Archives » Andy Stirling

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.

Dumbarton 1-1 Arbroath

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

This was excruciating. We made it much harder than we ought to have done.

We came out of the blocks well and took the lead with Dougie Hill’s header from a Tom Walsh corner. We kept up the pressure and had several efforts, the best of which probably fell to Andy Stirling but he blazed it over the bar.

We weren’t in any danger till Liam Dick made a poor defensive header and put Andy Dowie in trouble. His short pass back went to their player who had the easiest finish imaginable.

After that we simply fell apart, every effort at the ball rushed, every clearance sclaffed, every second ball not gained.

Despite that we had some efforts on goal in the second half with Tom Walsh beating the keeper and having the ball cleared off the line, Danny Handling through on his own but lacking the pace to beat the defender and finally in injury time Liam Burt chipping the keeper on a one-on-one but missing the goal.

Scott Gallagher did have a few saves to make but was never really troubled.

Referee Craig Charletson was his usual arrogant self. Several times their players went through one of ours and not a free-kick to be had. The only one we got anywhere near their goal was given by the linesman. The man seems to hate us for some reason.

So. We have to go through all this again on Wednesday and Sunday against Alloa. I don’t think my nerves will stand it.

*Now The C&G Systems Stadium after our new, local, sponsors.

Arbroath 1-2 Dumbarton

SPFL Tier 2 Play-off Semi-final, first leg, Gayfield Park, 2/5/18.

Now here’s a rarity.

I was composing this post in my head just before the final whistle and it began, “Well, I’ve still not seen us win at Gayfield,” when – lo and behold – we do just that, Craig Barr knocking the ball in at the second attempt.

Admittedly this followed an almost continuous run of Sons pressure where both Iain Russell and Liam Burt perhaps should have scored.

But it all ended up rather better than it might have.

Scott Gallacher had already had to make two (comfotable) saves before we threatened their goal but their keepers saves were of a higher order, first from Danny Handling’s header and then from Tom Walsh’s shot from the rebound. A defensive mix-up at the bakk almost let Arbroath score but their forward amazingly pulled it back too far and it escaped the post.

Second half we were more in the game and got the opener when fine work by Andy Stirling allowed him to cross. Tom Walsh’s header was perfect for Calum Gallagher to loop his header over the keeper.

Their equaliser came from a free-kick given at the edge of our box but play should never have got that far as a shove in the back tokk one of ours out of the play in the build-up. The goal encouraged Arbroath and they came at us with Scott Gallagher having to make two fine saves. Then after Iain Russell and Liam Burt came on for Calum Gallagher and Tom Walsh came that late push.

It’s not over yet, Arbroath showed they could theaten us, but we go into Saturday’s second leg in a better position than I had feared.

It will still be a nervy affair though.

Inverness C T 5-1 Dumbarton

SPFL Tier 2, Tulloch Caledonian Stadium, 14/4/18.

We started the game well enough, scored the opener – Andy Stirling skinning his man and cutting the ball back beautifully for Grant Gallacher to thump it into the net – but we didn’t hold on to it long enough. The equaliser was a great strike, but the guy took the ball up in midfield with no-one near him and no-one closing him down.

If we’d held on till half-time maybe things might have been different, but just before the break Craig Barr inexplicably switched off and didn’t chase the ball allowing Nathan Austin in to round Scott Gallacher and roll it into the net.

In the second half we fell right out of it and they started to walk through us. We looked tired. I suppose, as I always suspected they would, games have caught up with us. It’s not really a surprise to me that our first bad winter in this division has coincided with our worst performance in it. And the postponements due to the Challenge Cup run haven’t helped.

The introduction of Liam Burt and Mark Stewart improved us – why wasn’t Burt on from the start? He always looked capable of fashioning something and Mark Stewart was a bigger threat than Calum Gallagher had been – but we were three and four down by the time the subs were made.

At least we looked a bit of a goal threat for the early part of the game. The play-offs might be a stretch too far though.

Brechi City 1-3 Dumbarton

SPFL Tier 2, Glebe Park, 17/3/18

When was the last time we scored three goals? (Last season.)

When was the last time we scored three goals in one half? (I can’t remember.)

This was pretty much over at half-time. We’d scored three without really threatening their goal and lost one to a well-struck free-kick.

We had most of the ball early doors but hadn’t made their keeper make a save. Then we had a flurry of three corners in a row. The two from Andy Stirling were cleared out for more corners. The one from Froxy was headed (by Andy Dowie?) back across goal to an unmarked Calum Gallagher who only had to let the ball bounce off him but headered it anyway.

Then Sam Wardrop was fouled in the act of crossing the ball but not given the award. He tried to carry on but only lasted two more minutes. I hope he only went off as a precaution ahead of next week.

Another Froxy corner was then headed goalwards by Andy Dowie and deflected beyond the keeper by a defender. Two up inside half an hour. Unheard of this season.

They pulled one back with that free-kick. It was well placed but I thought Scott Gallacher was a bit too far across his goal at the set-up.

Things could have been tricky if they had get their heads up but after another Froxy corner not well cleared the ball was squared back across goal by Craig Barr and squirmed about the goal line before Danny Handling poked it home.

The second half was a bit of a non-event with Brechin having most of the ball. They were awarded a penalty. That could have made for a nervy last twenty minutes but it was screwed past the post to make their recent sub Isaac Layne, who had been wanting to take it, not at all a happy bunny.

We had two further chances with both Calum Gallagher and Danny Handling through on the keeper but their shots were too straight.

Three welcome points though.

Falkirk 1-1 Dumbarton

SPFL Tier 2, Falkirk Stadium, 12/8/17.

Now this was a good point.

Falkirk may be below us at the moment but will undoubtedly finish much higher than we do. Plus they were astonishingly profligate in front of goal in the last few minutes. And given Morton’s result today it looks as if last week’s was a good point too.

Falkirk had most of the ball early on but didn’t do much with it. When we got it we weren’t particularly threatening either but all that changed when Craig Barr muscled onto a ball in midfield and fed David Wilson who played a great ball behind the middle last defender which Alistair Roy collected and proceeded to thump past the goalkeeper.

We do score some belters at this ground, Lewis Vaughan and Andy Stirling last season, Mitch Megginson in one of Ian Murray’s seasons. (And a few scramblers, Chris Kane and Archie Campbell among those.)

The eqauliser came when Sam Wardrop* got done out wide. The ensuing cross wasn’t picked up by our defence and Nathan Austin was trying to make space in the area when Mark Stewart made contact with his back. Silly. It gives the forward the chance to go over and the ref the chance to make the decision. Miles Hippolyte put it away.

Dougie Hill hit the bar from a corner but we spent the rest of the first half and most of the second standing off and allowing them the ball. A few close shaves and a couple of saves from Scott Gallacher – one with his face – meant we were still in with the chance of a point, though. The biggest cheer of the second half was ironic, when the referee finally gave a foul for Christian Nade who had been getting clambered over all afternoon without reward – at one point clattered into with malice aforethought but the challenge was deemed legal.

One point almost became three when a Nade flick-on fell to Stewart in the area but his shot was tipped over by the keeper.

There was still time for Falkirk to waste two good opportunities by screwing the ball wide, though.

My main thought during and after this game was what is the point of Mark Stewart? For the most part his positioning is decidedly odd. He huffs and puffs but that’s about all. His use of the ball was woeful at times.

We didn’t help ourselves at times with some poor passing but that may have been tired legs. We’ve got a midweek game in the Cup we never win in during the week. I hope the manager puts out a team composed of players who haven’t been getting a game; especially as its against a Colts team – who should never be near a senior competition.

*Edited to add. I see from SonsTV it was David Wilson who got done.

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.

Falkirk 2-2 Dumbarton

SPFL Tier 2, Falkirk Stadium, 25/2/17.

The referee was Mat Northcroft again.

Despite that – and his usual baffling decisions – it was a decent enough game, even if both teams weren’t quite at it.

Falkirk didn’t really threaten much in the first half. We forced a few corners early on but fell out of it a bit. Their goal may have been a fluke. Their left back was played in and hit it on the volley from where it looped over Alan Martin’s outstretched hand and into the net.

Our equaliser was a peach and came within a minute. Lewis Vaughan picked up the ball and ran at their defence, evading three men before dodging into the box and thumping it across Danny Rogers into the top corner. Honours even at half-time.

Our second ended up a mirror image of our first. Christian Nade chased down a ball in midfield, dispossessed the Falkirk player and played it to Andy Stirling who proceeded to waltz past defenders and then despatch it past Rogers the opposite way to Vaughan. Beautiful stuff.

Unfortunately we couldn’t keep the lead though there was a hint of offside about their equaliser. They did have the ball in the net again but that offside was given and we cleared a shot off the line. They had a looping effort that hit the outside frame of the goal and Daniel Harvie’s header from a corner also hit their bar.

A draw was just about right and a point was more than I expected from the game. It’s awfully tight just above the play-off places though.

Raith Rovers 1-3 Dumbarton

SPFL Tier 2, Starks Park, 28/1/17.

What an odd set of emotions this evoked. We won and I’m still raging at the referee.

We had the better of the first half, Robert Thomson and Sam Stanton had good efforts on target and I was beginning to think we might regret not scoring when on top. I didn’t expect to lose a blatantly illegal goal. Daniel Harvie was shoved over by the forward in the build-up – how the ref and stand-side assistant missed it is beyond belief – and the subsequent cross was converted. 1-0 down at half-time having played well with nothing to show for it I feared the worst.

Second half we started brightly and got the goal when Christian Nade headed in from a cross. Then the second decision under the Val McDermid stand that was criminal. Andy Stirling cut inside the fullback and looked to be scythed down in the box. even if there was no contact he was taking avoiding action from the lunge and that still makes it a penalty. No penalty. Andy Stirling got booke dfor “diving”. Why would he have dived? He wouldn’t have gone over in that position if not fouled. It definitely was not a dive. No-one dives at that angle. It was a pen and a sending off. That decision could have cost us. In many a game it would have. Today though Raith weren’t up to much.

Our second was a thing of beauty. A piece of intricate passing up the right seemed to have got us up a blind alley but the ball was suddenly switched over to the left and Daniel Harvie steamed onto the ball, took a few paces and lamped it into the far corner.

Six minutes later we made it three. A low corner looked to be a wasted one but it evaded everybody and reached Gregor Buchanan beyond the far post and his shot crashed in.

We saw out the rest of the game with not much trouble and Sons’ 87 fans making a noise fit for many more.

Those two decisions weren’t the only bad ones in the game but I can’t recall any iffy ones the ref made going in our favour including loads where he let things go which he should have pulled back for a foul for us. At one point he and the assistant stared at each other for seconds not knowing what to give. Eventually it went Raith’s way, of course. But those two in particular had been so appalling that even though we were winning somehow I still felt we weren’t and had been robbed. It is apparently not the first game this ref has given baffling decisions mostly against us. Let us name the guilty man. Mat Northcroft.

Dundee United 2-1 Dumbarton

SPFL Tier 2, Tannadice Park, 22/10/16.

This was an unusual occurence. The last time I was at Tannadice to see the Sons (or at all) was over thirty years ago. (We did play there in the 1995-6 season but I didn’t go. A combination of the fact that that was during the time where we went a whole year without a win and my family was quite young.)

The end result was the same. We still haven’t won in Dundee since 1958.

They had a beginning flurry – Alan Martin with a superb double save – then we had a great chance, Garry Fleming stabbing the ball from close in but the keeper made a great save. Then Robert Thomson sent a header towards the post area which the keeper again clawed away and David Smith couldn’t connect properly with a ball that came to him after a corner. Martin again did the needful to keep out a free-kick.

The best bit about the first half was the seethe from the home support at their forwards continually being flagged offside. With their pace there was no need to even be close to an offside position.

At half-time I was slightly disappointed that we weren’t ahead.

The blows came equally spaced around the hour mark. Mark Docherty misjudged a header from a corner and it flew into the net. Their second was also from a corner. Our players were slightly late to react to Willo Flood running up from his halfway line. His free header across goal was turned goalwards but Alan Martin saved it. Unfortunately the rebound fell to one of them who couldn’t miss.

Despite a two goal lead they still couldn’t make any impact on us from open play. We did though, sub Andy Stirling’s cross deflecting to a perfectly placed Robert Thomson to bundle the ball below the keeper. They looked a bit nervous after that but we couldn’t make any more clear chances. Even so Sam Stanton was obviously held back when going through but no free-kick was forthcoming. Not the only odd decision by the ref in the game.

So our players scored two goals, theirs one. We scored from open play they didn’t. The team performance was good but we shouldn’t beat a team like Dundee United at their place. Still, it felt like at least a point lost.

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