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Raith Rovers 4-1 Dumbarton

SPFL Tier 3, Stark’s Park, 23/3/19.

We just weren’t at it for this game.

Mind you, the line up was odd with Carsy playing at centre back and Michael Paton in midfield. Neither Ross Perry nor Brian McLean could have been available at centre half despite no mention on the club website of them having problems.

We had a fair bit of possession in the first few minutes without making anything of it. Then the doors fell off. A quick movement up our right led to a good first time strike hitting the back of our net. But we had been carved open far too easily.

They began to look faster and sharper than us, getting to second balls quicker.

Their second followed a misjudgement by Craig Barr who failed to cut out a through ball. David Ferguson’s last ditch challenge only fed the ball to the scorer.

Grant Adam had no chance with either shot. His kicking had started off OK but soon started to become atrocious. It’s a liability.

Hope blossomed when a great ball inside the full back allowed Bobby Barr to the bye-line and his cut-back was netted by Calum Gallagher.

If we’d held out to half-time we might perhaps have made a game of it but Grant Adam came out for a ball he’d no hope of ever getting, letting ex-Son Kevin Nisbet head into an empty net. Last effort of the half. That was game over.

I wondered at the restart if our goal would survive more than the ten minutes it had in the first. It didn’t. Nine minutes in they got past the defence too easily again. Grant Adam parried the shot – but only to Nisbet’s head. Game really over.

We looked utterly disjointed, loads of hoofed balls to nowhere, misplaced passes galore, Dom Thomas reverting to ‘hit it at the earliest opportunity’ even when playing a pass was the much better option. Even so I was surprised when he was hooked off in favour of Iain Russell but Beany almost scored with his first touch, the ball crashing off the bar. It looked easier to score. That’s the sort of day we had.

Four of the teams around or below us picked up points as well. We could be back in eighth place on Tuesday when Stranraer play Brechin.

This looks like going down to the wire.

Oswestry

The name is enough to bring on a warm glow for any Sons fan, more so to one who was there that unforgettable night, shrouded now in mystic memory.

Not that it was an unalloyed delight. For three-quarters of the game we weren’t in it – and it was a pretty glum experience. I was wondering why I had travelled all that way only for us to surrender meekly. Still we weren’t exactly out of it, not even when The New Saints scored early on the second half. But we gradually started to push forward and even got a couple of crosses in.

Then the moment it all changed with that pass from Kyle Hutton to Danny Handling, the sublime run from Mark Stewart to take away the defender and leave space for the shot, the shot itself, the outburst of almost disbelieving delirium, Danny Handling running up the park in delight, Sons fans applauding and shouting with a kind of relief.

Then a few minutes later the ironic cheers when the referee finally gave a free-kick against their defence for fouling Christian Nade, who’d been getting no joy up till that point.

Up stepped Froxy with that beautiful, beautiful, sublime strike into Sons legend. If his goal at Dunfermline earlier that season hadn’t already made him one, this certainly confirmed it.

Below are the game’s (short) higlights – with Welsh commentary.

Watch Kyle Hutton’s reaction to Froxy’s goal (at about 2 minutes seven seconds in.) It looks like he’s thinking, “Did that just happen?”

Sometimes the football gods are with you, at others not. Pity the final wasn’t so memorable, but that was another story.

Oswestry, however, will stay with me forever.

I took photographs, naturally, of the ground and the town, all coming up.

And of course I have already posted the video of the celebrations at the final whistle.

East Fife 3-4 Dumbarton

SPFL Tier 3, New Bayview,* 23/2/19

What a roller-coaster ride this was.

They had the better possesion in the first half but didn’t do much with it. Our defence looked very solid.

We hadn’t really threatened but a Calum Gallagher head-flick on to Dom Thomas left him running in towards goal. The ball sat up nicely for him to volley it. A belter. The keeper got a hand to it but the shot was too strong for him.

Fifteen minutes later the compliment was reversed when Dom played a cute ball behind the last defender. Cal Gal looked not to be in pole position but he managed to get past the defender and hit it early. It looked like the keeper might have done better. But 2-0. Cue slightly unbelieving delirium in the away end.

We had no corners in the first half but still scored again – with only our third shot** in the game. Dom Thomas wandering past their defenders before hitting a superb strike again from a narrow angle.

What a difference fifteen minutes made. They changed shape at half-time moving to three at the back and started to overload us in midfield. Our high press played into their hands a bit there. Suddenly their forwards were finding space in the box. We failed to clear a cross and the usual happened after the ball bounced around our box. Their second saw ex-Son Kevin Smith all alone i=n front of goal to nod home.

Thank goodness for Dom Thomas. The smart ball might have been to play in Cal Gal (who’d made a great run) but he just smashed it from outside the box as the defender backed off a bit to cover Cal’s run. Hat-trick and match ball for Dom. Bobby Barr’s reaction to Dom’s goal was priceless. Yes, Bobby; he is the man.

Nevertheless we’d throw another goal away almost from the kick-off. Nerve-racking stuff.

Cal Gal ought to have scored no 5 when Dom put him through but the keeper made a very good save.

I suppose the game was settled by the sending-off of Kane who – unable to cope with Dom’s trickery – dragged him back by the throat and the ref flourished the red card.

From then on we looked like we might score every time we went up the park – how we didn’t I don’t know.

There was still time for Sons fans to have convulsions when we thought the ref had given a penalty to East Fife. It looked to us as if Grant Adam had hit the ball against the attacker. Suggestions on Pie and Bovril were the linesman told the ref it wasn’t a pen. If so it was the only time he made a decision for himself all game.

A very, very welcome three points. We’ll need to improve our defending though, if we’re to get out of the relegation mire.

Btw: Why was no East Fife throw-in taker punished for a foul throw? Very few of their throw-ins were legal.

*Or whatever it’s called these days. (Locality Hub Bayview Stadium, I think.)

**edited to amend: third shot on target. Ross Forbes had an effort from a Dom Thomas cross going just over the bar.

Memorable Weekend

I had a wonderful weekend, thank you for asking.

My eldest son tied the knot. (Literally; it was a part of the ceremony.) He and his now wife tailored things very much to their own preferences.

Like his younger brother’s nuptials nearly three years ago now – blimey, though things in the wider world haven’t improved any in the interim and they looked bad enough back then – there was beer involved.

Not that the piss-up was in a brewery this time, rather it was in an old farmyard. But beer there was. Made by the happy couple’s own fair hands.

Beer bottle

Very nice stuff it was too. And there was some left over. I took two bottles home which will need to be drunk before it goes off….

And the mighty Sons of the Rock won at Stranraer, moving from bottom to third bottom and leapfrogging our hosts in the process.

Our first win anywhere since early December and our first away since August. Not to mention going against our truly abysmal record at Stranraer as a whole.

This is one of those results which might rekindle hope. I’ll merely temper that with the observation that the two teams below us both have a game in hand on us with the result that one of them would go above us whatever the result of that game if it were to take place right now. So in effect we’re ninth and by no means out of the relegation woods.

And there’s a tough run of fixtures coming up against teams in the top five.

Brechin City 1-0 Dumbarton

SPFL Tier 3, Glebe Park, 12/1/19.

I’ve the feeling we’re doomed.

This was a mustn’t lose.

We lost it.

That we ought not to have lost it is neither here nor there. If we can lose to a team as abject as Brechin things are beyond bad.

Okay, extenuating circumstances, we had only three subs on the bench – only two outfield ones and only one of those actually fit to play. Plus Michael Paton was drafted in to right back and Cammy Ballantyne shifted to the left to cover for the absence of Willie Dyer.

It was Paton who made the day much harder than it needed to be when he dived in to bring down an attacker when he’d already been booked. Down to ten men was going to make the win all but impossible. (Not that his first booking was much of one but you don’t dive in when you’ve had it.) I must say the ref was reluctant to wield the yellow card to any of the home defenders making loan signing Ben Armour’s debut a trial. Armour was himself booked before any of his tormentors was. His substitution by Brad Spencer near the end might have been to try to make sure the ref wasn’t tempted to give him a second too. By the time the ref did start booking Brechin players it was too late and he spread the cards around.

The odd thing was we looked a better attacking force after the sending-off than before – possibly due to Cammy Ballantyne being on his natural side of the pitch. But I was always aware we were short of numbers whenever Brechin counter-attacked.

We were the better team throughout in any case – even if we didn’t actually threaten their goal much. Their keeper made a great save from an Andy Dowie header from a corner to stop us taking the lead. (Dowie, it seems, was making his last appearance for us, his new day job commitments meaning his availability isn’t guaranteed. That leaves us with the sum total of zero centre backs available for the Montrose game in a fortnight – unless long-term absentee Craig Barr recovers in time for that. Or some other miracle occurs.)

We kept them out reasonably well till injury time when we began to look a tiny bit ragged. The goal though, from a corner we couldn’t clear, scrambled in with the second last kick of the game (the last was the kick-off which followed) was cruel in the extreme. The players (the ten still on the pitch anyway) didn’t deserve that. It’s the sort of thing that happens to a team on whom Lady Luck has turned her back – compare our late winner in the first game at the Glebe last season when Brechin were the sufferers.)

By my count that’s four points we’ve dropped on this ground this season. We ought to have had three in the first game and at least one here. But combine that with the six Brechin gained from the two games and we could have been more than comfortably ahead of them. As it is we’re not.

And we’re down below the bare bones now.

This season feels like revenge karma for the good times in the tier above for so long. I hope something turns up before January ends or we could be staring down the barrel of a second successive relegation and that could be a disaster for the club as the rot might not stop there.

Freddie Glidden

I see from the club website that former Son Freddie Glidden has died.

His years playing for the club were slightly before my time but I remember my eldest brother reminiscing about him. I recall the word “uncompromising” was implied.

We could do with a bit of that right now.

Frederick Glidden: 7/9/1927 – 1/1/2019. So it goes.

A Dreadful Year for Sons

2018 wasn’t a good year for Sons – Oswestry apart.

But I hadn’t realised how bad it was until I read this this statistical analysis of the playing year produced by a Sons fan on his “Tales From the Rock” blog and linked to on page 1610 of the “Sons Sorrow” thread on the Pie Shop, aka Pie and Bovril.

Played 55, Won 16,* Drawn 8, Lost 31, Goals for 60, Goals Against 104.

These stats show just why manager Stevie Aitken had to be binned.

There has been a small improvement under new manager Jim Duffy, but he is still labouring with the squad he inherited – a lot of whom seem to be injury prone.

*This count includes pre-season games against non-league opposition.

2019

Happy New Year.

Well, I say happy but – apart from my eldest son getting married in February – I can’t see much cause for celebration this new year. Sons are pretty ropy this season (with only the Cup run helping last season to be anything like bearable) and Brexit looks like making life for most people in the UK more arduous then it need have been.

Happy New Year anyway.

Stenhousemuir 2-2 Dumbarton

SPFL Tier 3, Ochilview, 29/12/18.

Well this was a mustn’t lose – and we almost lost. Thankfully we didn’t.

On our first half performance it would have been deserved – we created nothing and had only one shot on target, Ross Forbes’s free-kick right on half-time despatched with aplomb and hit so hard the keeper couldn’t keep it out. Their goal was a defensive travesty, a litany of mistakes strating with a poor Stuart Carswell ball out (I’m not blaming him, he’s making a fair fist of centre back duties despite being a midfielder, injury needs must) an atrocious Andy Dowie (lack of) challenge and Chris Smith in goal didn’t cover himself in glory with his effort at saving it.

The start was bizarre. We walked out in Stenny’s away kit – or a Stenny away kit an Argentina clone, blue and white stripes and back shorts. Seems the ref didn’t read our email asking if our red strip would be okay. It’s the second time I’ve seen us in the home team’s away kit. The first was at Bayview (the old Bayview) many, many moons ago.

Second half was a different game – after we let them waltz through our defence to retake the lead. We then totally dominated (apart from the odd break) and had a great chance from a Dom Thomas cross which Kyle Hutton put over. Ryan Thomson had an effort from a rebound blocked.

But the amazing thing was the series of corners from Ross Forbes, one hitting the bar and another the near post with a third flapped at by the keeper. If only we had somebody to attack the ball Forbes’s delivery could be decisive but we lack height just now.

Forbes stepped up again right at the death to fire an even better placed free-kick than his first in off the post. Cue celebrations.

The comments from some Sons fans when we were 2-1 down were less than helpful. I don’t seriously believe the players aren’t trying. The time that brought it to a head was a gamble on where the ball would break that didn’t come off. It might have looked like it but it wasn’t laziness on the player’s part – just a misjudgement. If we’d been going well it would never have raised its head as an issue. But we aren’t going well.

I doubt the January transfer/signing window will change much either.

Raith Rovers 4-2 Dumbarton

SPFL Tier 3, Stark’s Park, 15/12/18

For forty five minutes of this we were impressive, knocking the ball about well and with Dom Thomas shooting on sight. (Mostly wildly it has to be said.) Despite that we looked a little shaky at the back – not surprising given that Stuart Carswell isn’t a centre back but was slotted in there due to necessity.

It wasn’t Thomas but Ross Forbes who scored a worldy though. He picked up a loose Raith pass about ten yards inside their half, looked up and lobbed the keeper right into the top corner.

Unfortunately we didn’t keep the lead for long. But the goal should not have stood as it came in a passage of play following a Raith throw-in which was a foul throw (a persistent occurence during this game. Why refs and linesmen don’t punish these I don’t know.)

But we got ourselves ahead again when Bobby Barr released Cammy Ballantyne to whip a vicious cross across the face of the goal which Michael Paton (apparently; It was up the far end and diificult to identify) only had to touch to score but made sure hit the back of the net.

Half-time and I was of course worried we would not hold out but it wasn’t till after the hour mark we conceded again. Too easily, with former Son Kevin Nisbet on the mark.

Their third was perhaps coming as we had faded a bit but we could have got ours if Dom Thomas’s free-kick hadn’t been too near the keeper. It was an acrobatic effort back across the goal from a cross hit long.

The fourth was a severe disappointment as the performance up to then hadn’t deserved it but resistance just melted away from him for another former Son Lewis Vaughan to put even a draw beyond us.

The first half presented grounds for optimism for the rest of the season. The second half didn’t.

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