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Rochdale 1-0 Accrington Stanley

English Football Tier 3,* Spotland,** 24/11/18.

As you can tell from this post’s title I’ve been away again. Down to see friends in Rochdale and seizing the opportunity to take in my first ever English League game. Not my first game in England – that was in Oswestry earlier this year, that wonderful magical night.

Rochdale AFC Programme 24/11/18

As you can see from the programme cover it was celebrating Ian Henderson’s 100 goals for the club.

My main impression overall was that the players’ work rate was higher than in the SPFL (Tier 3 or 2.) In particular the pressing was sharper and quicker.

I was a bit surprised to recognise the referee (from highlight games.) It was none other than Lee Probert. A high profile referee for a 3rd tier game surely?

Rochdale started on the front foot but Stanley’s more direct style soon had them making inroads at the back. Dale’s keeper Josh Lillis was only just back from injury and initially looked shaky, spilling the ball on his first contact but he was called on three times in the first half and made good stops each time. Stanley seemed prepared to shoot on sight but were only on target those three times. Dale tended to play the ball about at the back and tried to pass their way through but mostly didn’t penetrate. Dale’s number 7 scurried about, though, and his running style reminded me very much of Kenny Miller. Stanley had more of the first half but lacked that clinical edge.

Things changed in the second. Dale substitute forward Calvin Andrew immediately brought a new focus to the attack. Whatever Ian Henderson’s qualities winning high balls isn’t to the fore. Andrew put himself about and won the first four of his aerial duels. Thereafter the man marking resorted to climbing over him to get the ball. The Dale fans weren’t too keen on Probert’s failure to penalise that.

For all Dale manager Keith Hill’s desire to play football it was ironic that the goal came from that most basic of football attacking ploys, an inswinging corner. Ian Henderson worked himself room in the box to head it down and in. I thought the keeper might possibly have done better and kept it out but it squirmed under him. So goal no. 101 for Hendo. I think it was Dale’s only effort on target.

Stanley pushed in the final ten minutes but were reduced to long range efforts only, none of which troubled Lillis. Young David Perkins came on and perked up Dale’s midfield. He looked very much one for the future. Apparently Dale’s football academy is now one of the most respected in England.

It was a good result for my first experience of Spotland which is a tidy ground with stands on all four sides, the one behind the goal at Dale’s favourite end standing only. Stanley’s supporters filled the middle portion of the stand opposite the main one and made a lot of noise at the start. This faded towards the end. Dale’s supporters were notably more quiet and only roused thenselves a few times but it seems they take a good lot on away trips.

*EFL Tier 2 – call it Sky Bet League One if you must.

**The Crown Oil Arena, no less – it’ll always be Spotland to me.

Scotland Qualifies for World Cup

No this is not a headline from a science-fictional Altered History.

Scotland’s football team really has qualified for a World Cup finals.

Scotland women, that is – a historic first for them. Congratulations to the team and management.

So we can now definitively say Scotland’s women are better than its men.

University of Bolton Stadium

Home of Bolton Wanderers F C.

Formerly the Reebok Stadium, then the Macron Stadium.

From M 61 motorway (through a passenger window):-

Fomer Reebok Stadium, Bolton

University of Bolton Stadium

The Rock From Above

Picture shamelessly stolen from Pie and Bovril, contributed by user AlwaysAPar.

Dumbarton F C’s stadium in the shadow of Dumbarton Rock:-

The Rock

Broadwood Stadium, Cumbernauld

Home of Clyde F C (and also of Cumbernauld Colts F C.)

From west (away) car park:-

Broadwood Stadium, Cumbernauld From West Car Park

Main and south stands from east (home) car park:-

Broadwood Stadium, Cumbernauld, Main and South Stands

Main stand from north-east (stitched photo):-

Broadwood Stadium, Mainstand (Stitch)

West stand from main stand:-

West Stand, Broadwood Stadium, Cumbernauld

South stand from main stand, part of west stand to right:-

South Stand, Broadwood Stadium

View along main stand towards south stand:-

View Along Main Stand, Broadwood Stadium

There is no stand at the north end of Broadwood Stadium. In that it resembles the west end of Kilbowie Park, once the home of Clydebank F C, which housed the social club.

It’s not quite so stark as the east end of Firs Park, Falkirk, which had a concrete wall built to stop the ball ending up on an access road when a retail park was built on the ground’s west side.

North end, Broadwood Stadium:-

North End, Broadwood Stadium

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.

Firs Park, Falkirk

This is sad viewing. The former home of East Stirlingshire FC now gone to rack and ruin.

I used to like going to Firs Park to see the Sons play there. It might have been utterly basic but it was a proper old style football ground.

It was certainly diminished by having that concrete wall built at one end of the ground behind the goal to stop the ball going on to the Retail Park’s access road but it’s really sad to see the state it’s in now.

I see the club has ended its rental agreement with Stenhousemuir at Ochilview to become tenants of Falkirk FC at the Falkirk Stadium. Imposing surroundings for the Lowland League even if Stirling University have been playing there too recently.

Alan Gilzean

So Alan Gilzean, whom Jimmy Greaves said was the greatest foootballer he had ever played with, has gone.

I never saw him play in the flesh, his time in Scotland being before I started watching football regularly and he was in any case in a different division to Dumbarton but he was a byword for accomplishment.

Before his move down south to Tottenham Hotspur Gilzean played for a great Dundee team, so great it won the championship of Scotland in 1962 and a year later reached the semi-finals of the European Cup. That was, of course, in the time when other Scottish clubs could compete almost on a level playing field with the two Glasgow giants. That success came in a remarkable 17 years when Hibernian (1948, 1951, 1952,) Aberdeen (1955,) (Hearts 1958, 1960,) Dundee (1962) and Kilmarnock (1965) became Scottish Champions. An incredible sequence: between the wars only Motherwell, in 1932, had broken the monopoly of Rangers and Celtic on the League Championship and subsequently only Aberdeen (1984, 1985) and Dundee United (1983) have performed the feat.

The power of money and the lucrative nature of European competition for the big two brought all that to an end. We’re unlikely to see anything like it again.

I’ve strayed somewhat from the point.

Gilzean was a great player, one whose movement on the pitch (from televisual evidence) was deceptively effortless looking, he seemed to glide over the ground in that way that only accomplished players manage to achieve. His scoring record isn’t too mean either; 169 in 190 games for Dundee, 93 in 343 for Spurs, 1 in 3 for the Scottish League and 12 in 22 for Scotland.

Alan John Gilzean: 22/10/1938 – 8/7/2018. So it goes.

The World Turned Upside Down?

You may have noticed there’s a rather large and important football competition taking place at the moment. (A swift glance at TV schedules would be enough to tell you that.)

Four years ago I expressed my fear that a period of Germanic hegemony was upon us. Notwithstanding Portugal’s efforts at the last European Championships the young German side which triumphed at last year’s Confederations Cup boded well (or ill, according to view) for that prospect.

It seems that hegemony is not to be. In three performances of stunning inadequacy Germany have been so poor as to finish bottom of their group, only a moment of individual brilliance on the part of Toni Kroos yielding them a solitary win over Sweden.

It’s been a topsy-turvy sort of tournament what with England playing well (so far) and Argentina, like the Germans, struggling badly – but still managing to reach the second round.

I’ve not been overly impressed by anyone – though I thought Colombia looked good against Poland. But that may have been because the Poles were totally ineffective.

Brazil seem unbalanced to me; too much in thrall to their star player, Neymar, who doesn’t look fully fit. Belgium may be dark horses but haven’t played anybody of standing yet.

Judgement must be reserved till the knockout games. Too often before, a good showing in the group has unravelled at the next step.

But… Could this be Uruguay’s year again? They’re the only side yet to concede a goal.

(Cue a Portugal win on Saturday.)

De Peppel Sports Park

When visiting Drachten in May 2017 (see previous posts) I found a parking space right by a sports complex. This turned out to be the De Peppel Sports Park, home of V V Drachten.

The club plays in the third Sunday class of the KNVB Noord, the sixth amateur level.

View of stadium from road:-

De Peppel Sports Park, Drachten

View of pitch from inside entrance:-

De Peppel Sports Park 2

View of pitch and stand:-

De Peppel Sports Park 3

View of stand:-

De Peppel Sports Park 4

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