irn Bru Cup

I see our Irn Bru Cup (once known as the Challenge Cup) fate has been settled.

Stanraer away.

Since no-one can remember the last time we beat Stranraer (and in recent encounters we’ve made a habit of going two goals up against them but still losing in the end) and our record in this competition is shocking in the extreme there’s no reason to expect we’ll be in the next round.

Dunfermline Athletic 4-3 Dumbarton

SPFL Tier 2, East End Park, 6/8/16.

The main positive about this is that the goal difference isn’t as bad as it might have been.

The writing was on the wall early as Dunfermline were awarded a penalty after a frankly ridiculous, totally unneccessary, challenge by Ryan Stevenson. Thankfully the boy hit it against the post and it screwed out of danger. Stevenson was employed as a defensive midfielder – an utterly bizarre decision by boss Stevie Aitken. His tackling is ineffective at best and his influence as a creator was muted there. It was his free-kick that led to our first though; well-hit, it looked to be going wide but it seems their keeper knocked it out to Robert Thomson who did the needful. We Sons fans were behind the goal up the other end so the view wasn’t the best.

Step up new goalkeeper Alan Martin who made a magnificent point blank save from a header. The inevitable was only delayed though and a passing move cut us wide open. Their second saw three defenders attempt to block the shot but it was delayed and as a result they weren’t in position to deal with the final effort. Their corners in the first half gave me constant frights. Martin seems very reluctant to control his penalty box in such situations, leaving the ball to defenders to deal with. One such resulted in a goal-line clearance having to be made by a header. His kicking could also be improved but overall he’s not in the Mark Brown class of potential calamity. Nevertheless we managed to survive till half-time.

Things were going okay second half with Dunfermline not making too much of their possession bar a header Martin had to save. Then came the fatal blow. Martin didn’t punt a pass-back but instead played it to Frazer Wright. Fraz was clearly not fully fit, limping his way through the game even in the first half. I had noticed this at the Dundee game.

Anyway his attempt to pass to Gregor Buchanan was scuffed straight to an attacker who didn’t fail to make the most of it. Ryan Stevenson was then subbed by Donald McCallum before Fraz made way for Mark Docherty who immediately showed he was not yet up to the pace of the game and lost out to an attacker with the result the game was over at 4-1.

Except curiously it wasn’t. Young Donald was a bright spark up front and was unlucky to have a neat flick blocked otherwise he’d have scored. We suddenly had a lot of possession and in injury time were awarded a penalty (which I’m convinced would not have been given if the score had still been close.) Mark Docherty put it away well. Then less than a couple of minutes later we had another when Robert Thomson – who’d been manhandled all game – was wrestled over in the area. Again Sparky beat the keeper.

So in the end a potentially bad defeat turned into a close defeat. But….. There’s an awful lot of work needed in defence (and defensively in midfield) to get us anywhere near where we need to be.

Dundee 6-2 Dumbarton

Scottish League Cup*, Dens Park, 23/7/16.

Wew were impressive in the first half and dominated it apart from a brief interval when they scored a silly free kick to give away at the edge of the box which Mark Brown flapped at.

Robert Thomson held the ball up well and generally looked lively, Ryan Stevenson and Andy Stirling combined well down the left hand side. We played some good stuff. The equaliser followed a cleared corner back out to Ryan Stevenson whose first time cross was headed back across to Robert Thomson (maybe a shade offside) who was under pressure but stooped to head the ball down and Frazer Wright (there’s a novelty; Frazer Wright!) bundled it over the line. The keeper clawed it out and we thought it hadn’t been given at first but the linesman had spotted it as over. The second had parallels a Robert Thomson headed effort had crossed the line – just) before it was cleared. I couldn’t actually see the shot as the guy in front had jumped up to claim the goal and obscured the ball. I just saw it travel into the net. It was soon obvious Gregor Buchanan had hit the shot.

Second half was a totally different story. Dundee looked much sharper and we barely got a kick. Their equaliser was offside though and their third came fom a free-kick that certainly wasn’t a foul – but it was coming. Mark Brown had made a great double save somewhere around there to keep us just about in it but it only delayed things. The last three they just walked through us.

On the first half performance we might just be able to compete this season. On the second we definitely won’t.

*Now the Betfred Cup.

Life Goes On

In amongst all the stuff going on in the world – a certain referendum result, the resultant resignation by Mr Irresponsible (see posts here,) a constitutional coup d’état in the UK followed by the appointment of a buffoon as Foreign Secretary, an inadequate with mental problems rampaging along a packed, festive promenade in a lorry deliberately targeting families and children, a seeming military coup d’état in Turkey with characteristics that are very odd and which swiftly fell apart, not to mention the ongoing mayhem in Iraq, Syria and so on – people have to get on with things and carry on, marking the milestones in their lives.

So it was that I missed Sons opening game of the season (about which the only thing positive to be said is that we twice came back from a goal down.)

Why did I miss a game so easily travelable for me?

I was at a piss-up in a brewery.

To clarify: it was my younger son’s wedding and the happy couple decided to hold their nuptials at the West Brewery, in part of the former Templeton’s Carpet Factory, near Glasgow Green, (which I now realise I haven’t yet posted my photographs of.)

One of the advantages of holding a wedding in a brewery is …… beer. As well as the usual immediate post ceremony libation of wine the choice of beer was available, great foaming jugs of the stuff (and half-pint glasses – just as well; the beer seemed quite strong.)

Then these two jugs appeared on the table before the meal. The beers were Munich Red and St Mungo, both very palatable:-

Beer

A few minutes later another jug was added. This was a wheat beer of some sort, to the front in this shot. Less to my taste, though:-

More Beer

There was a lot of dad dancing going on – and not just from the older ones like myself. But a good time was had by all.

Summer Football

Way back in the dim mists of time the world was a simpler place and football did not dominate the calendar. World Cup finals were 16 teams large and the European Championship only had four qualifiers until it expanded to eight teams in 1980.

In Scotland the football season started on the second Saturday in August and finished on the last Saturday in April.

I thought it was pushing it when the season began edging into July to accommodate the Challenge Cup and altered League Cup format.

Today though is the 16th of July. The schools have barely broken up for the summer. Yet the Sons have a first game of the official season at Station Park, Forfar, in yet another alteration to the League Cup. It barely seemed the old season had ended when pre-season games began.

The squad manager Stevie Aitken has collected seems a little thin. The League Cup looks on paper to be not too daunting but I have no idea how we will fare against the three lower division sides in our group. (I expect to be beaten by Dundee.)

The league is a different matter. Already it looks tough. We’ll be relying on another full-time side to be rubbish (as Livingston were last season) to avoid the relegation play-offs and even then we’d have to finish above Ayr United, by no means a given.

How long we can continue to defy gravity I don’t know. This may be the season we don’t.

New Sons Strips

The club website yesterday published a picture of the new strips for this season.

New Sons strips

I’m not sure I like either of them. I suppose the home one is acceptable enough.

Fixtures

The league fixtures for next season have come out.

It might seem ridiculous given Hearts and Rangers have gone from this division but every year it just looks harder.

I don’t like the fact we’re facing Dunfermline at their place for the first game. They ought to be on a high after promotion. Mind you, what sort of form either side might be in after the League Cup section games is anyone’s guess. Their group looks reasonably tough.

New Cup, New Laws

I see from the club website that the Challenge Cup has been given a revamp so that it will now include more Scottish clubs from outwith the SPFL, top division under 20 sides and even clubs from Wales and Northern Ireland. The format looks like a right dog’s dinner.

I note that Tier 2 clubs won’t be joining till Round 3. It won’t make any difference to us. We always lose in it anyway. (I doubt being seeded will alter that at all.)

What concerns me most is the inclusion of the top division under 20s sides. This feels like the thin end of a wedge that will eventually see them allowed to play in the lower leagues. I know similar provision happens in Spain etc with reserve teams but the Scottish scene has unique characteristics that make me uncomfortable at the thought.

Edited to add. I just took in the fact that the draw will be regionalised. Fat chance of me getting to a a game then. (But maybe we’ll be in the North for that too.)

There have also been changes to the laws of the game. We’ll need to see how those work out.

League Cup Fixtures

Now we have the dates for the League Cup games. I suppose I ought to mention it’s now called the Betfred Cup (but I shan’t do it again.)

Forfar Ath, Away, 16th July
East Fife, Home, 19th July
Dundee, Away, 23rd July
Peterhead, Home, 30th July

So, despite my son arranging his wedding day to avoid the football season, the powers that be have managed, by changing the opening day by a considerable margin, to put a game on then anyway. The season’s barely over and the new one’s only just over a month away.

League Cup Group

Sons have drawn Dundee, Peterhead, Forfar Athletic and East Fife.

Which will be the two away games is yet to be announced at time of writing.

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