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Jim Lister, Unlikely Hero

There’s a great appreciation of former Son Jim Lister, who retired from football last week, over at Tales From the Rock.

Jim was the undoubted surprise success of that first season back in the second tier (2012-13) which started off so badly but ended in the triumph of staying up against all the odds. His goals and presence in the attack played a major part in that achievement.

Good luck to him for his future.

Dumbarton 1-0 Albion Rovers

Scottish League Cup,* Round 1, The Rock, 3/8/13

A win’s not to be sneezed at.


We beat the same club 2-0 at the same stage last season and this season they’re a Division lower.

However, I thought this wee Rovers side was better than last year’s so make of that what you will.

This was played on a fiery pitch with a gusting wind in the first half so ball control appeared to be difficult.

Even so there were signs here of a new approach under Ian Murray, passing the ball even from the back. Here debutant Aaron Barry, on loan from Sheffield United, looked a good addition, composed on the ball and reading the game well. We did miss Jim Lister when the ball was played forward in the air though. It was my first sight of Scott Linton at left back and Mitch Megginson wide right. Both had solid games.

Rovers only had one legitimate effort on goal the whole game, ex-Son Scott Chaplain’s effort being parried on to the post by Jamie Ewings. Having said that, their keeper didn’t have all that much to do either, though he had a fine stop from a Chris Turner shot early on and a flap at a Mark Gilhaney shot in the second half. (Former Sons Mick Dunlop, Kevin Nicholl and Liam Cusack were also in Albion’s starting eleven.)

Scott Agnew misplaced a lot of passes but it was his exquisite ball inside the defender that led to the goal. Two of them got mixed up trying to combat Mark Gilhaney’s run and he nipped the ball. I thought he might hit it first time but this is Mark Gilhaney. He’d had an opportunity to do that earlier and tried to take on the full back and lost the ball. This time he seemed to take an age to round the keeper but he finished it off nicely.

We didn’t have to do too much after that and as a result let Rovers into the game a bit in the second half.

We need to be more clinical and carve out more chances. I doubt a First Division (sorry, I know there’s a new name for the Division, but it’s bollocks: I think I’ll go with Tier 2) side will be as accommodating to our midfield and defence as Albion were.

Falkirk next week will be a test of that.

*Scottish Communities League Cup, if you must.

Cowdenbeath 2-3 Dumbarton

SFL Div 1, Central Park, 27/4/13

Firstly, congratulations to all the players and staff at the club. This result means we have finished in a higher position in Scottish Football than at any time since 1987. It is a magnificent achievement for the club. Special thanks to the manager Ian Murray who has dragged us from certain relegation to safety with a game to spare.

Arguably we have overachieved this season. Most Dumbarton fans hoped to finish eighth but expected to be no higher than ninth and in the play-off spot.

I ought to have taken my camera. I’d forgotten last away game was dress-up day. The zombies were good; and the two women with t-shirts that said “Murray’s Angels.”

We had the best of the early play and Stephen Grindlay had nothing to do beyond goal kicks. He hadn’t had a save to make before they scored – and we donated that one with a loose pass in their half allowing a break with three men on two. They had a brief spell in charge after that as they took confidence from the goal but then the game swung in the space of five minutes.

Or was it five seconds? For the equaliser was an absolute belter, Scott Agnew nipping the ball off an opponent’s toe in the centre circle, striding forward into space and chipping the goalkeeper from at least 35 yards. Not quite as good as Paddy Flannery’s along-the-ground strike from a little further out at the same end at the same stadium (too many years ago now) but getting on for it.

The second came from a floated in cross that was on Jim Lister’s head from the moment it left Garry Fleming’s boot and then rapidly into the net.

When the penalty was awarded – right at the extreme corner of the box, a penalty for a foul there is a bit ridiculous really but those are the rules – when Steven McDougall beat his man almost on the bye-line and fell over the trailing leg (he didn’t dive, he couldn’t avoid the outstretched leg and fell as a result) I remarked to Simon Barrow, “We don’t have a good penalty record here.” (I’ve seen too many games.) Simon predicted where it would go though, Scott Agnew unerring from the spot.

The second half was ridiculous.

We must have had about 7 chances to add to the score, Agnew, twice, Garry Fleming, Steven McDougall, substitute Brian Prunty twice – he may have been trying too hard as he didn’t start the game – and Mark Gilhaney all not scoring from good opportunities. To be fair their keeper had three good saves in that lot.

As is the way (as is the Dumbarton way) the last minute or two – where did the added time come from? – were made more nervous for the fans by their second, which came just after the substitution of Alan Lithgow by James Creaney meant a reshuffle in the defence.

The final whistle saw mutual congratulations between the players and fans. A remarkable season will end happily.

I’ll bask in it for now, knowing that I don’t have to face next Saturday with trepidation. Crucial last day games are always the worst.

But next season may be harder. There is likely to be one fewer part-time team in Div 1.

Hamilton Academical 2-1 Dumbarton

SFL Div 1, New Douglas Park, 2/4/13

So. Honours even over the two games.

This was a game we could have won though. After some Hamilton pressure (and Paul McGinn going off with a hamstring injury) we scored with our first effort on goal. Their keeper came out for Scott Agnew’s cross, stopped, and Jim Lister’s header looped up, taking an age to drop into the net.

Thereafter Hamilton had most of the first half but we also played some neat stuff and should have extended the lead. Brian Prunty – strangely out of sorts (possibly carrying an injury?) – scuffed one right in front of goal then Scott Agnew put it wide when it looked easier to hit the target. Despite Hamilton’s possession Stephen Grindlay had only to make one save in the first half.

Second half we had two earlyish chances, Prunty’s header saved by the keeper and Mark Gilhaney’s shot beating him but striking a defender. Those missed chances were crucial as Hamilton’s heads might have gone down.

We looked shattered for the the last third, four games in ten days taking their toll. Hamilton dominated. You can’t surrender possession as easily as we did and hope to hold out forever. Stout defending was eventually undone.Shay had two very good saves before the inevitable equaliser which he got a hand to but it diverted only on to the post and in. Their subsequent winner was hotly disputed by the Sons players who claimed it hadn’t crossed the line.

Even then we had a chance to salvage a point. Someone – I don’t know who, the area was crowded – put in a great header and their keeper incredibly clawed it up and over the bar.

The game in hand over Cowdenbeath is now gone. But when was the last time we were as high as 19th in Scottish football – as we were before the game? (1986-87, as it happens.)

This must also be the first time a manager has lost his job just after his team has beaten us.

Dumbarton 4-2 Raith Rovers

SFL Div 1, The Rock, 27/3/13.

Another come back.

Another four goals, three for Jim Lister.

And at last another home win.

The giddy heights of eighth place.

I “watched” this on the BBC sport page and the Twitter feed on the club website. (At 2-0 down I switched off for a while. And again at 2-2.)

This result means we’ve now beaten every team in the Division, not bad going for a promoted side. Mind you, there are four bites at each cherry.

Hamilton on Saturday – and Tuesday!

Right now I’d take a win and a loss. Two draws would be one point too few.

Dunfermline Athletic 3-4 Dumbarton

SFL Div 1, East End Park, 23/3/13


The scale of this result can be measured by the fact that Dunfermline had won their last 12 games against us and we hadn’t won at East End Park since 1986.

1-0 down at halftime I couldn’t see it coming. We weren’t 2-0 down long enough for me to be too despondent but at 3-1….?

Fortunately Chris Turner hit an absolute belter to make it 3-2 almost straight afterward and that sowed seeds of doubt in the home team.

We actually had a good first ten minutes but fell out of it for the rest of the half apart from Chris Turner having an effort chalked off for offside. I was in line and he looked OK to me. Not the last time the linesman was to be derided.

Their first goal came from when Nick Phinn was pushed off the ball in our half and they ran up and scored. Stephen Grindlay seemed to be beaten very easily.

Their second was dreadful defending. Their forward went through about three half-arsed tackles before hitting it in the corner.

Two minutes later a great passing move saw the ball hit across goal by Paul McGinn and Steven McDougall was free just beyond the back post to score our first against Dunfermline this season.

This was immediately after Jim Lister had come on for Nick Phinn. He made a difference. The home centre backs knew they were in a game then.

Their third was a joke. The through ball that led to it saw two Dunfermline players offside both of whom subsequently touched it, one playing it forward to another while both were well beyond the defenders. The linesman’s flag stayed resolutely down. He made gestures to suggest a defender was playing them on on the far side. Utter rubbish. The rest of the match was filled with Dumbarton fans shouting at him and raising ironic cheers when he finally did flag someone offside. (It’s what we pay our money for.)

The equaliser came from a defender dwelling on the ball and Jim Lister chasing him down, he then picked out Scott Agnew with a cut back, not the more obvious ball across the box. Aggie finished cleverly back the way it had come. Dreamland.

It then got better.

Our fourth was another intricate passing move finished off by Steven McDougall, calmness personified in the box, beating his man before slotting it past Paul Gallacher.

Dunfermline pressed for the few minutes remaining but we always managed to get bodies in the way or tackles in.

Up to today we had only 4 points out of the last 21 and the Murray magic seemed to have gone. Now it’s 7 out of the last 24. Even with Dunfermline’s troubles this must give the lads great confidence.

Games come thick and fast now, starting at home on Wednesday, then two in a row at Hamilton.

Edited to add:- Chris Turner was lucky to stay on the field after his deliberate hack at Josh Falkingham. I know Falkingham’s an annoying wee so-and-so but serious foul play is serious foul play no matter who it’s committed against.

Raith Rovers 3-2 Dumbarton

SFL Div 1, Stark’s Park, 16/2/13

An opportunity missed here, as we really should have got something from this game. Still, we were fielding a makeshift defence, including a 17-year old loanee at centre back.

The pitch was in a dreadful state, being heavily sanded, which affected the play at times but that was the same for both teams.

This was my first look at the Ian Murray galvanised team and we played some good stuff, knocked the ball about well – notwithstanding the pitch – and created good opportunities.

We were the better side in the first half and ought to have gone one up when debutant Nick Phinn delayed too long over a rebound and allowed the keeper to get into position to block his effort. Brian Prunty also blazed one over when he hurried his shot.

They scored when a man down as their defender had to go off to get a head wound bandaged up – bizarrely Jim Lister, also injured in the same incident, was not allowed by the referee to come back onto the pitch long after he was able to do so – our defence was drawn towards the ball and the back post was unguarded. Apart from that they had only one effort on target well saved by Stephen Grindlay.

Big Jim might have had a penalty if he’d gone down after the keeper caught him but he stayed on his feet, at the same time being forced wide, and the chance evaporated.

Prunty’s next effort was more measured. After receiving a great pass from Jim Lister he rifled it in off the post with almost the last kick of the half.

The second half was evens for a while. They scored again with a drive from the edge of the box, before Prunty equalised once more with a fine conversion after an assist from the bandaged centre back.

Raith had more of the last quarter but the killer goal was so late there was no coming back.

17 year old debutant Stuart Urquhart was not as raw as he might have been. Nick Phinn also had a reasonable debut (but should have scored.)

Earlier in the season with a makeshift team we’d have been pummelled. This felt like – it was – a point dropped.

Dunfermline Athletic 4-0 Dumbarton

SFL Div 1, East End Park, 24/11/12

I was going to say no complaints, but…. see below.

I was going to say the better team won but… the faster, stronger, fitter team won. Does that make them better? I suppose it does. They were in the Premier last season after all and we were in Div 2.

We were okay for a while; even forcing their keeper to make more saves than Stephen Grindlay had up till their first goal. I was in line and thought Josh Falkingham was offside but he was also totally unmarked. The game was then effectively all over.

I shouldn’t have said to GordyBrow when the teams were announced that they hadn’t given Josh Falkingham’s full name. He replied, “I suppose that’s ‘diver’ followed by something rude.” I said, “Yes.”

The second goal was a joke. James Creaney failed to cut out a ball to the winger and then the cross wasn’t collected by Grindlay – he’s always been terrible for spilling low crosses – and came off Andy Graham’s leg to screw towards the line. He just failed to clear it before it crossed. Exactly the sort of thing that happens to you when you’re way adrift at the bottom of the league.

So here’s the complaint. In the second half I’d thought it was Falkingham who ran through one on one with Stephen Grindlay, pushed the ball past him and fell down. From where I was it certainly looked a dive. Falkingham is famous for it. It turns out it was Joe Cardle who couldn’t stay on his feet. Whoever, the ref gave the penalty and showed Grindlay a red card to boot. Down to ten men and a penalty to come…

I say again; when a penalty is given, in what sense has a goal scoring opportunity been prevented? A penalty and a red card and a goal is a triple punishment. Too many times does something like this spoil a game. It didn’t affect the outcome here, Dunfermline were always going to win, but often it can.

Jim Lister was withdrawn to allow Jamie Ewings to face the pen which he almost got to. 3-0 down with ten men against the joint league leaders was only going to end one way.

Curiously we played better after that. Onebrow opined Dunfermline had stopped playing. But we were left cruelly exposed whenever we sallied upfield.

Their fourth was a peach. Due to the man shortage Joe Cardle was one on one on Nicky Devlin with no extra cover, duly took it past him and curled a beauty behind Jamie Ewings into the corner.

It seems we don’t have the personnel to compete effectively against the better teams in this division. (And the not so good teams too?) There was a litany of weak challenges, hurried touches, misplaced passes and stretched interceptions. The players appear shorn of confidence, not wanting to take time on the ball. Chris Turner was an exception to this last, as was Steven McDougall when he came on (but like at Cowdenbeath he carried it too far and was crowded out.)

Ian Murray’s got a big job on.

Cowdenbeath 0-1 Dumbarton

SFL Div 1, Central Park, 10/11/12

Yes, you did read the post’s title correctly.

It’s a win in Div 1. And at Cowdenbeath, where we haven’t won in a long time. (In the cup in 2004, but the last league win there was in 2000.)

Plus the other novelty of a clean sheet.

Into the bargain we could afford to miss a penalty. (Their keeper was given their man of the match award presumably for the penalty save as he didn’t actually have that much to do. Neither did Jamie Ewings in our goal; apart from free-kicks – at least two of which he dealt with brilliantly.)

We were worth it too. The players worked for each other, pressed the ball and gave Cowden little opportunity to create.

Not that we made many chances ourselves even though we dominated the first half. We had something like five corners one after the other at one point and hadn’t scored so I was thinking it wasn’t going to be our day but then a great move down the left saw the ball crossed over. It had seemed to miss everybody but up popped Mark Gilhaney to hit it first time sweetly into the far corner.

The second half was nerve-wracking simply because of the situation but Cowden were not allowed a clear chance.

Maybe it was actually a good thing that the penalty was missed (as were the two follow-up efforts) since that meant the lads couldn’t relax even subliminally.

The ref was okay until midway through the second half when suddenly Cowden got the benefit of every decision going including a ridiculous dive from Cowden player-manager Colin Cameron.

I had joked to Onebrow on the way to the game that it wasn’t unknown for cobbled-together back fours to keep a clean sheet but I never seriously expected that to happen today.

I know Steven McDougall provided the cross for the goal but he had a strange one in general. He ought to be capable of more but too often dribbled his way up a blind alley. His replacement Mark Lamont seems too light for the position he plays. James Creaney had a solid game at left back (but shouldn’t have allowed himself to get booked for back-chat.) Jamie Ewings was commanding in his penalty area and Jim Lister made sure Cowden’s Joe Mbu knew he was in a game. All the players deserve credit for the performance though.

The win monkey is off our back now. I’m not surprised it was in an away game as the fans are very supportive away from home. Can we keep it up at home next week?

Pity Hamilton also won today.

Raith Rovers 2-2 Dumbarton

SFL Div 1, Stark’s Park, 6/10/12.

Football. Bloody Hell!

I was at this one. (Stark’s Park is only a couple of hundred yards from my house.)

I really don’t know where to start.

My son and I approached the ground with some trepidation; after all we’d managed to secure only one point from seven games so far and the Rovers had drawn with the league leaders last week.

We were terribly open in the first half, leaving acres of space for Rovers to exploit a lot down the left hand side. Those critics of James Creaney – who sat this one out on the bench – should maybe think on. Mostly we seemed to be playing 4-5-1 with midfielders coming through to attempt to support Jim Lister when we punted it up to him. On this point it is almost useless to aim at his head; it needs to be his chest, folks. Our play betrayed an unsurprising lack of confidence; overplayed passes, poor first touches, tentative tackles abounded. Rovers seemed able to run through us at will. The transition from our possesion to theirs always seemed to lead to a backs to the wall challenge which we mainly survived. In fact their goal when it came was out of almost nothing but Jamie Ewings – presumably put in to give Stephen Grindlay a rest from picking the ball out of the net so often – might have made a better fist of saving it. Nevertheless he commanded his box well.

We had a couple of efforts on goal. I think it was Phil Johnston that made their keeper make a save and one Scott Agnew effort was almost diverted into goal by Garry Fleming.

Still at half time I had resigned myself to a defeat.

Early in the second half Jamie Ewings made two very good saves to keep us in it. Then a Raith player overstretched in midfield and a good challenge in midfield broke to Jim Lister for him to move in on goal. This is the sort of one-on-one Dumbarton strikers don’t usually convert but “Blister” did. Cue much rejoicing in the Val McDermid Stand.

What a difference a goal makes. Suddenly we were getting the break of the ball, or forcing the break, and starting to take the game to the Rovers.

We didn’t dominate completely as they had a few efforts but weren’t composed enough to punish us. Their second when it arrived was against the run of play. Our defending of the corner was poor, though. Two uncontested headers in the box is shocking.

Kudos to Alan Adamson, though. He brought on striker Brian Prunty and took off central defender Martin McNiff.

Raith then made the mistake of letting us have the ball and we started to use it. We had several half chances and one that looked great when Phil Johnston’s pace and trickery at last had an end product but Blister’s header went wide.

We also had more penetration when Mark Gilhaney came on for Mark Lamont who is too easily brushed off the ball at this level.

There were a few hairy moments at our end as we were pushing up and leaving lots of space but we persevered and a great ball in to Brian Prunty saw him poke it past the keeper. Ecstasy in the Val McDermid Stand.

Still Raith could have won it as they had a one-on-one but Jamie Ewings stood tall and deflected the ball past the post with his foot.

Great mutual acclamation from the fans and players at the final whistle. We’ve doubled our points tally! (Mind you at this rate we’ll end the season on a total of 9 points.)

It says something (I’m not quite sure what) that the match sponsors gave the Man of the Match to their goalkeeper.

The lads should take confidence from this. Twice we came from behind.

We also looked more threatening when we only had three at the back. Something for the manager to ponder there, perhaps. I suspect he’ll go with five in midfield and one up front again next time though.

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