29 March 2008

Football Stadia Tour 8: Firhill

Between 26th January and 4th March this year one clash appeared on the schedules 4 times that was the Jags from Firhill, Partick Thistle, against the team who were once the Jags from Edinburgh, Livingston, formerly of course Meadowbank Thistle.

The first clash scheduled for Firhill was in the league and was called off, according to an official statement from Partick Thistle, due to one of the staff of the Glasgow Warriors Rugby Club who ground share at Firhill, forgetting to tun on the under soil heating. So on the 2nd February the two teams met at Almondvale in the 5th Round of the Scottish Cup, although it was a 0-0 draw Livingston had the better of the match and were unlucky not to proceed on the day. However, the replay on the 12th is the next stop on this tour of Football Stadia of this fan.

The season in the cup has not been a good one for visiting unfamiliar grounds. In the Challenge Cup we went to Cappielow to face Morton. In the CIS Cup we hosted Ayr before going to Dens Park for a thiller decided after 14 penalties all on target of which 3 were saved. The in the Scottish Cup we'd hosted Alloa Athletic, and Cowdenbeath before another trip to First Division opposition.


Firhill is not in the Partick district of Glasgow but in nearby Maryhill where they moved into Firhill in 1908. it is easily accessed from off the M8 providing neither of the old firm especially Rangers are also playing at home on the same day. However, the coaches do park up a steep hill behind the ground, and as the police were over officious on our trip there for the cup made some of the elderly and disabled members of our coach party walk up the hill to resume their seats after it being pre-arranged that they could be picked up outside the gate after the ground had emptied.

The Ground

Firhill is one of the SPL compliant ground in Division 1 as they played there as recently as 2003-4, before facing the humiliation of two seasons of relegations to end up in Division 2 before we both met up again for the first time since 2004 in Division 1 they as newly promoted we as newly relegated.

The Current capacity of the ground could be as much as 10887. However, the oldest part of the ground the Main Stand which has 2900 seats has not been in use since January 2006 due to the high cost of maintenance and stewarding of this area.

Opposite the Main Stand is the Jackie Husband Stand which can hold 6263. It was built on the site of the old enclosed terracing known as the shed in 1994. And now houses the home support.

The North Stand is the newest part of the Firhill built in 2002 to meet the old SPL criteria of 10000 seats and paid for by selling off land behind it to build student accommodation. This houses the visiting support. Opposite to the south is the now demolished terraces which the club had looked to build into a new stand but which Glasgow City Council never gave permission to be developed.

The Atmosphere

It was a cup tie to both sets of fans were well up for this. Sadly for visiting fans to Firhill the vast majority of their vocal support prefer to sit in the southern end of the Jackie Husband Stand and therefore well away from the visitors. However, there are pockets of home fans who do sit near the north stand and get involved in banter back and forth between the two sets of fans. As this match went to penalties which were taken in front of the North Stand the crowd in Jackie Husband did tend to filter over towards us making the atmosphere at that point of the evening quite intense.

Some of the younger Livi supporters were up for this and were Samba-ing around the stands at times. The noise got very loud especially towards the end of normal time in the extra time that followed.

The Programme

The Jags Programme is produced by the same company as Livi's costs £2.50 and is a full colour glossy paper production. A Cup Tie against Partick does have an added sense of history for Livingston as Partick are the only team to have faced the club in all three of its guises as Ferranti Thistle, Meadowbank Thistle and Livingston, and this was looked into in the programme on the night.

Pie and Bovril

Having been waiting outside the stand for a good 20 minutes before getting into the match many of us headed straight to the concession stands to warm up. There are also hot dogs on sale at £2.50 should you desire. The bovril was lovely and warm and a welcome heater on what was to end up being a long night. Cost Steak Pie £1.90 and Bovril £1.50 total £2.40.


Admission £15 (concessions on this night were £5, but under 16s were allowed in for free for the league fixture a few weeks later and are for the rest of the season)
Programme £2.50
Mince Pie and Bovril £2.40
Total £19.90

League Table of Cost
Morton £17.90
Stirling £18.10
Queen of the South £18.60
Partick Thistle £19.90
Clyde £20.60
Dunfermline £21.50
Dundee £21.60
St. Johnstone £21.90

Match Report

Sadly the match was played on a pitch which could hold up the ball better than having 17 players behind the ball at time. However, having been the better side in the 0-0 draw at Almondvale Livingston started lively and the Jags Northern Irish Under 21 goalkeeper Jonathan Tuffey time and again kept his side in the game making saves from point blank positions. He was finally beaten just before half time by Graham Dorrans.

Dorrans, Robert Snodgrass, Steven Craig all had chances to seal it up for the lucrative tie in the next round. But Tuffey earned himself a deserved man of the match awards between the stick. I counted at least 20 times he came to their rescue.
However, the only other goal came from the head of Partick's Mark Twaddle late in the game re-igniting the Jags support.

Into extra time and Craig James scooped one just over the bar for Livi, but the only Livingston substitution used was Steven Wier on for Snodgrass. The Partick defence looked dead on their feet. We had speed in youngsters Keaghan Jacobs and Leigh Griffiths on the bench. But still be plodded on in what was becoming an almost static game now.

Then the dreaded end of extra time and penalties. First up was Craig James who scored, but that was cancelled out by the first Partick kick. Graham Dorrans who'd been looking tired throughout extra time stepped up hit a well struck penalty to the keeper right post but it was saved, Colin Stewart though was about to do the same for Livi. 1-1 after two each. Liam Fox calmly put Livi's next one away, but so did the Jags. Then Steven Weir makes it 3-2. The Partick lad under pressure misses the target. Livi's regular penalty taker Dave MacKay steps up, we're all hushed but the ball instead of ending up in the net is parried by my mate Laurie stood beside me.

However, it's not over yet as Simon Donnelly has to score Partick's 5th or they are still out. Sadly he does. Experienced head Lee Makel is up next for Livi and makes it 4-3. Rowson then matches that for the Jags. Allan Walker steps up and places it wide beats the keeper but it ricochets off the post. Then Alan Archibald steps up to win it with the last kick of the game for Partick.

Final Score Partick Thistle 1 Livingston 1 (P (Partick: Twaddle 83, Livingston: Dorrans 41)

Next up we have the final away leg of this season's travels when we journey to Hamilton's New Douglas Park.

Previous Stadia Dens Park, East End Park, Cappielow, Broadwood, McDiarmid Park, Palmerstone, Forthbank

23 March 2008

Football Stadia Tour 7: Forthbank

I was amazed to find out who one of the biggest fans of this series on football stadium is. So for her sake I'm determined to get to the end before the end of the fitba season.

So I'm continuing to rattle my memory banks and going back to the game on the 19th January over at Forthbank the home of Sterling Albion.


Forth Bank is on the outskirts of the Stirling on the Eastern side of the city and is on the edge of a retail park. The club moved here from their old ground Annfield which was close to the city centre in 1993. It leads to the old trivia question of which two teams other than Liverpool have been based at An(n)field, answer at the bottom of this post.

The Ground

The capacity of 3808 includes 2508 seats is made up largely of two stands facing each other over the pitch. The West Stand houses the home support, hospitality, changing room and office facilities. The East Stand houses the visiting support, the press and police control room. There are terraces behind the two goals but these are rarely used at present, the south terrace would be used by home support and the north by visitors if the need arose.

The Atmosphere

Sadly Stirling Albion have one of the smallest supports in this league, and even though Livi can manage one of our largest travelling supports for the short hop over to Sterling with them being over the other side of the park the atmosphere is largely lacking.

The Programme

The Forthbank News cost £2. Apart from the outside and centre pages is entirely black and white. However, these are utilised well as inside the front cover is action shots, the centre fold contains more action shots. One of the centre pages is colour advertising but the other is the home team pictures. Inside the back cover is an attempt to get the team line-ups displayed pictorially. However, putting our left back at right back, right back at centre back, and centre back shunted to left back did sure a lack of research into how we'd been lining up when fully fit all season.

Pie and Bovril

At the start of the season there was much fund raising going on to get a new pie oven for the away end at Forthbank. This effort has been greatly appreciated as hot pies are available although a little tinkering with the recipe would be appreciated.

Cost of a pie was £1.10 and it comes served to you on a paper plate. Bovril is £1 in a Styrofoam cup. The case was a little too salty and too floury for my tastes, and there was only a mince pie no steak and gravy available.


Admission £14 (although £10 for concessions makes this an expensive outing for families)
Programme £2
Mince Pie and Bovril £2.10
Total £18.10

League Table of Cost
Morton £17.90
Stirling £18.10
Queen of the South £18.60
Clyde £20.60
Dunfermline £21.50
Dundee £21.60
St. Johnstone £21.90

Match Report

Sterling got off to a sharp start in this game, getting an early free kick which Livi keeper Colin Stewart had to stop. But we'd seemed to settle down when a Eric Paartulu shot took a deflection off Cameron 'Cammy' MacDonald's heel and into the back of Stewart's net.

However, Livingston didn't look dejected having scored 8 goals in their previous two outing and hit two goals within 4 minutes just before half time. Firstly after Colin McMenamin failed to convert a Steven Craig cross, Graham Dorrans connected and a second deflection of the game saw the scores levelled. However, the next goal was a peach being lobbed in from 25 yards out Steven 'Stef' Craig fired it into the top corner giving Binos keeper Scott Christie no chance.

IN the second half Livingston continues to dominate. Graham Dorrans running the Stirling midfield and defences ragged, and right back 'Super' Dave MacKay was at his rampaging best getting forward whenever the opportunity arose. It was one of these runs that led to the third goal, coming from deep he penetrated into the Albion box, and rather than taking a pop himself laid it off for Stef, whose shot was cleared but it fell to an advancing Robert 'Snoddy' Snodgrass who powered it into the net. Craig just slotted a chance from a free kick wide from impossibly close in, but when Christie failed to cut out a Dorran's cross, Snoddy fought off two Stirling defenders with a strong back post finish.

Dorran's later hit the post and Liam Fox also slotted one just wide. But the livi fans left happy with an emphatic win on the road to keep a good run going.

Final Score Stirling Albion 1 Livingston 4 (Stirling: Paartulu 28, Livingston: Dorrans 35, Craig, 39, Snodgrass 58,65)

Effect on the relative teams' positions. Livingston climbed above Morton into 7th place but Stirling remained rooted at the foot of the table in 10th.

Next up should have been a trip to Firhill in the League but we ended up there next anyway with a replay in the cup with an away tie against either Rangers/Hibernian on offer to the winner.

Trivia Answer: The two other teams based at An(n)field were Stirling Albion 1945-1993 and Everton, the original occupants of the Liverpool ground, 1884-1992.

Previous Stadia Dens Park, East End Park, Broadwood, McDiarmid Park, Palmerstone

20 March 2008

Glad it wasn't just me

I try and avoid doing two football related post on the same day, as that isn't the main thrust of my blog, but today I do feel justified in making an exception.

Is this the face of the dirtiest player or just the unluckiest player in Scottish football? The stats for Murray Davidson's first team games makes poor reading. 2 starts, 2 yellow cards, 2 red cards. That is the bear facts. He has also twice received two standing ovations by the visiting supporters, as he has yet to play a home game for the first team, because on both occasions the fans felt that he was harshly treated.

His first game a start was against Dundee. Where he received his first yellow after it appeared that his opponent had stood on the ball. He did appear to talk to the ref so it may have been for dissent rather than the actual non-challenge that this card was given. But having stood in the middle myself you have to learn to give a little slack and let the players air their point providing it is done and dusting very quickly. Otherwise you could end up booking everyone on the park.

The second yellow card offence, allegedly simulation was fortunately captured on camera that night. Yes it was inside the box, yes Murray went over. The Dundee player was the last man. So quite possibly a red card should have been shown, if you look at that second pick you can see the Dundee player is totally shocked at the referee's decision as well. This may well have been the turning point in that game from then for most of the second half we had to make do with only 10 men on the park.

Yesterday, we'd already been questioning a few of the referees decisions but were close to celebrating a point earned, which could so easily have been the full three when yet again, Murray Davidson was shown red. He come on when Steven Craig was unable to carry on early in the second half having gone over while taking a shot late in the first half.

Murray had played a blinder he had gone for every challenge and if he'd not won kept after it to try and win it on the second or third bite of the cherry. The challenge that let to his stats looking so ugly happened in the centre circle both players Murray and Kevin Finlayson for Morton, both were committed and both slid in for the challenge. They'd been having that sort of tussle in the middle tough and fair all the second half. Davidson got up ready to carry on playing looking for the ball and there may have been a foot out from Finlayson which caused the lad to stumble.

However, there was stunned silence when the ref called play back and produced a straight red card. As Murray walked off even the Morton manager Davie Irons consoled him. This was in the 89th minute but a minute later the ref reached again straight for red for another challenge on the half way line, this time for Allan Walker.

It is refereeing like this can can turn the most pleasant of games into a hot bed. The same happened with two quick reds in the first half for us against Airdrie United last year. The ref had to face a full barrage for the second half that day. I in hindsight did feel sorry for the Airdrie fans that day sat 5 seats away from the away support. This time the ref had seconds remaining but our support for our team and wrath for the ref were made clear. There has been talk this week of referees deserving respect from players and fans following the Ashley Cole incident with Chelsea. However, they have to earn it same as anyone else. Sadly this season I've seen too many poor refereeing decisions, too many assistants not fit enough to keep up with play, it makes me wonder how they expect to make decisions that are right.

Davie Iron told the press that he thought both red card decisions were very harsh, and has offered Livingston the video footage of the game to take to the SFA to appeal these decisions.

18 March 2008

Gretna Coming to Almondvale

I'm sure joke writers somewhere are having a field day working out how Gretna's next two home games will boost Livingston's attendance figures now that they are to be played at Almondvale. Personally I'm glad that something is finally being done about Motherwell's Fir Park pitch even if it is a little late to avoid so much fixture conjestion.

So yes the current team in administration in the SPL is now going to be traveling even further to the last SPL to be in administration to play Celtic and Inverness. Cetic were the last SPL side to play a competive senior game at Almondvale putting us out of last season's Scottish cup whereas Inverness Caledonian Thistle are no strangers to Almondvale with 16 previous visits to West Lothian in every league on both teams progression up the leagues.

Gretna are still in business and it looks like my team is helping to ensure that their games can go ahead providing the much needed revenue to carry on at least until the split.

4 March 2008

Scottish Highlights of the Rugby Season???

We're in the depths of the Six Nations Rugby tournament and the Scots would normally be gearing up for this weekend's Calcutta Cup match against the Auld Enemy England in high spirits.

But if the reaction to my getting on the coach to return from the football at Hamilton the last international weekend is anything to go by eyes are meandering elsewhere. For I boldly took off my Livingston top to reveal my Ireland jersey on arriving back at the coach around the 5 p.m. kick off time in the Ireland v Scotland game. Only for the initial comments of derision to turn in to comments I think you'll at least be supporting one winning team today.

So with Scottish sporting hopes so low for this time of year step into the breath one Andy Murray. Yes in the depths of Rugby season and tennis is the saviour of the nations hopes. Yesterday he beat wold number 1 Roger Federer without once facing a break point.

Now admittedly in 2008 half of the tournaments Andy has played he has been knocked out in the first round. However, the other half he has gone on to win. In fact he has tended to alternate these two all year. So Roger should have known he was doomed from the start as in the last tournament Andy played in he was knocked out in Round one.

Of course gentleman Rog is not going to hold sour grapes. Ahem!

OK so he'll criticise the style of the youngsters play which he says hasn't changed since they first met in 2005. But hang on he's beating Roger twice in their last 3 outings, is in the top 10. Yes maybe he runs a player around and waits for the mistakes, but he has youth on his side and no doubt his style will change as he gets older. Is Roger getting worried? Methinks he doth protest a little too much.