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Stevie Chalmers

Barely a week after the sad demise of Billy McNeill comes news of the death of his Lisbon Lion teammate Stevie Chalmers.

But Chalmers wasn’t just a teammate. He was the scorer of that goal. Not the best, not the most spectacular, not the most intricate, but perhaps the most precious goal in the history of Scottish football. It was the foot of Chalmers that deflected the course of Bobby Murdoch’s shot into the Inter Milan net and so made sure that Celtic would become not only the first (and so far – and likely forever – the only) Scottish, but also the first British (and first North European) team to lift the European Cup.

Bill Shankly is reported to have said to Celtic’s manager that day, Jock Stein, when they won the trophy, “Jock, you’re immortal.” Well, so too is Chalmers; or at least his memory is.

Looking at his Wikipedia page I see Chalmers turned out for the Sons of the Rock (for one game; as a trialist. Looks like we missed a good one there.) Our loss was Celtic’s gain. He ended up the club’s fifth highest ever goalscorer.

Thomas Stephen (Stevie) Chalmers: 26/12/1935 – 29/3/2019. So it goes.

Relief

Well. It’s been a season.

Not the one we’d hoped for, but also not the one that for a long time I feared.

Today’s 3-0 win at home to East Fife, combined with Brechin’s loss at Stranraer and Stenhousemuir’s at home to Forfar means we can not be relegated. There is even an outside possibility we could finish as high as fifth if we win our last two games, but I’d suggest that’s an unlikely scenario.

Where we would have ended up without our four wins against East Fife I dread to think. It’s a seriously odd statistic that we beat them four times this season when we lost to Brechin twice at their place and also twice to Stenhousemuir. Still, that’s what a league is all about.

A stress-free last two games of the season await but memories of Dom Thomas apart, this has been one to forget, really.

I don’t suppose it’ll be long before I get to worrying again, though. July is only three months away.

Forfar Athletic 0-0 Dumbarton

SPFL Tier 3, Station Park, 13/4/19.

The scoreline tells you all you need to know about this game.

Sometimes you get an entertaining 0-0 draw. Sometimes you don’t. Today we didn’t.

The nearest we came to scoring was with long distance efforts by Ross Forbes and Dom Thomas but they were fired down the goalkeeper’s throat. Calum Gallagher had a couple such off target as did the two previously mentioned.

Not that Forfar were any better. Grant Adam only had two shots to save all day.

Mind you I’d feared the worst as just when the teams were coming out the announcer said that due to an injury in the warm-up Stuart Carswell was being replaced by Boris Melingui. Carsy is so important to our midfield. It’s really an obvious miss when he’s not there. The announcer still gave out Carsy’s name as playing when he read the teamsheets again at half-time, though.

Boris was up front with Calum Gallagher pulled back into midfield where he put a good shift in (he’s like a modern day Chissie*) but his attacking partnership with Dom Thomas was therefore missing. Boris ran about well and pressed with a will but there was no spark to our play. Dom Thomas had few opportunities to run with the ball, they doubled or trebled up on him at times and his control got away from him too often. Plus he needs to play folk in when they’re better placed.

Looking at this Forfar side I’m amazed they’re pushing Raith for second spot. They looked as bad as us, with very little in the way of creativity.

So it’s all squeezed up again at the bottom. We could have done without the wins for Stranraer and Stenhousemuir. We’re four clear of ninth and the dreaded relegation play-off spot with three to play but the bottom two play each other on the last day. The highest either of them could reach is 44 points. They could both reach 42. We’re on 39.

*Ian Chisholm, late of this parish.

Park Hall Stadium, Oswestry

Home of The New Saints of Oswestry Town & Llansantffraid Football Club aka The New Saints or TNS, once known as Total Network Solutions.

Scene of the most recent historical achievement of Dumbarton FC, the mighty Sons of the Rock.

Since The New Saints play in the Welsh Premier League this also counts as a Welsh Football ground.

The ground is more or less in the middle of nowhere, across the main road which by-passes the town of Oswestry and up a narrow unlit road. And it doesn’t have much in the way of dedicated parking spaces.

Entrance Gates:-

Park Hall Stadium, Oswestry

From southwest. The structure on this side is a TV camera platform.

Park Hall Stadium from Southwest.

Main Stand from southwest. The word stand isn’t really appropriate. The brick structure is more like a social club with a small balcony fronting onto the pitch. It doesn’t seem to have seats. The covered area to the left here does, though:-

Main Stand from Southwest, Park Hall Stadium, Oswestry

Main stand and north terracing/stand from southwest:-

Park Hall Stadium, Oswestry

Stadium from main stand, showing TV platform:-

Park Hall Stadium, Oswestry from Main Stand

Pitch and TV platform from northeast:-

Park Hall Stadium, Oswestry, from northeast.

Pitch and East terracing from northeast:-

Park Hall Stadium, Oswestry, Pitch and East terracing

North Terracing/Stand:-

Park Hall Stadium Main Stand

Camera platform from north:-

Camer Platform, Park Hall Stadium, Oswestry

Main stand and covered terracing from north terracing:-

Park Hall Stadium, Oswestry

Teams Shake Hands, Irn Bru Cup Semi-final, Park Hall Stadium, Oswestry, Feb 2018:-

Teams Shake Hands, Irn Bru Cup Semi-final, Park Hall Stadium, Oswestry, Feb 2018

Dumbarton 3-3 Airdrieonians

SPFL Tier 3, The Rock, 2/4/19.

Well, we scored first, and then did our best to throw the game away.

We looked bright at the start finding joy on the left with Bobby Barr one of whose crosses was headed just past the post by Calum Gallagher. They seemed to be able to get through our midfield too easily, however, without really threatening further forward.

The goal came from a piece of quick thinking by Ross Forbes, playing a free-kick early to Dom Thomas on the edge of the box. Dom cut in and hit a shot which looked as if it was likely to be blocked but it hit the back of the net.

The equaliser came from a flicked on throw in, a header which Grant Adam got a hand to but not enough to keep it out. (He had also conceded the throw by palming a ball away which he might have been better not going for – or preferably catching.)

Not long after they were ahead. The lad who got on the end of the pass through looked a head offside to me when the ball was played to him. Our defending in the middle was a shambles though, the scorer standing all alone to tap it in.

They were breaking well and giving me the fear every time they got beyond the halfway line but the half ended at 1-2.

The second half more or less repeated the first to begin with except our pressure was stronger and they continued to look lively moving into our half. We had several corners in a row without much result. Grant Adam made a good stop on a one-on-one and the rebound was also blocked.

Manager Jim Duffy started to go for broke, taking off David Ferguson and putting on Boris Melingui. This shunted Stuart Carswell to right back. Boris it was who headed a Ross Forbes free-kick back across goal for an unchallenged Calum Gallagher to head in at the far post.

We continued to press – and that was our undoing. In a quick break they had a four on two and eventually scored but from where I was there looked to be a handball in the build-up.

By this time I was resigned to the defeat but Ross Forbes pinged one just inside the near post from the far edge of the area to cue delirium in the home end.

It’s a draw I’ll take – the fourth between these two sides in the league this season, a unique statistic for us since ten-team leagues were introduced in Scotland – but we really needed a win. It makes Saturday’s game against Brechin an absolute must-not-lose (guess what will happen) but a win would be even more desirable. It’s tighter than a gnat’s chuff at the bottom, only four points separating four teams. I don’t know if my nerves will stand it.

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.

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