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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.)

Stenhousemuir 3-1 Dumbarton

SFL Div 2, Ochilview Park, 15/10/11.

You may have picked up from my mentioning a pub in Cambridge two posts ago that I’ve been away. As a result of being knackered by the driving I hadn’t intended to go to this one but Onebrow said he would if I would and so I went.

I wish I hadn’t.

I now know what the poor home fans at The Rock have had to suffer. It was the bad Dumbarton that turned up for this one. We were appalling.

Stenhousemuir were much more up for it. Scott Agnew wasn’t given a moment’s peace. Two Stenny players were snapping at his heels every time he got the ball and so he couldn’t make any play. Mark Gilhaney tended to wander infield and lose the ball, Martin McNiff had a dreadful game after a not bad start. James Creaney again looked better with Ross McKinnon in front of him but their third goal came from his side. Pat Walker gets pass marks for effort.

The first goal was offside. I was in line when the pass was played forward, the linesman was ten yards upfield of the back four and couldn’t see the offence. The second, a more or less free header from a corner just before the half-time whistle killed the game.

We did get the ball in the net early in the second half but Pat Walker was given offside (by the same sodding linesman) as being in front of the play when Gilhaney shot. We might have made a game of it if that had counted but I doubt it. Stenhousemuir were better in all departments.

Their third was a totally free header by their centre half when the ball came back in after a corner had not been cleared thoroughly.

Scott Agnew’s late free kick was beautifully placed but not much consolation for a poor afternoon.

I also forgot my camera – which was in any case loaded with pictures from my trip away – so there’ll be no photos of Ochilview from this visit.

Next up, on Tuesday night, we’re at home (no points there yet) against an Albion Rovers side stuffed full of ex-Sons. Even though they’re below us and have scored only eight goals I’m fearing the outcome.

Dumbarton 0-0 Forfar Athletic

SFL Div 2, The Rock, 7/5/11

Well. We’ve had four clean sheets this season in the league and I’ve seen two of them!

This was as much of a non-event as might be expected when nothing rode on it for either side but that’s two points in successive games from teams who had beaten us thrice already. Two points I thought we’d struggle for.

Here’s a typical scene from the game. All twenty outfield players within a space of about twenty by ten yards. Absolutely no width.

Dumbarton 0-0 Forfar Athletic 7/5/11

Dumbarton had the balance of the play but made few chances although the Forfar keeper made two good saves from Pat Walker and Andy Geggan in the second half. Stephen Grindlay barely had a save to make yet Forfar should have gone ahead late on when their forward headed it wide instead of on target.

Was Stephen Grindlay making a bid to be retained here? He actually came for two crosses. Even more astonishingly he caught them both!

In the photo below the players leave the field at the final whistle.

Dumbarton 0-0 Forfar Athletic 7/5/11 game end

So Stenny made safety and Alloa face the play-offs. Interestingly our total of forty points would have seen us relegated or in the play-offs in seven of the seventeen previous seasons where there have been ten teams in Division Two.

Isn’t it bizarre though that Alloa choose now to get rid of Alan Maitland as manager? Either it ought ot have been done months ago (I gather he offered to resign but was turned down) or else they should have waited till after the play-offs. The team is hardly going to be in the best frame of mind for these crucial games. Though if he’d “lost” the dressing room then I suppose there may be an improvement. But they now face an Annan team surely on a high after making the play-offs, and if they get through that they will play a side on a roll. Wierd timing.

Livingston 1-1 Dumbarton

League goals against predictor:- 70

SFL Div 2, Almondvale Stadium, 29/4/11

I didn’t dare to hope for this. A welcome and unexpected away point. And with two important players out too.

However, with Stenny losing it means we’re safe.

In the dark days of September and October I couldn’t conceive we’d be secure with a game to go – or at all in fact.

Congratulations to Alan Adamson and the boys.

It’ll be party time at the Rock next week – and I’ll be there.

Dumbarton 1-2 Ayr United

League goals against predictor:- 80

SFL Div 2, The Rock, 23/4/11

We needed something from this. We won’t get anything from the game at Livingston next Saturday nor from Forfar who’ve also beaten us three times already this season.

It’s too close at the bottom. We’re relying now on Alloa losing twice (or only getting one more point) as Stenny play free-falling Brechin and then Peterhead in their last game. I think they might win both those.

A play-off against a team with a lot of wins behind them in the Third Division looms.

Airdrie United 2-1 Dumbarton

League goals against predictor:- 80

SFL Div 2, Excelsior Stadium, 16/4/11

With thirty minutes of this one to go we were safe, ten points ahead of Stenny with three games left. At the end of it we are far from that happy state; only six points ahead. And our goal difference is worse.

They have Alloa, Brechin and Peterhead to play – one in the top four. We have Ayr, Livingston and Forfar – all in the top four.

We need points somewhere in that lot. Two of theirs are away, though, and the only away win they have was against us.

We find ourselves in the unusual position of wishing the team immediately below us to win on Saturday.

Stenhousemuir 2-2 Dumbarton

League goals against predictor:- 80

SFL Div 2, Ochilview Park, 29/3/11

Two points thrown away. And, more importantly, for Stenny one point gained.

So instead of being seven points ahead of them with six games to go (Stenny have a game in hand) we are only four points in front.

A pretty uneventful first half with Pat Walker’s shot hitting the outside of the post and Jon McShane with an overhead kick attempt. Stenny hit the bar.

A goal out of nowhere early in the second after a good combination down the right from Walker and Gilhaney ended with a cross McShane couldn’t miss. The second was a wickedly whipped in free kick where the defence stood about looking for offside. McShane’s shot was parried by the keeper and three of our players could have had the tap in.

Jon McShane pulled an instinctive save from their keeper before Walker nearly chipped him but the clincher never came.

The second goal or the sending off of the Stenny defender for an exactly similar pair of late challenges on the same player (Walker) was the turning point.

We switched off. A Stenny guy ran almost from the halfway line before anyone challenged him and that was in the box. Penalty. 1-2. McShane was then obstructed in their box a minute or so later but no penalty. It would have been a foul anywhere else on the pitch.

They got inspiration from their goal but their second was very poor defending. Firstly the guy was allowed to cross the ball. Secondly, Stephen Grindlay was rooted to his line when he ought to have claimed it (he never does, though.) Free header from a bloke on the pitch only a few seconds.

This felt like a defeat.

I hope the lads’ heads are up for Saturday.

Our next three games are against those in and around us, our last three are against teams in the top four. If we need anything from those last three games let’s hope the play off positions are already decided.

Brechin City 6-0 Dumbarton

League goals against predictor:- 80

SFL Div 2, Glebe Park, 26/3/11

Whatever Alan Adamson said to the boys at half time it didn’t work. We started it as slowly as the first and lost an equally quick, if not quicker, goal. After that any semblance of defensive organisation disappeared and it was like the early season again.

We were pretty much abject throughout. Only Ryan McStay – who somehow nearly always seems to create space for himself – and Jon McShane get pass marks, the rest looked like they’d never played together.

Brechin were by far the better team and thoroughly deserved the win. But…

They are the most annoying bunch of shameless whingers I’ve ever seen. While the game was still in the balance every time a decision went against them two or three would be in the ref’s face moaning. Ryan McStay’s booking apart* Dumbarton’s players by and large accepted decisions – even the offside goal (well; it looked offside to me) – but maybe that’s why we lost.

*Ryan had gone in to protect Martin McNiff after Brechin’s neddish no 7 had raised his hands to Martin. The Brechin player should have been sent off – and therefore not on the pitch to score their second, which may have been the critical goal as we more or less fell apart then.

Our day was summed up when Andy Geggan wasted our best chance. He lofted the ball over an absolutely open goal.

A lot of Brechin’s goals came from crosses (get your act together Stephen Grindlay) the last two from pinball melées. When there’s pinball in our area there’s only ever one result.

Nevertheless we could (should?) have had three penalties, two for handball in the first half and a third for a blatant push in the last few seconds.

But we deserved nothing from this game.

It’s getting tight at the bottom again. Alan Adamson has a big job getting the boys up for a crucial game at Stenny on Tuesday night. I’m not at all confident.

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