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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.

Stenhousemuir 2-2 Dumbarton

SPFL Tier 3, Ochilview, 29/12/18.

Well this was a mustn’t lose – and we almost lost. Thankfully we didn’t.

On our first half performance it would have been deserved – we created nothing and had only one shot on target, Ross Forbes’s free-kick right on half-time despatched with aplomb and hit so hard the keeper couldn’t keep it out. Their goal was a defensive travesty, a litany of mistakes strating with a poor Stuart Carswell ball out (I’m not blaming him, he’s making a fair fist of centre back duties despite being a midfielder, injury needs must) an atrocious Andy Dowie (lack of) challenge and Chris Smith in goal didn’t cover himself in glory with his effort at saving it.

The start was bizarre. We walked out in Stenny’s away kit – or a Stenny away kit an Argentina clone, blue and white stripes and back shorts. Seems the ref didn’t read our email asking if our red strip would be okay. It’s the second time I’ve seen us in the home team’s away kit. The first was at Bayview (the old Bayview) many, many moons ago.

Second half was a different game – after we let them waltz through our defence to retake the lead. We then totally dominated (apart from the odd break) and had a great chance from a Dom Thomas cross which Kyle Hutton put over. Ryan Thomson had an effort from a rebound blocked.

But the amazing thing was the series of corners from Ross Forbes, one hitting the bar and another the near post with a third flapped at by the keeper. If only we had somebody to attack the ball Forbes’s delivery could be decisive but we lack height just now.

Forbes stepped up again right at the death to fire an even better placed free-kick than his first in off the post. Cue celebrations.

The comments from some Sons fans when we were 2-1 down were less than helpful. I don’t seriously believe the players aren’t trying. The time that brought it to a head was a gamble on where the ball would break that didn’t come off. It might have looked like it but it wasn’t laziness on the player’s part – just a misjudgement. If we’d been going well it would never have raised its head as an issue. But we aren’t going well.

I doubt the January transfer/signing window will change much either.

Stenhousemuir 2-1 Dumbarton

SPFL Tier 3, Ochilview, 1/9/18.

There was a dreadful inevitability about this.

Apart from a few minutes after they equalised – when it looked like the score might be something like six each so fragile did both defences appear – we seemed mostly in control, yet without managing to create clear chances, but not quite secure at the back.

New loanee Jack Aitchison put himself about a bit and had some neat touches, it was his control and pass that set up Iain Russell for the cross which Rory Loy flicked on for Bobby Barr to score, but I suspect he found the game an eye-opener – not least in not getting free-kicks against adult defenders who disguise the foul well. Also new at centre-half Scott Allardice seemed nervy at times while midfielder Brad Spencer could be careless with his passing.

That equaliser posed several questions as to positioning, both of the defence and goalkeeper Grant Adam, whose tendency to flap at balls in the air and to slice right-footed clearances thankfully wasn’t too prominent in this game. He doesn’t get much depth on his kicks though.

Edited to add:- I’d forgotten the great pass Aitchison laid across the box for Bobby Barr in the second half. Unfortunately Barr pulled it just wide.

The real game changer was the substitution of Ryan Thomson by Ross Forbes. Okay manager Stevie Aitken did it to try to win the game and Forbes made two great passes and had a shot on goal within minutes of coming on but while Thomson hadn’t looked entirely comfortable and was on a booking he made a fair fist of right back but Spencer looked like he’d never played there in his life. Twice he was got at and we survived the resultant cross. Not the third time.

And so after five games we sit second from bottom and only off the bottom spot by goal difference. The four teams we’ve not yet faced are above us – in some cases considerably.

I do hope that once the injuries clear up things will improve but at the moment it’s looking like the last time we dropped down into Tier 3.

A straight fall into Tier 4 (which was followed by total rock bottom of that division the next season.)

This time around there isn’t the safety net of no relegation out of there.

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.

Postponed Game

I see Dumbarton’s away game against Hamilton Accies postponed (again) on Tuesday night has been rescheduled for 2nd April.

This is only four days after we are due to play Hamilton Accies – away!

I know we had two games in a row against Livingston earlier this year (2/02/13 and 9/02/13) but they were a week apart and at least one of them was at home.

I remember this sort of thing happening a few years ago in Div 3 vs Stenhousemuir (13/3/2007 and 17/3/2007, a 1-1 at home and 1-5 away where Stenhousemuir scored all eight of the goals) and a year later also vs Stenhousemuir (18/3/08 and 22/3/08, 1-0 at home, 1-1 away.)

This is what comes of playing other teams four times a season and postponements catching up with you.

To be fair we now have matches every midweek up till the new date.

I suppose Hamilton will have too.

The players are going to be knackered.

Cowdenbeath 4-1 Dumbarton

SFL Div 2, Central Park, Cowdenbeath, 24/3/12.

We were well beaten. Cowdenbeath may not be the best footballing team I have seen this season – Arbroath remain that – but they are probably the most effective. None of our players got a moment’s peace. Their players’ willingness to chase, harry and press, their eagerness to get to the ball, was an object lesson. This is how to deny the opposition the opportunity to play.

Add to that our continuing inability to defend set pieces and, in this game, to clear our lines or even simply pass the ball and it was a recipe for heavy defeat. Kevin Nicoll had a terrible game in midfield – absolutely awful – and I lost count of the number of times two of our players went for the same ball or one hit it against another and so lost possession. And having two smallish strikers up against tall defenders isn’t perhaps the best recipe for success.

We started brightly enough – without ever threatening their goal – but the signs at Cowden corners were there from early on. And so it came to pass that from one of those, Stephen Grindlay let the ball through him for the second game in a row. Their second came after we had again failed to clear the ball and it broke to the guy who had an easy chance.

Then, a minor miracle. Against the run of play and out of nothing Craig Dargo eventually made the most of a Joe Mbu mistake to score his first for Sons across the goalkeeper. It seemd to take an age to hit the net.

Faint hopes of a comeback were extinguished when Mbu was left unmarked from a free kick.

I was going to say we dominated the second half but that would only be true of possession. We threatened about twice and the keeper saved them both. At least we competed a bit better and started trying to stretch them wide.

Their fourth was a direct result of our (ridiculously late) double substitution as Cowden exploited the space left by Ryan Finnie’s removal to surge down the left and whip in a cross.

They should have got a fifth a minute later but somehow their forward hit it into Grindlay from 5 yards out.

After our straight losses to Cowden and Arbroath two weeks ago I had feared that after this one we’d be level with Stenny, but they lost today too.

Still four points ahead of fourth (with a negative goal difference!) but E Fife are coming up on the rails.

Ochilview Park, Stenhousemuir.

The access is up a small street which also houses the entrance to the now sadly defunct (again) McCowans Highland Toffee factory.

Ochilview Park, Stenhousemuir, Entrance

This is the “away” end. Every time I’ve been in there since it got covered over by a canopy the Sons have lost the game.

Ochilview Park, Stenhousemuir, Away Supporters Enclosure

I go to the main stand now. It’s called the “Norway” Stand for some reason I forget.

Ochilview Park, Stenhousemuir, Stand

The view from the stand is below. There used to be a stand like the one opposite the pavilion stand at Boghead over there but it’s been gone quite a while now. There’s a cricket pitch in the distance believe it or not. The town of Stenhousemuir boasts both a football and a cricket club.

Ochilview Park, Stenhousemuir, Far side from stand

A couple more photos of the ground are on my flickr.

Stenhousemuir 1-2 Dumbarton

SFL Div 2, Ochilview Park, 11/2/12.

Incident packed – in the first half at least, when Stenny committed collective suicide. The first was when their centre half tackled Pat Walker just outside the box and the ref blew. I was too far away to be sure and when he reached in his pocket I thought he might be booking Pat for diving but it was a red for the defender for “preventing a clear goal-scoring opportunity.” Fair enough, if it was a foul there was no other defender in a position to cover. Stenny’s manager was sent “to the stands” for his complaints here. (He spent the rest of the game running down to the wall surrounding the pitch to relay instructions to his players – and the officials paid not the slightest bit of attention to him. Being sent to the stands at Stenny is clearly not a punishment.)

A few minutes later, in what I thought was an accidental collision of heads the Stenny player fell to the ground hurt. Cue hordes of home players demanding a card for Martin Mcniff apparently believing an elbow had been used. I was directly in line with this and it hadn’t even looked a foul to me! The ref was well placed on the other side and he obviously didn’t see an elbow but as a result of the Stenny protests he showed McNiff a yellow. Former Son Andy Rodgers was booked for his protests and was lucky it wasn’t a red as he kept on complaining way after his yellow.

Stenny have previous in this regard, in the 1-1 game in our last promotion season they got Gary Wilson sent off in similar circumstances.

After that incident Stenny players were throwing themselves to the ground at the slightest pretext obviously hoping to even things up card-wise. Sadly the ref fell for more than a few of these efforts. Stenny’s no. 9 could have a great future from the 10 metre board in the swimming pool.

Tony Wallace then had a great chance but side footed it over.

The second act of Stenny madness came when Pat Walker won a corner off a defender who then made his dissent clear by throwing the ball away. There is absolutely no chance that it was a goal kick instead. The defender though, who had already been booked, threw the ball to the ground in disgust. The ref held his arms out wide as he gave the second yellow, followed by red, as if to say, “You haven’t given me a choice.”

The first goal was from a corner when we stopped fannying about with short ones and put in a cross which Alan Lithgow powered in. Not long after, Brian Prunty’s shot took a deflection and went past the keeper.

2-0 at half time and easy street? This is Dumbarton. You should know better.

Stenny made three chances in the second half more or less from nothing each time, two from Andy Rodgers, both well saved by Stephen Grindlay (who seems to have improved on crosses by the way and was otherwise untroubled except by the goal which was a great strike from the substitute – look out for it on Sons TV.)

We had a barrowload of chances and didn’t score any of them. The most prominent was when Prunty had a free header at a virtually open goal but somehow managed to head it back towards the keeper.

This was my first look at loanee Ross Finnie* – some nice touches but wrong decisions at times – and Ally Graham, who didn’t do much. As a result of the sendings-off we didn’t really need a midfield enforcer so it was a good game for Kevin Nicoll to miss through suspension.

But a game we should have put to bed quite easily ended up being a bit of a worry at the end due to the slim margin. And the possibility of improving our goal difference vis-á-vis Stenny was lost.

We’ll need to be sharper on Tuesday night at Forfar.

*Edited to add:- make that Ryan Finnie.

Prepare To Meet Thy Doom?

Take a look at these historical league tables (top four only) which show when Cowdenbeath FC has won the Scottish Second Division.

Scottish League Division Two 1913-14

1 Cowdenbeath P 22 pts 31
2 Albion Rovers P 22 pts 27
3 Dundee Hibernian P 22 pts 26
4 Dunfermline Ath P 22 pts 26

In those days promotion wasn’t automatic so Cowdenbeath were in Division Two the next year. Cowdenbeath were one of three teams on equal points at the top.

Scottish League Division Two 1914-15

1 Leith Athletic P 26 pts 37
2 St Bernards P 26 pts 37
3 Cowdenbeath P 26 pts 37
4 East Stirlingshire P 26 pts 31

A three-way play-off decided the league winners. Cowdenbeath defeated Leith Athletic at East End Park and St. Bernards at Easter Road to take the title.

Scottish League Division Two 1938-39

1 Cowdenbeath P 34 pts 60
2 Alloa Athletic P 34 pts 48
3 East Fife P 34 pts 48
4 Airdrieonians P 34 pts 47

Cowdenbeath’s only other Championship was in Div 3 in 2006. Their other promotions came as runners-up, through play-offs or as a result of another club’s financial problems leading to a readjustment in the leagues.

So does anyone spot something here?

Well, I notice that every time Cowdenbeath have been Champions of a Division 2 in Scotland the UK has been involved in a major (world) war the next September.

Now take a gander at the present position in the SFL Div 2 (as of 7/2/12) :-

1 Cowdenbeath P 20 pts 41
2 Arbroath P 20 pts 39
3 Stenhousemuir P 20 pts 31
4 Dumbarton P 19 pts 28

Gulp!

Come on Arbroath!!! (And the Sons, obviously.)

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