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Monthly Archives: August 2011

St Johnstone vs Livingston
Scottish Communities League Cup Round 2
FT: 3 (Wright 13; Sandaza 18, 25) – 0
Attendance: 2,439
Wednesday 24th August 2011

I’m just in from Saints second-round League Cup tie against Livingston, and although not wanting to write a full blog post on the game I thought I’d try to note down some quick thoughts.

Having been to all three home games so far this season, I think this is the most confident I’ve seen Saints in a while. Although you could argue that Livi are “only” a First Division side, I had expected them to present a serious challenge to Saints – they’ve had a great start to the season, scoring 23 goals in six competitive matches, with ex-Saint Kenny Deuchar in particularly fine form. By contrast, until Sunday’s win over Celtic Saints had continued to struggle in front of goal. The poor show in our last home game against Dunfermline hardly gave me confidence that we’d turn over a side that would be well fired up to take an SPL scalp. As you may have guessed, I do rate Livi pretty highly, so despite some nagging fears thought it would be a good game so headed along on my own (for the first time ever!).

Turned out my fears were misplaced – Saints started strong, with Murray Davidson firing over the bar after a matter of minutes, soon followed by an opening goal attributed to Fraser Wright in a goal-mouth scramble. Cillian Sheridan shot just wide in a repeat of his near-miss at Parkhead on Sunday before Fran Sandaza scored his first two Saints goals, the first of which was a screamer from 20 yards, to complete the scoring well before half an hour had passed.

For once, the chances didn’t stop there. Even though I’m delighted with the result, there’s a little part of me that was disappointed it didn’t end up four or five. According to the BBC match report Saints had 6 shots on target and 11 off. I remember Davidson putting another one over the bar then injuring himself in a later collision with the keeper, Jody Morris put a couple of shots in the second half, and in the dying minutes new loan signing Willie Gibson put another just over. A great bit of build up play from Gibson and Sandaza found substitute Marcus Haber in front of the box with a clear chance on goal, however the ball had gone between his legs and his attempt to backheel it in went awry – just one of those things I guess, if he’d pulled it off it would have been a cracker.

To give Livi their due, despite going three down they came back into the game (sense a theme?), made a few chances of their own and saw quite a bit of possession in the second half, though ultimately struggled to make the break through. The Good Doctor himself Kenny Deuchar was taken off at half time, presumably due to an injury, but seemed fairly anonymous while he was on the pitch.

I don’t know if it was just because I’d switched ends at half time and was closer to the moaners so it became more obvious, but Saints did fall back into frustrating spells where they continued to pass the ball back rather than pushing forward when in Livi’s half – there were a couple of occasions on particular where there appeared to be good opportunities to get the ball towards the box that weren’t taken. I’ve read elsewhere (but didn’t spot myself) that McInnes was raging about it.

A really good team performance tonight, with everyone on the park doing themselves proud over the full 90 minutes. Sandaza lived up to a lot of the early promising, showing the imagination that’s maybe been lacking in the final third for a while. Gibson made a strong debut, looking like he could team up well with Sandaza and Sheridan. The defence was solid, Enckelman looks like he’s got his confidence back, Jamie Adams looked like a player that should be on the pitch regularly and Dave Mackay had another great game.

It’s still early days in the season, but the last two games have definitely given me a more positive outlook – I’m now looking forward to Dundee United’s visit on Saturday!

Michael Lambert

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Lochee Harp vs Lochee United
DJ Laing Cup (Group Section)
FT: 2 (Peters 46 pen; Fotheringham 61) – 6 (Grant 15, 21, 50; Gallacher 58, 87; Blackwood 34)
Attendance: 150 (est.)
Saturday 6th August 2011

[PREFACE: I’ve been meaning to write some form of summary of the “structure” of Scottish football and the distinction between Senior, Junior and Amateur levels, but just haven’t had time. I will do at some point, but in the meantime the curious may need to hit Google.]

1. The Clubs

When it came to choosing a fixture for our first foray into Junior football, it has to be said that one stood out over the others in the group stage of the prestigious DJ Laing Cup – the Lochee derby. With the clubs currently sitting two divisions apart in the SJFA East Region (hosts Harp finished 10th in the North Division last season, while Utd finished fifth in the top-tier Super League), the fixture wouldn’t be coming up in the course of the league season.

Lochee Harp FC was formed in 1904 by members of the Irish Catholic community in the Lochee area of Dundee, playing in the Dundee Junior League (champions in their inaugral season, and twenty-time winners between 1904 and 1963!) and subsequently the Tayside Junior League. The Harp were Scottish Junior Cup runners-up in season 1953/54, losing out to Sunnybank FC in front of a crowd of 22,600 at Hampden.

Following a purple patch in the mid 1980’s (two consecutive Tayside Premier Division titles and a couple of cups), silverware has proven harder to come by for the Harp – the club claimed both the Tayside Division One title and the Downfield Cup in 1997/98, but apparently nothing since. The Harp were relegated to the East Region North Division at the end of 2006/07, where they have remained. Historical alumni include Scotland striker Jackie Mudie and 1953 FA Cup Winner (with Blackpool) Ewan Fenton.

We intend to take in a home fixture at Lochee United’s Thomson Park, so will discuss the visitors another day.

2. The Ground

The Harp’s ground Beechwood Park, reported capacity 1,800, is in the North West of the city, located on the edge of Lochee itself and near the Kingsway (West).

As illustrated above, facilities are basic; a small building combining changing rooms, catering concession and pigeon stand on your right upon entry and grassy verges around the pitch for viewing. The peak-roofed building in the background is St Francis Amateur Boxing & Sporting Club. A fairly healthy crowd of (by our estimate) 150 was scattered around the verges. Entry was £5 for adults. The catering was out of my favoured fizzy drink, so can’t comment there.

3. The Game

In what may become a recurring theme, we both missed the start of the game as Mr Lennie managed to get himself lost on the way to the ground by taking a “shortcut” through some kind of dubious industrial estate based “woodland walk”. I headed in first, having just missed United’s first goal, but just in time to see a disallowed goal followed by United’s second, a beautifully taken chip over the keeper that I just didn’t have time to get the camera out for. The run of play was mostly in United’s favour for the rest of the half, with a third goal coming ten minutes before the break. It has to be said, however, that even at that point the Harp kept their heads up and pushed to get back into the game.

Shortly after break Harp pulled one back through a penalty, though within minutes United’s Ross Grant had claimed his hat-trick. A brace from Ross Gallacher completed the scoring for United (one of them trundling in slowly after beating the ‘keeper 20 yards or so out), though Harp did pull another goal back from a poorly defended free kick.

Over the 90 minutes I would say the balance of play was in the favour of United, indeed I’m not surprised that they went on to win their other two group-stage games (4-0 and 4-1) to face Broughty Athletic in the semi-final this week. United didn’t have it all their own way, though; Harp kept at them and had some decent spells in the second half but I don’t recall them making too many chances in front of goal.

Standout player for me was Lochee United’s #21, Ross Browne. Plays in defence, but always keen to push down the right and like Midfielder Ross Grant was involved in a decent chunk of United’s forward play.

4. The Banter

Other than Mike’s poor sense of direction/dubious sense of adventure this was a fairly quiet game, probably to be expected.

5. The Verdict

Certainly an enjoyable game with plenty of goals (something we are a little unaccustomed to at the moment…), though I think it may be useful to see both sides against more closely matched opposition to make any worthwhile comment on their relative strengths. Beechwood Park is basic, but adequate for the task at hand. Given the size and condition of the pigeon stand, however, it may not be the best venue to take in a game in less pleasant weather.

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All images copyright Michael Lambert, 2011.

Michael Lambert

Lochee Harp website: www.locheeharp.co.uk
Lochee United website: www.locheeunited.co.uk

Newburgh Juniors FC vs St Johnstone XI
Pre-Season Friendly
FT: 1-3
Attendance: 100 (est.)
Monday 25th July 2011

1. The Clubs

Newburgh Juniors are my hometown club and the team other than St Johnstone I’ve gone to watch the most. Formed in 1909 as Newburgh West End, they dropped the ‘West End’ suffix in 1935 (possibly because it misleadingly suggests the existence of a discernible west end in the town). They’ve reached the semi-final stage of the Scottish Junior Cup twice, in 1962 and 1971; the former of these cup runs saw 3,960 people cram into East Shore Park to watch the home side defeat Irvine Meadow. Sadly Saints can’t even guarantee crowds of this size these days.

Newburgh’s fortunes have changed of late and the last few seasons have seen them scrape around the lower reaches of the succinctly named Scottish Junior Football Association East Region Central Division. This is the 3rd year in a row that this fixture has made up part of St Johnstone’s pre-season calendar, it’s usually the under 19’s team with the odd recovering-from-injury first-teamer thrown in. Tonight’s line-up is no exception, the appearance of first team fringe player Stevie May the only real surprise.

2. The Ground

East Shore Park is a tidy little village ground with no lack of rustic charm. An enclosure with a handful of benches runs along the East side of the pitch with a similar, but smaller, pigeon stand facing. Behind the north goal sits a clubhouse containing dressing rooms and a small shop with the usual pie and bovril fayre. Next to this is a grassy embankment which offers a beautiful view of the Ochil Hills. All in all an extremely picturesque setting to watch a game in.

Newburgh (entrance)

A dedicated group of local volunteers have been tirelessly working away at refurbishing the ground over the last couple of years and the results are fantastic – so much so that St Johnstone actually approached Newburgh recently with a view to hiring East Shore Park for their under-19 matches. Unfortunately, however, the pitch is narrower than SFA regulations allow. Entry to league and cup matches for season 2011/12 is £3.

3. The Game

We missed the first half hour due to a late finish at work (Michael) and generally poor timekeeping skills (me). The friendly chap on the gate let us in for a pound each because of this which was very nice of him. We arrived to find St Johnstone a goal up, Newburgh boy Stevie May on the score sheet. This lead was doubled shortly before half time when the ‘Burgh defence went to sleep and were punished with a cut back and a tap in. Infuriatingly I haven’t been able to source any team information for this game so all goals bar the first will have to be credited to anonymous scorers.

Newburgh Juniors (1) - St Johnstone XI (3)

Newburgh made some changes at half-time and came out all guns blazing, piling on pressure and generally keeping Saints under the kosh for the opening third. Their efforts were rewarded with a nicely taken goal, a long ball from a half time sub finding its way into the box where an attacker stooped to head neatly into the corner.Unfortunately for the home side they couldn’t find an equaliser and the scoring was completed midway through the half, Saints breaking quickly to put the game to bed. The goal itself was somewhat strange, both an onrushing Saints striker and the Newburgh goalkeeper failing to properly connect with a low through ball which trundled over the line. There wasn’t much in the way of action in the last 10 minutes and the match as a whole can be accurately summed up as standard issue pre-season stuff.

4. The Banter

It was never gonna rival Barcelona v Real Madrid in terms of atmosphere and was a pleasant evening out rather than a thrilling one. Michael getting asked by a boy of about 5 to take his photo with Stevie May and then trying to let the young lad down gently by subtly implying that a bearded man in his late 20’s asking for the contact details of a child might look a bit strange to the casual observer was a highlight! We took in the match with my Dad and my Uncle Ronnie who, although a season ticket holder, was unable to give us much team information owing to the many new faces and trialists that made up the Newburgh squad.

5. The Verdict

Newburgh look like they could be a force to reckoned with this season and were hugely improved from the team I saw competing this fixture in 2009 and 2010. One of the half-time substitutes, a central midfielder, stood out in particular; strong in the tackle and with bags of pace and passing ability he was at the heart of every Newburgh move in the second half. Stevie May was head and shoulders above anyone else on the pitch and his SPL experience last season shows. I wouldn’t be surprised if he becomes a household name, at least in Scotland, over the next 5 years. A couple of other new faces amongst the Saints youngsters looked pretty handy too, a valid reason to be quietly hopeful for the future as a Saints supporter.

Mike Lennie

Newburgh Juniors FC: Facebook | Wikipedia
St Johnstone website: www.perthstjohnstonefc.co.uk