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Clyde 2-1 Dumbarton

Scottish League Cup, Broadwood Stadium, 22/1/17.

Well.

New season, new players – I had only seen two of the starters in a Sons shirt before (there were three from last season on the pitch by the end) – same old story. We don’t do Cups.

We never looked in trouble in the first half, passed it about fairly well but without much penetration. Loan signing Ally Roy had an opportunity to score first-time from a cross but struck it into the ground and it looped over the bar. The goal came from a corner that wasn’t cleared and from the returned ball Craig Barr headed it against the bar. It came down and was scrambled away but thelinesman gave the goal. Chris Johnston on the wing appeared lively but only once got past his man who got back to block the cross. In the end he flattered to deceive.

We didn’t step it up in the second and Clyde came more into it finally forcing Scott Gallacher into a save.

We looked vulnerable at the corners Clyde were getting but the equaliser was a fluke, a poorly cleared corner returned in a cross which looped over everyone into the corner of the net.

Their second was also poor defensively, a cross again following on from a corner not being cut out and a free header put past defender and keeper on the near post.

Christian Nade was brought on and his first touch was a drive which required a good save from the keeper. David Wilson tested their keeper in a similar fashion a minute or so later but that was it.

A bit more urgency throughout the game might have seen us win. Injuries haven’t been kind to us even so early on but this game suggested we don’t have a good depth of squad.

Early days but the league is looking a tougher proposition by the day.

A curiosity. We played in our away top but home shorts:-

Dumbarton FC

Dumbarton 1-3 Ayr United

Scottish League Cup,* Group E, The Rock,** 18/7/17

Well, here we go again with our traditional crap start to the season. At least this time it was a defeat to a team only one division below us and one we struggled against last season who have since apparently gone full-time.

I know the manager probably regards this as a pre-season tournament – at least his comments last season suggested so – but it’s still a nationwide tournament and a possible money spinner if we were to progress. Maybe next year.

Nowadays, what with contracts only lasting a season and players moving on it takes time to gel. Three games to get it right before the league starts.

*Call it the Betfred Cup if you want.

**Now officially the YOUR Radio 103FM Stadium.

Playing for the Sons; Home 3-3 Away

Dumbarton Football Stadium – aka The Rock, 8/7/17.

I never thought I’d play for the Sons. I fantasised about it but knew it was not a possibility. I have dreamed about it. In a dream once I played half a season or so and scored a few times. Well, there’s dreams for you.

But yesterday I did so vicariously; by the medium of Sonstrust “Play for the Sons” Day. (The relevant article, dated 9 July 2017, was second on their site at time of writing.)

I didn’t play, but my younger son did; in the Sons home side. (He’s one of the trim ones, in the front row.)

Sons Home side

You have no idea how irrationally excited I was by seeing him on the hallowed turf. And in the white kit. It would have been something of an anti-climax if it hadn’t been in a home strip.

It was a surprisingly good game even if littered with the errors to be expected from perhaps not very fit amateurs, and played in a joyful spirit. Even the standside linesman entered into the playfulness with some visual responses to comments from the stand.

Sons Away ran away with the first half. Sons Home midfield tended to overcommit in attack and several times they were spare at the back before finally being caught out after a through ball wasn’t cut out. Their second was beautifully worked though. The third merely underlined Sons Away’s dominance.

Sons Home made a tactical switch for the second half which made things much more even. The turning point though came when Sons Home manager Paddy Flannery brought himself on as a sub. He didn’t at first make much of an impact but after a few minutes began to dominate the midfield and eventually threaded through a great ball to set up Sons Home’s first. That might have been it but after an award just outside the area Flannery stepped up to float a magnificent free kick over the defensive wall into the top corner. That wasn’t something I thought he had in his locker. The equaliser came through a penalty which the linesman saw clearly – unlike the ref.

There was still time for both keepers to make amazing saves, Sons Home got a great reactive hand to a header from a corner and Sons Away managed to block a goal bound effort with his foot.

So, the classic game of two halves. Only it was more like a game of one half then the last sixth.

And not only did my son get to play on the pitch, he also shared it and a dressing room with the legend that is Paddy Flannery. Dreams barely get any better.

Challenge Cup Draw

Well, it used to be the Challenge Cup. Now it’s sponsored by Irn Bru.

It’s a home tie, against Rangers Colts.

I’m not happy about Colts teams being involved in Senior competitions. I fear it is a stallking horse to get them into the league structure – as if the presence of the full sides did not distort Scottish football enough.

But this is as it is and I suppose we have to put up with it.

There is a potential here for a serious riddy to rank alongside the game of which we do not speak – especially given our utterly dire history in this competition: far and away the worst of any of its regular participants.

Fixtures 2017-18

Well the league fixtures are out.

It doesn’t look easy.

Blogging Hiatus

For various reasons I haven’t been able to organise blog posts recently. I’ve also missed the second round of Confederations Cup matches.

Normal service will be resumed as soon as I can get round to it.

I note Sons’ fixture list for next season is due out tomorrow. I might be able to comment on that by Saturday.

Football Again

The new season doesn’t take long in coming around.

Sons’ opponents in the League Cup (Betfred Cup) will be Kilmarnock, Ayr United, Clyde and Annan Athletic. Matches to be played during the second half of July.

A quick reunion with Ayr, then. Doubtless we’ll get nothing out of that. They had the hex on us last season. It’s a long time since we played Kilmarnock.

Dumbarton 0-1 Falkirk

SPFL Tier 2, The Rock, 6/5/17.

Well; it’s done now.

Next season Sons will still be playing in Scottish football’s second tier. That will be six years in a row – a magnificent achievement for a part-time club.

But it was close this time. Never before has it gone down to the last day, never before have we survived only on goal difference. It’s an indication of how difficult the task is year on year. And once again we have finished above at least one full-time club. We are punching above our weight.

Making it all the more sweet is that we have been the beneficiaries of what the Scotsman inquired might have been the worst transfer of the season. It was in fact the best. Lewis Vaughan’s goals contributed directly to six points in our efforts to stay up.

But survive we have and congratulations to the management team and players.
It’s a roller-coaster ride following Sons at the best of times. In this division wins are hard to come by and few enough per season. When they do occur the joy is that much more delicious.

It will all end one day but while trips to big grounds like Ibrox, Tynecastle or Easter Road are not on the agenda for next season there is still (maybe) Tannadice and the likes of St Mirren and East End Parks to go to and the possible prospect of rare games for us in Inverness.

But football doesn’t stand still. The worrying starts again in a couple of months time. Less if you fret about the manager’s future and summer signings.

Dundee United 2-2 Dumbarton

SPFL Tier 2, Tannadice Park, 29/4/17.

Well, it’s not quite done.

We certainly can’t be relegated automatically but barring a nine goal swing between our game against Falkirk at the Rock on Saturday and Raith’s at home to Ayr we won’t be in the relegation play-off – and that has the (less likely) back-up that St Mirren also don’t get a point from their game with Hibs.

At the start a point didn’t look possible from this game. Dundee United stormed out of the blocks and came close too many times for comfort; as befitted a team looking for second place in the Division. Yet they didn’t score and we came into it a bit. It looked like we’d weathered the storm but then they scored from a corner. Alan Martin got his hands to it but couldn’t keep it out. He did make a great save from a header a few minutes later. Curiously though I was never in any doubt that he would; he’s a great reaction keeper.

Robert Thomson came close to us from a corner of our own glancing his header just over the bar onto the net’s roof. But it was only a delay. A corner from the other side was delivered fairly poorly, straight to a defender but he only hooked it to the edge of the box where it was first-timed back across goal to where Robert Thomson was steaming in. Cue scenes in the away end.

At half-time I remarked I hadn’t seen it being at 1-1 when the game had only been five minutes in. I was grateful for it though.

The second half we were very in it to begin with. Andy Stirling and Lewis Vaughan were starting to get space on the wings and Sam Stanton through the middle. He it was with a fine run made the opportunity for Lewis Vaughan to put us ahead. Dreams of a win in Dundee and arithmetical safety began. It wasn’t the only opportunity of the half, a squared ball was unfortunately behind the inrushing Robert Thomson or he’d have had a tap in.

United didn’t really look threatening but suddenly scored out of the blue. Sadly for Alan Martin it was a save that squirmed away from him to an oncoming attacker that gave them the equaliser.

For the last ten minutes we were under the cosh a bit but throughout the game we had kept our shape really well, the players clearly know what they are to do. A couple of scrambles near our goal line and then a bit of holding the ball up near their corner flag and the ref blew for full time.

All the players and staff came to applaud the Sons fans in the away end amid much acclaim for their efforts.

A draw at Tannadice is a great result for the Sons. I think it’s the best one we’ve had there since they got promoted from the old Division Two in the late 1950s. And we’ve taken seven points out of a possible twelve from United this season. Amazing.

Fingers crossed for a survival Saturday at the weekend.

Hibernian 2-2 Dumbarton

SPFL Tier 2, Easter Road, 18/3/17

I’d have taken this result before kick-off, but given we were twice in the lead and all three teams below us managed to win, it somehow feels more like two points dropped rather than one gained. It was a great performance by the lads just the same, every single one of them putting a shift in. There’s no doubt Hibs are a better team with better players but they failed to carve us open anything like consistently and we deserved the draw. The occasion was also livened up by the “Swiss Sons” – on their annual visit – keeping up their usual bouts of chanting; some in a language which I could not decipher.

Hibs had a lot of possession first half but not much in the way of efforts on goal to show for it whereas we had two Andy Stirling shots; unfortunately he snatched at them and they went wild. He it was though who was the subject of a wild swipe by one of their defenders. From where I was way up the other end it looked about two yards outside the box but the ref gave a penalty. I have since seen a still photo on Pie and Bovril which seems to show the contact was made inside, so fair dos. We don’t often get freebies from refs anyway. Big Christian Nade stepped up and slotted it home. We navigated the rest of the first half with not much problem. During half time I offered the opinion that Hibs could, just possibly, be given a soft penalty.

The expected onslaught at the beginning of the second half didn’t quite materialize and we had a fair bit of possession but they did gradually ramp it up. Alan Martin made a great save from a thumped effort but they eventually scored when a cross seemed to be knocked on to Daniel Harvie by Martin’s touch and rebounded into the net.

We might have expected there to be only one way traffic from then on but we did occasionally sally up the park and a long ball was met perfectly by Nade to guide it into the path of Robert Thomson whose movement had taken him into space and he swept it past the keeper (whose positioning seemed to me to be too far to the left of his goal; but hey-ho.)

Then drama. The predicted soft penalty for Hibs duly arrived but Alan Martin made a magnificent save. A lead still to defend. Unfortunately a long ball to the edge of our box resulted in a mix-up between an attacker, David Smith and Alan Martin where Martin failed to collect the ball when he might have been favourite. I’ve seen fouls against the keeper given on such occasions but 2-1 up at Easter Road against Hibs? Perhaps too much to hope for. Despite Smith’s efforts the attacker managed to get it into the net. We survived a barrage of corners throughout and made it to the end with Hibs not ever really looking likely to score again.

It’s becoming increasingly obvious that while he’s still a presence Nade’s legs have gone. He can still hold the ball up but if opponents crowd him he doesn’t often get it away to a team mate. He’s a nuisance to defenders still though.

Days like this, a draw away at a big club, beating the odds, are what makes being a fan of a wee team worthwhile. They don’t come round that often and are relished all the more when they do. It’s just a pity that the overall reward was slipping a place in the league. Next Saturday’s game at Ayr assumes greater importance now.

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