Cove Rangers 1-0 Dumbarton

SPFL Tier 3, Balmoral Stadium, 23/4/22.

This was an odd experience. I’ve been at an away ground before where the home team could win promotion that day (Stark’s Park, when Jimmy Nichol was Raith player-manager) and it was a much more raucous affair.

For a team about to win a championship the home crowd was strangely muted. Maybe it’s an Aberdeen thing. Alex Ferguson said that the most encouragement the Pittodrie faithful gave his team was that, “You could hear them rustling their sweetie papers.”

Whatever the only chanting in the first half came from the small cohort of Dumbarton fans giving it the usual. “We’re only here for the party,” “What a shitey home support,” and “Shall we sing a song for you,” were each given a run-out.

We had the better of the earlier exchanges and their keeper made more saves (two) than ours (one) in the first half. Ross MacLean was worked into a good poaition on the left of the box but his shot was at a perfect height for the keeper to save it. Then Connor Duthie had a shot blocked and Josh Oyinsan shanked the rebound wide. Josh worked another opportunity afew minutes later but his finish was a bit weak and close to the keeper. At the other end Kieran Wright came out to smother a shot in a one-on-one. A pretty nothing first half in truth. The home team were just that though, a team, clearly used to playing with each other. Their passes generally found their target whereas ours could be wayward. However they didn’t look like a side hoping to win their league that day, with not much urgency to their play.

In the second half they did step it up a bit, but only a bit. Patience is a virtue and their one good opportunity was put away, former Son Mitch Megginson unaccountably left free at the edge of our box to rilfe it home. There was really only one winner after that, though we had a flurry towards the end. In retrospect the three changes our manager Stevie Farrell made simultaneously on 66 minutes perhaps made us less potent.

The plastic pitch had done for Eoghan Stokes 14 minutes in. It looked like his studs got too much grip on it and he was forced off.

Balmoral Stadium itself is a kind of soulless place to play football. At the edge of an industrial estate and overlooked by radio and microwave transmitters, it has a tiny stand (a bit like Boghead’s old Postage Stamp) straddling the halfway line with flat surrounds beside it and on the other three sides, though with three shallow stepped enclosures on the side opposite the stand. If there’s one persion standing in front of you you won’t be able to see any of the action. You have to be on the rail. In adddition the goal nets are almost touching the “terracing” barriers behind the goals.

Anyway, congratulatiosn to Cove Rangers on their winning the league.

As for us, a nothing game next Saturday before the nerve shredding play-off. For the second season in a row we’ll come up against Edinburgh City, away on 3rd or 4th May, with the home leg on 7th May. I’m not looking beyond that.

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