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Juniors

Downfield JFC vs Broughty Athletic
East Region Premier League
FT: 2 (Scott 71 pen; Cox 82) – 3 (Dailly 5, 60; Tweed 30)
Attendance: 70 (est.)
Saturday 3rd September 2011

1. The Clubs

With no senior league football in England or Scotland in the first weekend of September due to international fixtures, the Non League Day campaign was started in 2010 to encourage football fans to take the opportunity to visit a local semi-pro club. Though primarily an English phenomenon, we here at No Train to Brechin see no reason not to take part in Scotland too!

My original choice was to see Scone Thistle, the club based in my childhood home village, but they were not scheduled to play at home and there’s now some question over whether or not the club has gone into abeyance. Instead I opted for Downfield JFC, based a five minute walk from my flat.

Downfield Junior Football Club was formed in 1906, but much more biographic information than that is hard to come by! The Spiders have been reasonably successful in local cup competitions over the years. In recent years the club had been playing in the East Region North Division, emerging as last season’s champions and gaining promotion to the Premier League.

The opposition on the day came from local rivals Broughty Athletic (another derby!), themselves North Division champions in season 2009/10. Though Ferry dwellers may not like it, I’ve decided Broughty Ferry counts as Dundee for the purpose of this blog, so we’ll be visiting them at a later date.

Both sides were going into the game having lost their opening league matches, and both fell at the sword of finalists Lochee United in the recent DJ Laing Cup.

2. The Ground

Downfield Park is not, as it’s name misleadingly suggests, a public park. I never thought that it was, not for one minute. Honest.

The ground is a decent set up, there’s a social club running about half the length of the pitch on one side with cover for standing under, a good sized pigeon stand on the opposite site and “grassy” verges behind each goal. I’m pleased to report there was an additional two-on-one kickabout on the go for the full duration on a bit of grass in the opposite corner to us. Catering is provided from a portakabin near the entrance to the ground, offering a selection of pies, sausage rolls, burgers and soft drinks.

Entry was £5 for an adult, I assume this is standard for a league game. To get there by bus take the no. 22 (Downfield/Craigowl) from the City Centre, get off at the Downfield Hotel and follow the roundabout to the right down Balgowan Avenue. By car the directions are fairly similar, follow the Strathmartine Road beyond the Kingsway up to the Downfield Hotel.

3. The Game

Somewhat amazingly I was actually in the ground prior to kick off, an otherwise unheard of feat in our (admittedly short) history of covering Junior games. This meant that, for once, I saw the opening goal. Broughty’s Graeme Dailly lobbed Downfield keeper Gary Thain from 20-25 yards out. It looked like Thain got his fingertips to the ball, but it wasn’t enought to stop the ball going into the net.

Broughty looked marginally the stronger of the two sides in the opening stages, forcing a good save from Thain and generally hassling the Downfield defence – unfortunately for Broughty, they were regularly caught offside throughout the game.

The visitors scored their second after the half-hour mark when former Hibernian, Stoke, Dundee and Montrose defender Steven Tweed headed home from a corner. Downfield started to come into the game more before the break, putting a shot wide, while Thain managed to save a second lobbed shot.

The second half saw a much stronger performance from Downfield, though they did fall another goal behind on the hour, with Dailly slotting home into an empty net after a neat one-two and only the keeper to beat – the Downfield defence were caught well short.

Downfield’s fortunes started to change when they were were awarded a penalty ten minutes later when Kevin Scott was brought down in the box, the striker sending Broughty keeper Alan Cormack the wrong way to start the fightback.

The home side’s second came when defender Callum Cox fired in from a poorly defended corner during a period of strong pressure from Downfield.

The hosts, however, had the bar to thank when a Broughty shot into an open goal battered off the underside and back out, keeping the scoreline as it finished at 3-2.

While a draw would have been a fair result, Broughty couldn’t be grudged their win. Downfield were ultimately punished for a slow start and some weak defending. That said, they do look like a decent side and should be able to cope at the higher level if they can tighten up collectively at the back. Broughty seemed a well organised side, containing Downfield for much of the first half and showing some threat in front of goal.

For me, Spiders defender Chris McKaig was a standout player in the second half, making tireless runs down the right wing.

4. The Banter

Mike was otherwise engaged so I was joined by our associate correspondent Johnny for his second NTtB outing. Though a smaller crowd than at Lochee Harp, they made up for it by seeming quite a bit more vocal. A contentious second half decision by the ref even provoked a bit of bustle on the touchline from the visiting coaches and fans.

We are delighted to (exclusively?) report that internationally renowned recording artiste Kenny Rogers is a fan of the mighty Spiders, joining the crowd quietly late in the first half.

Good to see a big name out in support of Non League Day, though he’s no Francis Duku.

The only hostility encountered in an otherwise enjoyable visit came from a local Bee that had snuch under my jacket and stung my finger just as the second half kicked off. It’s still sore now. Big thanks to the staff at the food hole who managed not to laugh at me pulling the stinger out.

5. The Verdict

Another entertaining game, with goals for both sides in what was a relatively even match. Downfield Park is a nice little ground in decent shape, and although on the outskirts of the city shouldn’t be too tricky for interested parties to get to. Given that Downfield are my local team I will be looking to get along again in the future.

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All images copyright Michael Lambert, 2011.

Michael Lambert

Downfield JFC website: downfieldjfc.webs.com
Broughty Athletic website: www.sportstation.co.uk/clubs/BroughtyAthletic

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