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Spartans 0-0 Dumbarton

Scottish League Cup (Betfred Cup) Group H, Ainslie Park, 14/7/18.

And so it begins again. It only seems yesterday that we lost the play-off final yet here we are again, playing competitive football.

Well, I say competitive, but this had all the feel of a pre-season game. Given it’s mid-July and the World Cup hasn’t even finished yet that’s not so surprising.

We never looked in danger of losing a goal, though. But nor did we look much like scoring in the first half. Things improved in the second when we looked to raise the pace a bit and especially when Andy Little and Calum Callagher came on for Iain Russell and Ryan Thomson, both looking much livelier than the pair they replaced.

It was an odd sort of game not helped by the sunshine (football in Scotland isn’t meant to be played in such temperatures) and a clash between our new away strip’s red shorts and those of Spartans meaning we came out wearing the new black home shorts with the new away red shirts. We looked like a Brechin City tribute act.

And so to award the bonus point to separate drawn teams we went to a penalty shoot-out. We won. Only the second time I’ve seen us win one.

Another Sons fan gaily remarked afterwards that the last time we won a shootout (the one I saw) we went on to win the league. Early days, son. Steady on.

Still there were signs the new players were beginning to gel. I liked the fact that former (and new again) Son Ross Forbes kept demanding the ball in midfield. We also seemed to change formation a couple of times throughout the game. That’s a potentially good innovation.

And so my first visit to Ainslie Park passed off relatively quietly.

Challenge Cup Comes Round Again

June 26th and the draw for the new season’s Challenge Cup (Irn Bru Cup) has been made.

It almost seems like yesterday we travelled to McDiarmid Park for last season’s final.

I doubt we’ll be making a similar trip this season since it looks like our usual performance in this competition (a first round knockout) is on the cards again.

We’ve got Morton at home: a team against whom our record is miserable.

Hugh Harra

I was saddened to see on the club website that Hugh Harra has died.

A player for Dumbarton from 1962-1967 (appearing 163 times) he was therefore a member of the earliest Sons side I can properly remember. His photo in the link shows that gold shirt with black pin stripe Sons used in the 1960s and I remember so well.

In my memory he was an uncompromising half-back (they weren’t called midfielders in those days) with a reputation that more than matched that description. A good asset to have in a side in those “it’s a man’s game” days.

Hugh Harra: 29/3/1936-6/2018. So it goes.

Fixtures Time

The league fixtures for 2018-19 have benn announced on the club website.

First up is East Fife away – which makes it almost a home game for me.

(Not quite. The Raith games are closer.)

Lots of trips to Angus there though.

League Cup Fixtures

The fixtures for Sons League Cup Section (Group H) have been announced. These are only about six weeks or so away!

First up is a trip to Ainslie Park, a new venture for Sons as we’ve never played Spartans before. Then two home games in the space of four days before a week’s break and a trip to Paisley.

It All Starts Again

This didn’t take long in coming round.

Not even a fortnight after the play-off final Sons now know who they will play in next season’s League Cup*.

And it’s a tough draw, with two top tier sides in the section in Kilmarnock (whom we played in the same competition last season) and newly promoted St Mirren (familiar to us from the last two seasons in tier 2) alongside Queen’s Park, just relegated to the bottom tier, and non-league Spartans.

This will be Sons’ first competitive fixture against Spartans and might be a chance for me to pick up yet another Scottish football ground I’ve not yet visited. That depends on whether the game will be at home or away. Each team only plays the other once.

*Betfred Cup if you must

Something Changed 10: Everybody Hurts

For all Sons fans who were feeling down after last Sunday.

REM: Everybody Hurts

Dumbarton 0-1 Alloa Athletic

(aet 0-2.)

SPFL Tier 2 Play-off Final, Second Leg, The Rock, 13/5/18.

Well; we all knew that the good times wouldn’t last forever.

Yet for 93 minutes of this we were still a Tier 2 team.

Then all of a sudden no longer. That it was such a scruffy goal only put the knife in even more.

But after that I knew it was hopeless. Our defensive substitutions meant that there was no way we would be conjuring a goal in extra time. Our only hope was hanging on for penalties and that was unlikely given the momentum was against us and Alloa would be lifted and us deflated.

And the final nail in the coffin was driven in by an ex-Son in Jordan Kirkpatrick. Cracking goal though.

If only….

Kevin Nisbet had directed his header downwards more – or even to the near post rather than back across the keeper….

Andy Stirling had kept that rebound chance down instead of skying it….

Liam Burt had taken the ball for a walk to the corner flag instead of trying to score in injury time….

Alloa had scored from that double chance in the first, not the last minute. We’d have had to come out a bit and at least try to score. Froxy might even have been given a run-out….

We’d made the most of our breaks up the park in the second half last Wednesday….

Craig Barr hadn’t been suspended again. Dougie Hill looked much less comfortable than he did against Arbroath and Andy Dowie seemed affected too….

We actually had a striker….

Manager Stevie Aitken was not so wedded to defensive tactics….

It was a game too far really. We looked leggy and inhibited. All those catch-up games and the Challenge Cup run had taken their toll.

And so the great adventure comes to an end after six years.

Back to proper football grounds again next season. Ones where you can stand, not sit, that you can walk round to the other end at half-time, where you’re not stuck in a wee corner of the main stand. (New Broomfield, Stark’s Park and possibly Ochilview excepted.*)

We’ve had seven promotions in my lifetime. And now eight relegations.

I wonder how long it will be before we get promoted again.

And from which division.

*Edited to add:- and New Bayview. I’d forgotten it’s a one stand effort like ours at the Rock. Only the Angus grounds for the old-style experience, then. I can’t see me making it down to Stranraer.

Last Game

Well, after this we’ll know Sons’ fate for next season.

Play-Off Final poster

Will my nerves be able to stand another 90 (or 120) minutes or, heaven forfend, penalties?

You can again catch it on BBC Alba. Kick-off is at 4.10 pm.

Alloa Athletic 0-1 Dumbarton

SPFL Tier 2 Play-off Final, First Leg, Recreation Park, 9/5/18.

This could have turned out a lot worse. They’ve been going well and we haven’t really.

They had most of the ball in the first five minutes and then we scored in what was in effect our first attack. They didn’t clear the ball properly, left us a lot of space in midfield in their half and Danny Handling fed the ball to Stuart Carswell who fair thumped it. Outbursts of almost disbelieving joy in the away covered seating area. (It’s not a stand.) Carsy never scores. (His only other goal had a big deflection on it but this was an absolute belter, straight in.)

I remarked to Onebrow, “80 minutes of sitting in to go.” It wasn’t quite that but they did have a lot of the ball.

Carsy had our second effort too – again on target. On this evidence he should shoot more often.

They had a cute effort through ex-Son Jordan Kirkpatrick which it seems Scott Gallacher tipped on to the post – from my angle I couldn’t tell he’d got the touch – but apart from that there were only other long range efforts to worry about in the first half.

Second half Robert Nisbet really came onto a game up front before he was shifted into midfield after the substitutions. That’s the best I’ve seen from him. We had a good few efforts, notably Nisbet (just over) and Kyle Hutton (a great ping just past the post.) With a bit more care in the final pass we could have got even better chances.

They only really looked like scoring when we lost possession in their half and they sprang at us. Craig Barr had one superb defensive block (but the guy ought to have pulled the trigger earlier) and Scott Gallagher made a good save the one time he was really called on.

It’s going to be really hard to take if we blow this now, but we can’t afford to get ahead of ourselves; Sunday’s going to be a hard battle again.

Still.

I was there when Carsy scored!

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