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Season 2016-17 review

Season 2016/17 – A review

We had joy (maybe some) and we watched in rain/snow/sun.  So Terry Jacks almost sang in 1973 and if he had, he would have summed up season 2016-17 for me.  (I’ve no idea where I am going with this either.)

Season 2016-17 started for us at Tynecastle, as Hearts faced Infonet Tallin in a Europa League Qualifying 1st Round, 1st leg tie.

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That first game of the season came on 30 June when everyone is supposed to be on a beach somewhere.  If you wonder why the debate about summer football seems to have dissipated recently, it’s because it is already happening!

The season saw us take in 119 and a half games and see exactly 400 goals.  The half came about when we had watched Whitehill Welfare v Abbey Vale in the South Challenge Cup, then raced to East Peffermill to see the second half of Edinburgh University against Wigtown and Bladenoch in the same competition.  (The solitary goal was scored in the first half.)

We watched 115 different teams and saw games in many competitions, including the Scottish Premiership, Championship League One and Two, the Lowland League, the East Superleague, West Super League Premier, East Premier League, East Region South League, East of Scotland League. We also attended various play-off matches in many of these competitions.

There were several visits to cup ties in many different competitions, including the Scottish Cup, Scottish Junior Cup, East of Scotland Cup, City Cup, King Cup, Lowland League Cup, East of Scotland Qualifying Cup, East of Scotland Shield, Fife & Lothians Cup, South Challenge Cup and King Cup.  Some of these were semi-finals or finals.

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In England, we saw games in the Premier League, Championship and Leagues One and Two, as well as the Northern League Division One.

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We also managed a couple of Europa League qualifiers (and of course pre-season games).

We properly engaged with women’s football in Scotland and attended games in the Scottish Women’s Premier Leagues 1&2 as well as the Scottish Cup and Champions League.

There were many highlights.  East Stirlingshire at Civil Service Strollers in August when the visitors won 8-3, a fantastic Women’s Scottish Cup tie between Hearts Ladies and Hutchison Vale Ladies which Hearts won 4-3 after extra time, the sight of Bayern Munich Ladies in full flow at Easter Road in the Champions League, Haddington Athletic winning on penalties against Shotts Bon Accord after a 3-3 draw in which Haddington were 3 down with 13 minutes left, Oxford United’s 3-2 win at Bury in December, Kirkintilloch Rob Roy’s 4-3 win at Penicuik in the Junior Cup 5th Round, Leith Athletic’s incredible 7-2 win over Tynecastle in the semi-final of the King Cup, Brechin’s play-off final win at Alloa Athletic in an incredible topsy-turvy game which was finally settled on penalties. Tranent’s double cup win, etc etc.

It hasn’t all been about the games though.  There have been several memorable incidents.  These included:

The Thorn Athletic players referring to each other as “big man” or “wee man”, apart from the goalkeeper, who was called “Liam” by them all.

The Spartans v Airdrie pre-season friendly where, with three minutes to half time, a woman behind me asked her companion “Are Spartans in blue?”

The Civil Service Strollers player giving a team mate a hard time for not marking anybody, before having it pointed out that the man he had been marking was in the process of going off after being substituted and his replacement hadn’t come on yet.

Members of the Easthouses Lily team sending texts to other team members saying that the manager had told them to turn up dressed smartly.  This led to them cheering every time a squad member turned up in a shirt and tie.  One player had to “go to Tesco” to get some trousers as he didn’t have any and only had £20 left until payday. 

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Bonnyrigg Rose manager Robbie Horn on the touchline hit by the ball in a very tender area, with players and fans of both teams expressing their concern by pissing themselves laughing.

The East Stirlingshire fans telling a linesman that an offside decision he made had been a guess.  He replied with “Every one is a guess”.

The club official running the line at Dunbar United being asked by his mate behind the barrier what a free kick had been given for, and him replying “Dunno.  I wasnae watching”.  The same person running the line later in the game with his flag in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other.

The tannoy announcer at Ainslie Park for the Leith Athletic v Cumbernauld Colts Scottish Cup game playing music through his phone over the loud speakers at half time, with the crowd suddenly treated to hearing his ringtone for a good 60 seconds as his phone received a call.

Pollok’s Tam Hanlon complaining to the linesman about being given offside.  The flag bearer responded with “You were well off.  You know it and I know it.”  He followed this up by putting his finger to his lips in a ‘shushing’ motion to the Pollok manager on the other side of the pitch who was telling him that was third one he had got wrong.

A Motherwell fan helpfully offered his glasses to the officials in a home game against Celtic.

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The parrot sitting on the bar at Linlithgow Rose and Hearts Ladies captain Megan Paterson being told off by her mum for swearing and being told she wouldn’t get any tea.

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It wasn’t all good of course.  Some of the games were so toe curlingly bad that writing them up seemed impossible.  There were several occasions where at least another half dozen layers of clothes were required.  There were also some disgraceful scenes when pies ran out.

Haddington Athletic had the best pies.  Edinburgh University had the best cakes.

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Some teams have a social media presence and are great at replying.  Others don’t seem to get that interaction is key.  Easthouses Lily Miners Welfare and Penicuik Athletic are two that bend over backwards to help.

Some clubs have started writing up the team names and numbers on a board inside the ground, such as Dunbar United, Whitehill Welfare and Kilwinning Rangers.  The biggest problem I have is trying to get team line-ups and it sometimes proves impossible.

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Programmes are good, although for some, it clearly just isn’t cost effective, but Musselburgh Athletic have the right idea, providing team sheets to all.  Edinburgh University include the programme with admission.

Season 2016-17 was the most games I’ve ever seen in a season.  It was hard going at times and keeping up with writing the games up soon afterwards often became undoable.  Having a job and a life gives little time to do them, particularly with the frequency I often go.

Thanks to all who have visited and welcome to anyone new coming across one of my write-ups.  I try to be objective in every game.  You might not agree with my take on things, but I call it as I see it.  I’m usually a neutral regardless of which end I am in.  It might be you that is biased.

Here’s to season 2017-18.

Featured post

What’s it all about?

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You know that moment when in your team’s biggest game of the season, your lazy but occasionally talented star striker has an opportunity to make or break your entire season if he can just finish this chance?  I think everyone who watches football can relate to that.  (Maybe not the “talented” bit).  These pages will be reports on some of these games.  Who knows, it might be your team’s biggest game of the season.

This will be the home of my reports on the games I attend throughout the football seasons.  The vast majority will be in the Midlothian/Edinburgh area, but I am prone to going further afield than that. Particularly when it gets to the business end of the season.

Season 2015/6 saw me take in 106 matches, which included games in all top four divisions in Scotland, in the English Premier League, League One and League Two, Scottish Cup and League Cup, Play offs, Petrofac Cup, East Superleague, West Super League, Lowland League, Scottish Junior Cup, Scottish Women’s Premier League, Scottish Women’s Cup, East of Scotland Cup, Fife and Lothians Cup, East of Scotland League, East of Scotland League Cup, Anderson Cup, East Region South League, King Cup, Swan Cup and Friendlies and a Testimonial. So something for everyone.  Perhaps.

I will always attempt to call it as I see it, and will try to remain unbiased although this will be more challenging at some games more than others.

Although there can be no promises, I’ll be looking and listening out for the unusual and/or amusing.  Last season’s highlights included:

  • A delay of around 10 minutes at Fauldhouse United, when the match ball went out of the ground and there was no spare;
  • Kelty Hearts striker Callum Smith being frustrated with another ball which sailed over his head and remarking “That’s F*cking jobbies by the way”; and my personal favourite;
  • Hearts Ladies striker Ashley Carse responding to a family member on the touchline who had told her “You’ve got to put those away Ash” – “Right mum.  F*ck’s sake.”

Thanks for looking.

Featured post

Vale of Leithen v Edinburgh University

Tuesday 1 August 2017, 19.15, Victoria Park

The Lowland League game between Vale of Leithen and Edinburgh University.

A first look at Vale of Leithen since April.

There’s been a number of changes to the Vale side since the season’s end.  Andy McQueen, Danny O’Donnell, Keith McLeod and Kevin Motion have all left and Blair Atkinson and Brad Raiker’s loans to the club have ended.

Coming in are goalkeeper Ross Gilpin, striker Jack Hay and defender Euan Saunderson, all from Spartans, midfielder Jon McInally from Hawick Royal Albert, Jordan Finnie from Civil Service Strollers and Niall Docherty, who has returned to Scotland from a football scholarship in America.

Vale finished in 13th place in the 16 team Lowland League last season.

Pre-season saw Vale win against Peebles Rovers, Tollcross Thistle, a Livingston XI and Arniston Rangers and they drew with Haddington Athletic.

They lost their opening league game 2-1 to Stirling University.

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We haven’t seen Edinburgh University since December last year.  They also lost 2-1 on the opening day of their league campaign, going down at home to Cumbernauld Colts.

Uni finished two places above Vale in the league last season, on the same number of points, but with a better goal difference.  They had three trialists in their squad for the game.

A poor back header by Brady in 2 minutes let Connington in on the Vale goal, but Gilpin was out quickly to block with his legs.

There was little else of note in the opening exchanges, as both teams put in lots of effort, but were unable to fashion anything in the way of chances.

It was a bit surprising in 21 minutes when Uni won a free kick about 35 yards from the Vale goal, and Gilpin demanded a two-man wall.

Allan picked up a yellow card in 24 minutes for a late tackle on Uni’s Rawlinson.

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A good run down the right by Vale’s Stewart in 28 minutes saw his deep cross played back to Stewart by Stevens, who had two shots at goal blocked.

In 41 minutes, Finnie played a one-two before shooting at the Uni goal from the edge of the box, but it was too near Tait.

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A pretty uneventful first half.

As the second half kicked off, Vale substitute Jack Hay was warming up behind one of the goals and was heard to shout “Oh no!  I’ve left my hairband!”

Smith crossed into the Vale box from the right in 47 minutes and Verkaik met the ball with a good header, but Gilpin tipped the ball round the post.

A ball forward by Flett in 50 minutes was chested down by Rawlinson, who shot at goal from around 22 yards out, but it was well over the Vale bar.

Imlah was forced to go off for Vale in 51 minutes through injury.

Saunderson was next to go into the book in 52 minutes, and there was a bit of afters with Uni’s Rawlinson.

Hay was about to come on as sub in 60 minutes and Stevens came off, but there was an issue with the number he was wearing, which was different from the one the officials had.  Vale had to play a couple of minutes with ten men until the correct shirt was found.

In 63 minutes Uni’s Daniels-Yeoman was caught late by Allan.  The culprit needed treatment, but the ref waited with card in hand and showed Allan his second yellow and he was off.

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Vale’s Patterson crossed from the left in 74 minutes and Hay headed towards goal.  Tait blocked, but the rebound fell to Docherty, but the keeper was there again.

A fine cross from Brady in 75 minutes was right on the head of Hay who was all alone in the box, but he nodded wide.

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In 77 minutes, Vale’s Lewis played the ball down the right to Stewart.  His cross found the head of Patterson in between two defenders, but he put it wide.

Vale were really starting to create chances after they went down to ten men.

Brady’s ball into the Uni box in 79 minutes saw Condie turn the ball into his own net under pressure from Hay, but offside was given and the goal disallowed.

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Uni’s Smith was booked in 83 minutes for not retreating at a Vale free kick.

Rawlinson passed through to Connington in 84 minutes and he got to the Vale by-line before cutting the ball back for Ness, but it was too far in front of him and despite him sliding to connect with the ball, he couldn’t direct it on target.

Hay was booked for Vale in 85 minutes for dissent.

In 86 minutes McInally curled a Vale free kick into the box and Stewart ran in to head past Tait to put the hosts in front.

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With a minute left the ball broke to Rawlinson in the Vale box, but Gilpin managed to block before he smothered the ball.

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In injury time Vale’s Stewart and Uni’s Sutherland went for a loose ball with Stewart looking to be caught quite badly, but he managed to continue after treatment.

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Full time and an important win for the home side.  Vale really came on strong after going down to ten men in a game that wouldn’t live long in the memory.

Patterson and Docherty were best for Vale, while Daniels-Yeoman put in a good shift in Uni’s midfield.

Full Time: Vale of Leithen 1 Edinburgh University 0

Admission: £6

Vale of Leithen: 1 Ross Gilpin, 2 Euan Saunderson, 3 Ross Brady, 4 Steven Lynch, 5 Alex Imlah (Lewis 51), 6 Niall Docherty (McInally 80), 7 Sean Stewart, 8 Kerr Allan, 9 Shaun Stevens (Hay 62), 10 Jordan Finnie, 11 Tommy Patterson.  Subs: 12 Ainslie Hunter, 14 Robbie Manson, 16 Jon McInally, 15 Jack Hay, 17 Aaron Lewis, 19 Kieron Beveridge.

Edinburgh University: 1 Mark Tait, 2 Mark Gair, 3 Mac Condie. 4 Hamish Flett, 5 Paul Sutherland, 6 Finn Daniels-Yeoman, 7 Max Verkaik, 8 David Smith (T), 9 Tim Rawlinson (T), 10 James Connington, 11 Michael Ness.  Subs: 12 Cameron Moir, 14 Calum McDonald, 21 Connor Barnes (T).

Referee: Craig Ferguson

Programme: None.

Heart of Midlothian v Dunfermline Athletic

Saturday 29 July 2017, 15.00, Tynecastle Park

More action from the Scottish League Cup with the Group B clash between Scottish Premier League Heart of Midlothian and Scottish Championship side Dunfermline Athletic.

It was the first time we’d seen Hearts since February and the team was almost unrecognisable from then.  Tasos Avlonitis, Alex Tziolis, Lennard Sowah, Andraz Struna, Moha Choulay, Dylan Bikey, Callum Paterson, Gavin Reilly, Juwon Oshaniwa and Sam Nicholson have all departed Tynecastle.

New additions are defenders Christophe Berra, who returns to the club from Ipswich Town, Michael Smith from Peterborough United and Rafal Grzelak from Polish side Korona Kielce.  New strikers are Cole Stockton from Tranmere Rovers and Kyle Lafferty from Norwich City, and left back Ashley Smith-Brown is on loan from Manchester City.  Liverpool’s Connor Randall signed on a season long loan the day before the game.

Jamie Walker was left out of the Hearts squad with reports that the manager didn’t feel he had impressed in recent games and in training, following his refusal to sign a new contract and a subsequent bid from Rangers had been turned down.

Manager Ian Cathro was finding himself under a bit of pressure.  A large chunk of Hearts fans were unhappy with his efforts last season after he took over from Robbie Neilson in December 2016 with Hearts in second place in the Premier League.  Hearts finished in fifth, on the back of a win-less run of six matches at the end of the season and the team won just four games in total after the turn of the year.

Their League Cup campaign saw them win by a solitary goal at League Two side Elgin City, then they had a routine 3-0 win at home to East Fife of League One.  A shock defeat at League Two’s Peterhead in the midweek before they faced Dunfermline saw them needing to win the final game to progress.

After attending Dunfermline’s opening game in the group, a 6-0 home win against Elgin City, they drew 0-0 at East Fife (gaining the extra point in the penalty shoot-out) and they beat Peterhead 5-1 at home.

Nicky Clark, who was so impressive in scoring four goals in the win against Elgin was missing through injury.

Tynecastle has proved to be a difficult ground for the Pars.  They last won there in February 1990.

Since we saw Dunfermline, they’d added former Hibs and Rangers striker Dean Shiels to the squad.

Peterhead, who still had a chance of qualifying for the knock-out stage, were facing Elgin City.

With a new main stand currently being built, only three sides of Tynecastle were being used and there were 8,404 in attendance.  Temporary dressing rooms and the players tunnel are in the opposite stand.

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Hearts’ Goncalves required treatment in 3 minutes after twisting his knee when his shot was deflected wide.

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In an even start, both sides were putting crosses into the opposition box, but defences were coping with little difficulty.

Dunfermline broke quickly in 19 minutes after a Hearts attack broke down.  Smith played the ball to McManus on half way, where a strong challenge from Berra took the ball away from him.  It ran to Cardle who played the ball in front of Smith down the right.  Cardle continue his run into the box and Smith picked him out, but his shot lacked power and Hamilton saved.

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Some quick passing by Hearts a minute later saw Goncalves knock the ball onto Cowie, who played a first time pass to Lafferty.  He returned the ball into Cowie’s path and he hit a low shot which Murdoch got fingers to, but couldn’t prevent going into the net to give Hearts the lead.

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The referee foiled Hearts next attack in 24 minutes, blowing up for a foul by Wedderburn when advantage would have better served the home side, with a pass after the whistle putting Cowie through on goal.

The home fans were even angrier in 28 minutes when the ref played advantage for Dunfermline after a Djoum foul on the half way line.  The ball was passed by Paton to Higginbotham who played the ball to the feet of Cardle on the edge of the Hearts box and he produced a great turn to get away from Souttar before curling the ball into the net past the despairing dive of Hamilton for the equaliser.

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Lafferty tried a spectacular volley at the Dunfermline goal in 29 minutes, but it was a few feet over the bar.

Dunfermline came forward again in 31 minutes, with Cardle playing the ball back from near the corner flag to Higginbotham on the corner of the box.  He stepped away from Cowie, but his shot was tame.

In 36 minutes Lafferty received a throw-in inside the Dunfermline box and went down under the challenge of Ashcroft.  He claimed for a penalty, but it would have been very soft if it had been awarded.

Smith did well on the left for Hearts in 39 minutes after exchanging passes with Goncalves.  He put a dangerous ball across goal, but the forwards were well away from getting a touch in the middle.

The ball was worked by Goncalves to Buaben on the edge of the Dunfermline box in 40 minutes, and his drive was pushed away by Murdoch. Cowie’s corner came back to him and his cross was headed towards his own goal by Morris.  Murdoch made a fantastic one handed save to deflect the ball onto the bar.  Djoum tried to get to the rebound but went down under Cardle’s challenge, but a corner, rather than a penalty was awarded.  Cowie’s corner from the other side saw Souttar’s header booted off the line by Cardle.

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All square at the break and very little between the teams.  Both sides had spells of good passing, but neither side had really been on top.  Hearts probably just about shaded the half, but had looked far from convincing.

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Some nice skill by Brandon in 47 minutes inside his own half saw him play the ball to Lafferty.  The striker spun and played the ball down the right for the advancing Brandon.  He played a clever ball into the path of Cowie on the right of the box, but Morris slid in to block his shot.

Neat build up play by Dunfermline in 49 minutes sent Smith away down the left.  He got the better of Souttar and ran into the box.  His cut back wasn’t the best, but Higginbotham managed to get there and tee up McManus, but Berra got there to block the shot.

With the rain lashing down, Higginbotham played a pass up the right wing for Smith to chase in 52 minutes and Souttar slipped as he went to challenge.  Smith played the ball to McManus in the Hearts box who stepped away from Berra and fired low past Hamilton to put the Pars in front.

Wedderburn was booked in 55 minutes for bringing down Goncalves.  Not the Dunfermline midfielder’s first foul.

A Hearts corner taken by Cowie in 57 minutes was met by the right foot of Lafferty, but Murdoch managed to block on the line before the defence cleared.

The Dunfermline fans shouted for a penalty in 71 minutes when Cardle’s cross into the box saw McManus go down with Berra the nearest Hearts player, but nothing was given.

A great ball from Cowie in 79 minutes released Goncalves on the left of the Dunfermline box in space and Stockton was in the middle.  Off balance, Goncalves tried to play the ball first time rather than use the space he had and he connected badly, and the ball ran straight to Murdoch.

That last bit of action saw the home fans streaming for the exits.  With Hearts needing a win to progress and looking very unlikely to get it, they had had enough.

In 85 minutes, a Martin corner saw Murdoch come out of his goal, but he didn’t get a hand to it and Lafferty struck the ball towards the Dunfermline goal.  It was past the keeper, but Wedderburn headed the ball behind.

From the corner on the other side, Martin found McGhee inside the box and he flicked the ball goalwards.  Murdoch was beaten again, but Cardle cleared off the line.

As Hearts were finally starting to put some pressure on, Lochhead was booked for pulling back Brandon.  Martin took the free kick from the right with 87 minutes gone and floated it into the box where the ball took a ricochet and Goncalves was first to react to knock the ball into the net from inside the six-yard box for the equaliser

Hearts continued to force the game and had a number of corners, but couldn’t get a clear chance.  Then, in 92 minutes, Martin struck probably his worst delivery since coming on from a corner and McManus at the front post miskicked as he tried to clear.  The ball came to Stockton with his back to goal and he spun 3 yards out under pressure from Wedderburn, but somehow fired wide of the post.

That was the last chance and Dunfermline held on for the draw they needed and Hearts were out.  Despite the group being decided (Peterhead won, but were unfortunate not to make it through as one of the best runners-up) a penalty shoot-out took place for the extra point.  The vast majority of the Hearts fans had already left.  The first penalty shoot-out ever that meant nothing?

Paton went first for Dunfermline and scored; McGhee was first for Hearts and fired over the bar; Lochhead scored for Dunfermline; Lafferty scored for Hearts; McManus had his penalty saved for Dunfermline; Martin put Hearts next one wide; Wedderburn scored for Dunfermline; Cowie hit his one over and Dunfermline had the extra point.

The remaining Hearts fans in the ground made their feelings known as the away fans celebrated.

Another bad day for Hearts with Brandon and Cowie the two who came out with some credit.  A lot of plusses for the Pars, with Williamson and Paton outstanding.  The strikers didn’t give the Hearts defenders a minute’s peace and the work rate of the whole team was excellent.

Camera problems just after half time meant that there were no second half photographs.

Full Time: Heart of Midlothian 2 Dunfermline Athletic 2 (Dunfermline win 3-1 on penalties.)

Admission: £15

Hearts: 13 Jack Hamilton, 24 Jordan McGhee, 4 John Souttar (Nowak 53), 6 Christophe Berra, 2 Michael Smith, 30 Jamie Brandon, 8 Prince Buaben (Stockton 60), 10 Arnaud Djoum (Martin 74), 15 Don Cowie, 77 Esmael Goncalves, 9 Kyle Lafferty.  Subs: 31 Viktor Noring, 3 Ashley Smith-Brown, 16 Connor Randall, 19 Krystian Nowak, 21 Maulary Martin, 23 Cole Stockton, 25 Rory Currie.

Dunfermline Athletic: 1 Sean Murdoch, 2 Ryan Williamson, 5 Callum Morris, 6 Lee Ashcroft, 3 Lewis Martin, 7 Kallum Higginbotham, 15 Michael Paton, 8 Nate Wedderburn, 11 Joe Cardle (M’Voto 89), 9 Declan McManus, 23 Callum Smith (Lochhead 66).  Subs: 20 Cameron Gill, 4 Jean Yves M’Voto, 13 Aaron Splaine, 14 Jason Talbot, 18 Conner Duthie, 19 Scott Lochhead.

Referee: Craig Thomson

Programme: £3

Follow me on Twitter @blowyfootball

Edinburgh City v Motherwell

Tuesday 25 July 2017, 19.45, Ainslie Park

Scottish League Cup action as Edinburgh City of League Two face Premier League side Motherwell.

A second visit to Ainslie Park already after attending the Spartans v East Fife friendly earlier in July.  With Edinburgh City sharing with Spartans while Meadowbank is being redeveloped, it was the first time we’d seen City as the home team there.

Our second League Cup group stage game and this time it’s in Group F.  Along with Edinburgh City and Motherwell are Berwick Rangers, Morton and Queens Park.

Edinburgh City started their League Cup campaign with a 2-2 draw at home to Berwick Rangers, earning a bonus point for winning the penalty shoot-out, and then they lost 3-0 at Queens Park.  They sat fourth in the five team group.  Motherwell had won 5-1 at Queens Park and 4-0 at home to Morton and sat top of the group with maximum points.

We last saw Edinburgh City in April, when they lost out in the final of the East Of Scotland (City) Cup Final to Lothian Hutchison Vale.  Manager Gary Jardine has presided over a lot of changes in the summer.

The retirements of captain Dougie Gair and defender Joe Mbu were big losses.  The departures don’t end there though, with Neil Martyniuk, Ouzy See, Ian McFarland, Dean Cummings, Andrew Stobie, Ross Guthrie, Serge Makofo, Derek Riordan, Nico Gibson, Mark McConnell and Gordon Donaldson all leaving.

Coming into the club were strikers Ashley Grimes from Southport, Lewis Allan on loan from Hibs and Sauchie Juniors’ Moses Olanrejawu.  In defence, Gareth Rodger from Brechin City, Sean Mackie on loan from Hibs and Berwick Rangers’ David Verlaque have signed up along with full backs Calum Hall, another loanee from Hibs, and Zdravko Karadachki from Scarborough SC in Canada.  Midfielder Craig Thomson has also joined from Kelty Hearts.

It’s a second sighting of Motherwell this season, having taken in their 2-0 win at Stirling Albion in a friendly.

Central defender Cédric Kipré, who played as a trialist in that friendly, has now signed for the club.  Winger Dom Thomas has left.  On the day of the game, Well also signed young striker George Newell following his release from Bolton Wanderers.

With a big crowd expected, we got down to Ainslie Park early.  Edinburgh City had tweeted that the car park would not be available and with the stand being very small, somewhere to park and a seat were seen as priorities.  It was interesting to see that even the Motherwell team bus wasn’t allowed into the car park and the players were forced to get off outside and make their own way in.  Upon arriving at the ground we saw that there were actual turnstiles in place, rather than someone just taking your money at the gate.  The gates didn’t open when they were supposed to however, as they had no change.  After a short delay and a few false starts, we got in.

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It was surprising to see that one side of the ground was cordoned off, perhaps to prevent fans haranguing those in the dug outs, and that the area behind one goal was also inaccessible, beyond the stand.  With nobody allowed to stand in front of the seated area, it was likely to get very busy.  And it did.  Although I have seen many bigger crowds in the ground, that had always been with unfettered access.  The stand became full, and many were crammed in the remaining space.  There also didn’t seem to be enough wheelchair space and in the end, there was at least one partly blocking the stairs.  I had been surprised when the game had not been made all ticket.

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The vast majority in the ground were supporting the away side and it was hard to spot any home fans from where I was.  There were a total of 970 at the game.With just 30 seconds gone, a poor back header by a city defender sent Bowman clean through on goal, but the striker made a poor connection and the ball ran straight to the arms of Antell.

Well were having plenty of the ball in the opening stages, probing for an opening against the well drilled City rearguard.

As supporters continued to arrive, the stewards decided to open the other end behind the goal with 6 minutes of the game played, so for the next couple of minutes I have no idea what happened on the pitch as hundreds trooped past the stand.

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In 9 minutes, MacLean had a shot at the City goal from the edge of the box, but it lacked the power to trouble Antell.

Some good play by Frear on the left in 10 minutes saw him cross into the City box for Fisher, but his header was straight at Antell.

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A minute later and Fisher chased a ball into the box and shot for goal from the left hand side, but the City keeper was there again.

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Harrison was a bit short with a City pass back in 12 minutes, but Antell was out quickly to clear.

Well continued to press and Frear’s cross from the left in 14 minutes was headed onto the top of the net by Fisher.

Frear made room to cross in 20 minutes and found Fisher but under pressure, he couldn’t get power in his shot.

City’s Allan required treatment in 22 minutes before continuing.

Another Well cross from the left, this time by Bowman in 31 minutes, was right on the head of Fisher but he almost missed it completely and glanced the ball well wide.  He may have been put off by a defender jumping in front of him.

In a rare City attack in 34 minutes, Olanrewaju found Laird on the edge of the box.  Rather than shooting himself, he tried a pass inside the box, but it ran behind.

Some good work by Frear down the left for Well in 41 minutes saw him reach the by-line and he headed towards goal before seeing his cross blocked.  The ball came back to him and he struck for goal, but Antell was well placed to take the ball in his arms.

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Just before half time MacLean passed to McMillan on the right.  His cross was perfect for Fisher, but his header again landed on the top of the net, rather than in it.

Still 0-0 at the break and City would have been pleased to get there without conceding.  It had been pretty much one way traffic and only a poor final ball and poor finishing (along with some decent defending) had prevented Motherwell being out of sight.

Well made two changes at the interval to try and get the breakthrough.

Cadden burst down the right for Well in 49 minutes and put the ball across the City six-yard box, but it was inches away from the strikers in the middle.

A Motherwell corner in 54 minutes taken by Cadden saw Kipré throw himself at the ball, but it was just out of reach.

Frear hit a fine strike at the City goal in 56 minutes from the left hand side of the box, but Antell parried well and the defence cleared.

Cadden went down under challenge in the City box in 57 minutes, but it would have been very soft if the referee had given a penalty.

City’s Thomson was booked in 61 minutes for a late tackle on Frear at the half way line.

A cross into the City box in 65 minutes by MacLean found the head of Fisher whose looping header looked to have broken the deadlock, but Antell managed a great fingertip save to turn the ball over the bar when it looked as if it was past him.

More good work by Frear on the left in 68 minutes saw his cross headed spectacularly behind by a City defender.

Two Motherwell fans sat behind us began to debate the merits of a replay, clearly not quite understanding the format of the competition.

City’s Walker showed good composure in his own box in 70 minutes to make some room and then play the ball forward to half way where he found Grimes.  Suddenly, it was one against one as Grimes controlled the ball and faced McManus.  He knocked the ball past the defender and ran towards the Well goal and as Carson came out to meet him, he slipped the ball past the keeper and into the net to give City an unlikely lead.

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In 75 minutes, a Frear cross was flicked on by Fisher and Cadden expertly side footed a volley into the back of the net to give Well a quick equaliser.

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Cadden was causing the City defence real problems and he put another dangerous ball across the face of the goal in 77 minutes, but again, nobody could get a touch.

When Cadden had a poor cross which went behind the goal in 80 minutes, one of the two fans behind claimed that it was due to the window frame of one of the houses behind the goal which was painted white.  Apparently, it was catching his eye as he went to cross the ball.  Certainly the first time we’d heard this.

City’s Allan had to come off through injury in 84 minutes.

With 3 minutes left, City’s Mackie picked up the game’s second booking of the night after a challenge on Cadden, although it hadn’t looked like he had touched him from where I was.

As we reached 90 minutes, Cadden went down the right again and put another low ball into the middle.  Antell dived at the ball, but only got a slight touch, and it fell to the feet of Frear who had the simple task of knocking it into the net to put Well in front.

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As we moved into added time, McHugh saw his low shot at the City goal saved by Antell and smothered at the second attempt.

There was still time for another Well chance, with Frear’s ball into the middle coming to Fisher who had time to position himself to hit it with his side foot, but he put it wide.

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Full time in a game which Well had dominated from start to finish, but only a late goal prevented them from dropping points.  Just as City started to dream after the opening goal, Well grabbed a leveller and they looked a better side when they added reinforcements at half time.

Antell had a good game in the City goal and handled the ball well, but would have been disappointed with his part in the winner.  Although there weren’t really any saves that produced the remarkable, other than the one he tipped over, he kept his goal well.  Some admirable defending gave them a chance in the game.

For Well Frear and Cadden (when he came on) were the stand outs, with their wing play not met with similar skill from team mates, with Fisher in particular wasteful in front of goal.

On the balance of play, it would have been a travesty if Motherwell hadn’t won, but I couldn’t help feeling sorry for the hosts after their battling performance.

Full Time: Edinburgh City 1 Motherwell 2

Admission: £12

Edinburgh City: 1 Calum Antell, 2 Jordan Caddow, 23 David Verlaque, 4 Shaun Harrison, 26 Sean Mackie, 5 Josh Walker, 6 Marc Laird, 7 Craig Thompson, 11 Ashley Grimes (Glackin 71), 27 Lewis Allan (Beattie 84), 16 Moses Olanrewaju (McClung 58). Subs: 10 Craig Beattie, 17 Reece Glackin, 18 Matthew Downie, 19 Michael Barfoot, 20 Fraser Morton, 24 Kyle McClung.

Motherwell: 1 Trevor Carson, 25 Jack McMillan, 21 Cédric Kipré, 6 Stephen McManus, 18 Charles Dunne, 26 Ross MacLean (Cadden 46), 8 Carl McHugh, 15 Andrew Rose (Bigirimana 71), 11 Elliot Frear, 17 Alex Fisher, 12 Ryan Bowman (Tanner 46). Subs: 2 Richard Tait, 5 Gael Bigirimana, 7 Chris Cadden, 13 Russell Griffiths, 22 Allan Campbell, 24 George Newell, 27 Craig Tanner.

Referee: Gavin Duncan

Programme: £2

Whitehill Welfare v Heaton Stannington

Saturday 22 July 2017, 15.00, Ferguson Park

The friendlies continue with Whitehill Welfare of the Lowland League against Heaton Stannington of the Northern League Division Two.

It’s a quick return to Ferguson Park after being there for Welfare’s friendly with Penicuik Athletic four days earlier.  The traditional Scottish summer weather had us changing our plans to a ground where we would be under cover.

Heatington Stannington were established in 1910, although there was a team of the same name in existence before that, who folded in 1904.  Initially playing friendly matches, they joined the Tyneside Minor League in 1913.  The following season they joined the Northern Amateur League Division Two and following the war, gained promotion to Division One where they won the title in 1937.  After moving to the Tyneside league they were runners-up in 1939 and were then elected to the Northern League.

The Northern League was founded in 1889, the second oldest surviving league in the world.  Division One is the ninth tier of the English Football League system.

The second world war interrupted their progress after one season and when the league resumed in 1945, ‘The Stan’ had 5 consecutive bottom three finishes, and resigned at the end of the 1951-52 season and joined the Northern Alliance.  They stayed there until 1956.

They continued to move around the leagues with spells in the Northern Amateur League again, the North Eastern League, the Northern Combination, the Wearside League, the Tyneside Amateur League, back once again to the Northern Amateur League then back to the Northern Alliance in 1986.

When the Alliance restructured in 1988, they became members of the Premier Division and were there until relegation to Division One in 1995-96.  Three years later they went back to the Premier, but 2000-01 saw them go down again.  When they returned to the Premier in 2003-04 they were better equipped and after winning the Premier title in 2012 and 2013 (the highest level trophies they had won), they were promoted again, to Division Two of the Northern League.

An eighth-place finish in 2014-15 and ninth in 2015-16 consolidated their place in the 22 team league and last season saw them finish fourth, one place off promotion.

The club name originates from its links with the Stannington Avenue area of Heaton in Newcastle.

They have signed midfielder Salihu Portella and former Newcastle United youth player Adam Laidler who is a left back, for the season ahead.

The Stan are starting to make a habit of a pre-season friendlies in Scotland.  This is the third year in a row they have made the trip north from Newcastle for a game, with Selkirk and Dalbeattie Star their previous opponents.

We saw four sides from the Northern League Division One last season, namely Morpeth Town, Newcastle Benfield, South Shields and Chester-le-street Town, and they were of a good standard.

Around 90 showed up on a filthy day.

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Stan won a corner in the first minute and Welfare in the second, but neither produced anything.

A quick break by Welfare in 4 minutes with Hunter finding Gormley on the right side of the box.  He squared it to Kerr, but he couldn’t get his shot on target.

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A long range effort by Welfare’s number 6 in the fifth minute was spilled by Maughan, and Carter was quick to seize upon the rebound but off balance, he shot wide.

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Welfare failed to clear a ball into their box in 8 minutes and it eventually fell to Yates, but his half volley was off target.

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Yates received the ball as Stan came forward in 11 minutes and played a perfect pass into the path of Robinson who slotted past the Welfare keeper to give the visitors the lead.

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Good play by Hunter on the right for Welfare in 13 minutes saw him pass through for Kerr who ran on, but fired wide.

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Jones passed through the Welfare defence in 14 minutes looking for Robinson, but the keeper was out quickly to smother.

Laidler went through the back of Welfare’s Hunter in 15 minutes then moments later had a full blooded challenge on Dodds.  It was certainly a competitive friendly.

As Stan came forward in 19 minutes, Robinson played the ball back from the by-line to Holland, but his cross was well taken by the keeper.

Hunter picked out McPartlin on the edge of the Stan box in 25 minutes, but his shot was too high.

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Stan’s Dodds went down with an injury in his own box in 27 minutes and had to come off.

Three minutes later and Welfare’s Carter also limped off, along with a limping physio.

A pass back by Wright in 31 minutes was anticipated by Yates, but he didn’t get a good touch on the ball and it ran through to the Welfare keeper.

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Welfare floated a free kick into the box in 33 minutes which was cleared away.  Dodds ran onto the ball and hit a first time strike at the Stan goal which was narrowly over the bar.

A low curling shot from the edge of the Stan box by McPartlin was pushed away by Maughan in 36 minutes.  The ball was played back to Gormley but he shot well over, although the referee said it had taken a nick off a defender.  The corner was cleared but put back in the box by Wright for Kerr, who shot wide.

Robinson set up Jones on the edge of the Welfare box in 38 minutes, but his shot with the outside of the foot was well wide.

Two minutes from the break Gormley passed from the left for Kerr, but Maughan was well placed to save his effort.

Just before half time a mistake by Gordon gave Robinson a chance for Stan, but the keeper was out quickly to clear.

A pretty even first half with Welfare probably having more possession, but it was the travelling team who led.

Welfare made six changes at the break.

The home side won a corner in 48 minutes and number 12’s delivery found number 16, but his header was just wide.

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A fine ball by Welfare’s Mitchell in 51 minutes looked to find Swanson in the box, but Holland managed to get a touch to divert the ball away.

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Robinson had a great chance for Stan in 53 minutes, but his shot was too close to the keeper who was able to block with both hands.

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A great tackle by James on Welfare’s Mitchell deep in the Stan box prevented the striker getting a shot away in 56 minutes.

Swanson put a free kick into the Stan box in 61 minutes and it was met by the head of Kidd, but it was straight at Maughan.

A quick break by Stan in 63 minutes saw Robinson through on goal, but he shot wide.

Chapman launched a Stan free kick in 66 minutes from just inside the Welfare half into the box which sailed towards goal and the keeper had to tip the ball over the bar.

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Despite some pretty heavy tackles, Chapman picked up the game’s first booking in 72 minutes for what looked to be dissent.  As if to emphasise the point, McCarthy had a poor tackle on Welfare’s number 12 two minutes later.

The heavy rain wasn’t conducive to good football and the second half was getting scrappy as the match progressed.

Swanson was brought down about 22 yards from the Stan goal by Holland in 83 minutes.  Swanson took the kick himself and crossed to the back post where Kidd headed across goal and number 16 was first to react, poking the ball home for the equaliser.

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The game was becoming bad tempered and the referee had to have words with Welfare’s Swanson and Stan’s Holland in 84 minutes.

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In 85 minutes, Jardine handled outside his box on the right near the by-line.  Portella crossed into the Welfare box and the ball bobbled around the area before falling for Hoggins who struck the ball low into the net to restore Stan’s lead.

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McCarthy strode forward from midfield in 88 minutes and struck for goal from the edge of the Welfare box.  The keeper made a good save to push the ball away.

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The visitors continued to put pressure on in the remaining minutes following their late goal and ensured Welfare had no chance of another equaliser.

A much improved performance from Welfare from their midweek game and they would have been disappointed not to take at least a draw from the match.  Heaton Stannington showed great commitment and their determination after losing the late equaliser was to be admired.  They certainly didn’t treat the game as a friendly and although some of their tackling was a bit over the top at times, their will to win was clear to see.

Hunter and Mitchell looked best for Welfare, with their number 15 having some success running at defenders.  Wright showed some good touches again despite playing at left back instead of the midfield berth he had on the Tuesday.  The other full back, Dodds, also played in midfield during the week.

For Stan, Robinson looked a handful and Portella showed some good touches, but Jones was the real stand out from either side.

Full Time: Whitehill Welfare 1 Heaton Stannington 2

Admission: £6

Whitehill Welfare: 1 Trialist (Jardine 46), 2 Kerr Dodds, 4 Chris Gordon, 5 Willie Kidd, 3 Jack Wright (Trialist 16 46), 6 Trialist (19 46), 7 Hamish Hunter (Swanson 46), 8 James McPartlin, 11 Robbie Carter (Trialist 12 30), 17 John-Ross Kerr (Mitchell 46), 10 Scott Gormley (Trialist 15 46). Subs: 12 Trialist, 14 Kyle Mitchell, 15 Trialist, 16 Trialist, 17 Scott Lucas, 18 Sonny Swanson, 19 ?, 21 Ross Jardine.

Heaton Stannington: 1 Dan Maughan, 2 Michael Dodds (Watchman 27), 4 Joe Wear, 5 Josh Holland, 3 Will James, 6 Paul Chapman, 8 Lee Johnson (McCarthy 57), 10 Shane Jones (Portella 62), 11 Adam Laidler, 7 Gary Yates (McKenna 55), 9 Dan Robinson (Hoggins 64). Subs: 12 Lawrence McKenna, 13 Richie Hoggins, 14 Matt McCarthy, 15 Jack Watchman, 16 Sal Portella, 17 Gary Dixon.

Referee: Alastair Grieve

Programme: £1.

Follow me on Twitter @blowyfootball

Whitehill Welfare v Penicuik Athletic

Tuesday 18 July 2017, 19.15, Ferguson Park

Midweek friendly action between Whitehill Welfare of the Lowland League and East Super League side Penicuik Athletic.

We last saw Welfare in April when they visited Vale of Leithen in a league game.  There’s been a number of changes at the club since then.

Manager David Bingham departed at the season’s end and former Tranent Juniors manager Gary Small has taken charge.  On the pitch, midlfielders Jack Wright from Newtongrange Star, Scott Lucas from Arniston Rangers, Sonny Swanson from Tynecastle and Robbie Carter from Dalkeith Thistle, versatile James McPartlin from Hawick Royal Albert, who can fill a number of roles, winger Hamish Hunter, also from Hawick, and completing a trio of signings from the Borders club, right back Ryan Stevenson, defenders Gareth Thom and Ryan McKenzie both return to the club from Penicuik Athletic and another defender, Christopher Gordon from Dunbar United, strikers Kyle Mitchell from Cowdenbeath and Mark Smith from Edinburgh United.

Departing are captain Steven Manson, who retired.  Keeper Bryan Young, defenders John Williams and Dale O’Hara, Michael Osborne, Scott Russell, Daryl Healy and Ciaren Chalmers have also left and loanees Jamie Chapman and Charlie Denton have returned to their parent clubs.

Whitehill seem to have started recent seasons with almost an entirely new squad, and Gary Small will be looking to bring some stability to the club.

They finished last season in eighth place in the 16-team league.

So far in pre-season they have played all their games away, beating Peebles Rovers 4-0, drawing 1-1 with Heriot-Watt University and winning 8-0 at Duns.

It was March when we last saw Penicuik, in a home game against Newtongrange Star.

Last season’s fourth place in the East Super League was Penicuik’s best for a long time, but they have lost some big players since the end of the season.  Captain and top scorer Ryan McCallum and club legend Ryan Gay have retired, as has Stephen Noble.  Midfield maestro Neil Janczyck has gone to Tranent Juniors.  These are big shoes to fill, but manager Johnny Harvey has been quick to get some new blood in.

Midfielders Arran Ponton from Haddington Athletic, Sam Jones from Berwick Rangers (who had recently been on loan at the club) and Scott McCrory-Irving from Edinburgh University have all signed up.  Defenders John Williams from Whitehill Welfare, Ryan Baptie from Peterhead and Gary Hamilton from Newtongrange Star, forwards Fraser Eddington from Bo’ness United and Lumbert Kateleza of Arniston Rangers have all joined the club.

Penicuik’s pre-season had seen them win 5-2 at Preston Athletic and lose 1-0 at Edinburgh United.

Both sides were still looking to add numbers and had trialists in their squads.

There were around 120 at the game.

With 3 minutes gone, Wright ran into the Penicuik half from half way and reached the edge of the box, but off balance, shot over the bar.

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Smith claimed for a free kick in 4 minutes after Penicuik’s Hume appeared to pull his shorts down.  (I’ll spare you a picture).

The same player got the better of Hume a minute later and laid the ball off for Dodds, but his shot was weak and was easy for Easton.

Williams played the ball over the top of the Welfare defence in 5 minutes for Penicuik’s number 9 who ran into the box on the left.  As he knocked the ball past the keeper, he was upended by the custodian and the referee awarded a penalty.

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Kateleza stepped up and sent him the wrong way from the spot.

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It was pretty much the first time Penicuik had been in Welfare’s half and they had opened the scoring.

Welfare’s trialist keeper was almost caught out taking too long over a pass back in 7 minutes, with Penicuik’s number 9 getting a foot on his attempted clearance.  The ball ended up with Jones, but his shot was off target.

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A late tackle on Penicuik’s Baptie in 9 minutes brought a shout from the crowd of “That was so late it didn’t have to pay to get into the game”

In 16 minutes, Kateleza worked the ball to the Penicuik number 9, but his low shot was smothered by the keeper.

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Kateleza passed to Connolly on the left a minute later and had the ball played back to him in the box where he appeared to be nudged off the ball, but nothing was given.

Good ball to the back post by Penicuik’s Forbes in 22 minutes came all the way to Baptie on the other side and his ball across was turned behind by Gordon.

The Penicuik substitutes were in danger of tiring themselves out with the intensity of their warm ups.

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Jones burst into the right hand side of Welfare’s box in 26 minutes but saw his effort blocked by the keeper.  From the resultant corner, Baptie’s ball to the back post was met by the head of Penicuik’s number 9 and the ball came off the top of the bar.

Kateleza played the ball to Jones in 28 minutes and he put the ball across the face of the Welfare goal, but the players in the middle couldn’t get a touch.

Some good possession football by Penicuik in 36 minutes resulted in Hamilton lifting the ball into the box where it was headed away by Gordon.  The ball came to the Penicuik number 9 who took a touch before firing into the corner to make it 2-0.

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A good piece of skill by Mitchell in 41 minutes saw him nutmeg Forbes and he was brought down by the defender.

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On the stroke of half time, Kateleza played the ball to Jones on the right.  He played the ball back into the striker in the Welfare box and he quickly despatched it into the corner to make it 3-0 to Penicuik.

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Welfare had started well, but the visitors had controlled most of the first half and had pretty much put the game to bed in the opening 45 minutes.

Welfare made wholesale changes at the break.  Hume moved further forward for Penicuik after Young came on.

A good ball from the left by Baptie in 52 minutes was well turned behind by Welfare’s Murray.

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A mistake by Jones in 56 minutes gave Welfare an opportunity, but Gormley misplaced his pass and the chance was gone.

Baptie showed good control in 59 minutes and he got to the Welfare by-line, but couldn’t pick anyone out in the middle.

A cross into the Welfare box by Montgomery in 61 minutes was headed out by a defender and Jones hit the ball on the volley from the edge of the box and managed to get it out of the ground.

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Forbes’ deep corner in 65 minutes was volleyed back into the middle by Montgomery, but number 9’s header was straight at the Welfare keeper.

A strike at goal by Hume from about 23 yards was inches wide of the Welfare goal in 78 minutes, with the keeper rooted to the spot.

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A quick break by Penicuik in 79 minutes saw number 9 play the ball to Jones, who set up Somerville on the right of the box, but he fired wide.

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A minute later and Carter found Gormley in the Penicuik box, but Easton saved with his feet.

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Straight up the other end again and Lough curled wide of the post when under pressure from Gordon.

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In 83 minutes, Somerville’s cross was fumbled by the Welfare keeper, but he managed to gather the ball.

Williams passed wide to Somerville in 85 minutes and from the right he hammered at goal, but a magnificent save from the Welfare keeper denied him.

Lough got away from Gordon in 87 minutes, but the Welfare defender got back to get a foot to his shot to steer it wide of goal.

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In the 90th minute, Carter strode forward and had a strike from 22 yards that was narrowly wide of the Penicuik goal.

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A convincing win for Penicuik, although the second half was a little disappointing.  Welfare will take a while to gel with all the new signings and a new manager, so it was difficult to judge how their season will go.

Penicuik looked a good side and it will be interesting to see if they can challenge in the Super League this season.

Wright showed some good touches for Welfare and Dodds put himself about in midfield.  For Penicuik, Hume and Hamilton looked very solid at the back and Jones was impressive in midfield.

 

Full Time: Whitehill Welfare 0 Penicuik Athletic 3

 

Admission: £6

 

Whitehill Welfare: 1 Trialist, 2 James McPartlin, 3 Reece Cochrane (T), (Trialist 16 46), 4 Ryan McKenzie (Murray 46), 5 Christopher Gordon, 6 Scott Lucas (Kerr 46), 7 Sonny Swanson (Kidd 46), 8 Kerr Dodds (Hunter 46), 9 Mark Smith (Gormley 46), 10 Jack Wright (Carter 46), 11 Kyle Mitchell (Trialist 20 46). Subs: 12 Scott Gormley, 14 Stephane Murray, 15 John-Ross Kerr, 16 Trialist, 17 Hamish Hunter, 18 Willie Kidd, 19 Robbie Carter, 20 Trialist.

Penicuik Athletic: 1 Conar Easton, 2 Andy Forbes (Trialist 17 69), 3 John Williams, 4 Craig Hume, 5 Gary Hamilton, 6 Sam Jones, 7 Trialist (Somerville 60), 8 Callum Connolly (Young 46), 9 Trialist, 10 Lumbert Kateleza (Lough 60), 11 Ryan Baptie (Montgomery 60). Subs: 12 Darrell Young, 14 Ross Montgomery, 15 Keith Lough, 16 Aaron Somerville, 17 Trialist.

Referee: Duncan Smith

Programme: £1

Dunfermline Athletic v Elgin City

Saturday 15 July 2017, 15.00, East End Park

The Scottish League Cup match between Scottish Championship side Dunfermline Athletic and Scottish League Two’s Elgin City.

Currently known as the Betfred Cup due to sponsorship, the competition had a straight knockout format but became a group and knockout competition from 2016-17.

The new format sees eight groups of five teams play each other once each in a round-robin format.  The forty teams playing in the group stage consist of the 38 league clubs who are not participating in European competition, along with the Highland and Lowland League winners.  In the regionalised group phase, three points are given for a win and one point for a draw. A penalty shoot-out determines a drawn game, with the winning team gaining a bonus point.  There are four groups in the North section, and four in the South section, with three pots for each regional section – top seeds, second seeds, and unseeded clubs.  The eight group winners and four best runners-up progress into the second round, where they are joined by the four clubs participating in UEFA competitions. The tournament then adopts a knockout format. There are no replays, so all matches ending in a draw after 90 minutes are decided by extra time and, if necessary, penalty kicks.  (Pay attention, there will be a quiz at the end.)

Dunfermline and Elgin are in Group B, along with Peterhead, Hearts and East Fife.

We saw Dunfermline 3 times last season, most recently in November 2016, when they played a Fife Derby at home to Raith Rovers.

After the club were put into administration in 2013 and following a points deduction, ‘The Pars’ were relegated to the third tier for the first time since 1986.  After a fans group took over, they were in League One for three years before promotion back to the Championship.  Last season saw them finish in an impressive fifth place in their first season back in the second tier.

A number of players have left Dunfermline since the end of the season, with Rhys McCabe, Andy Geggan, Michael Moffat, captain Callum Fordyce, David Hutton, Ben Richards-Everton, Euan Spark, Lewis Spence, Robbie Crawford, Reece Duncan, Evan Horne and Johnny Galloway all departing for pastures new.  Striker Declan McManus and man mountain defender Jean-Yves M’Voto Owono both joined from relegated neighbours Raith Rovers and former Kilmarnock midfielder Aaron Splaine has also joined the club.

Pre-season hasn’t gone well for them, comprehensively beaten by Partick Thistle, Hibs and Raith Rovers.  The match with Elgin sees their first competitive game of the season.

It’s been a while since we’ve seen Elgin City.

City’s formation came in 1893 with the amalgamation of Elgin Rovers and Vale of Lossie.  They were the third club to be known as Elgin City, with both predecessors falling by the wayside.

They won their first trophy in 1898-99, becoming the first team outside Inverness to win the North of Scotland Cup.  They had to wait until 1924 before winning it for a second time.

Elgin have been Highland League Champions on 15 occasions, most recently in 1992-93, although they were later stripped of the title for bringing forward their final match of the season, so that two players due to serve a suspension could play.

They reached the Scottish Cup quarter final in 1968, the furthest a Highland League team has got in the competition.

Borough Briggs has been their home since 1921, the most northerly football league ground in the UK.

The club gained entry to the Scottish Football League in 2000.

Elgin had their best season since joining the league when they finished fourth in 2011-12 and reached the playoffs, where they lost to Albion Rovers.  Season 2015-16 saw them finish second, but they again lost out in the play-offs.  Last season saw them miss out on the play-offs by a single point.

Manager Jim Weir made a number of signings for the new season, academy goalkeeper Thomas Dear, Albion Rovers striker Calum Ferguson, midfielder Jon Paul McGovern from Clyde, defenders Cammy Eadie and Stephen Bronsky from Falkirk and Annan Athletic respectively and left back Ross McKinnon from BSC Glasgow.

Elgin have beaten Inverness Caley Thistle and lost to Celtic in pre-season.

While we got to the ground in plenty of time after the Hill of Beath game, parking proved an issue.  With only the main stand open, we struggled to find a seat and in our walk along the stand, spotted Hearts assistant manager Austin McPhee videoing the game on his mobile phone.  We eventually procured seats which we quickly discovered were next to the Elgin fans.

There were 1,757 at the game.

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As we settled into our spot, Cardle was brought down about 28 yards from the City goal.  Higginbotham floated the ball into the heart of the box and Clark rose to head into the net to give the Pars the lead.  There were 10 minutes gone.

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In 18 minutes, McManus got to the Elgin by-line, but his cut back was cleared by McHardy.

Higginbotham passed to Williamson on the right for Dunfermline in 21 minutes and he burst past McKinnon before crossing into the box where Clark was unmarked again and headed home his second.

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A clever chip forward up the right by Higginbotham in 23 minutes saw Paton fire the ball into the City box, but the defence managed to get the ball away.

The home side continued to attack on the right and Higginbotham went past Dodd in 25 minutes before putting another good cross into the box, but this time it was just too high for Clark.

Some lovely football by the Pars got Williamson to the by-line in 26 minutes, but his cross was turned behind by McHardy.  Higginbotham’s corner was headed high over the bar by Wedderburn.

A rare foray forward by Elgin in 28 minutes saw Reilly cross to the back post, but Wedderburn was there to turn it behind.

Dunfermline found space down the right again in 34 minutes and this time it was Clark who put the ball into the box.  He picked out McManus, but the defence managed to block his shot.  It came back to Paton who thumped the ball into the net to make it three.

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A minute later and Higginbotham went down the right and put a pinpoint cross onto the head of Clark who headed into the bottom corner for his hat-trick and the home side’s fourth.

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Elgin managed to reach the break without further damage and it was no surprise to see them make a couple of substitutions at the break and in particular, a change at left back, with McHardy moving across.

Dunfermline had been clinical and it looked like they would score every time they got the ball down the right.

A great run in the opening minute of the second half by Sutherland saw him break deep into the Dunfermline half on the left.  He cut the ball into the box for Reid, but Ashcroft blocked his shot.

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Cardle went up Dunfermline’s left in 47 minutes and twice feinted to shoot as he cut inside before his strike at goal was deflected wide.  Higginbotham went across to take the corner and pulled the ball back to Clark on the edge of the box who swept the ball into the net through a ruck of players for his fourth of the afternoon.

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Sutherland made another good charge down the left for City in 49 minutes and he found Dodd, but he didn’t catch his shot well and Murdoch managed to push the ball away from goal.

An inch perfect pass from Paton in 52 minutes was right into the path of McManus in the Elgin box, but Waters managed to block his effort.  He reacted quickly to get something in the way of Cardle’s follow up to prevent any further damage.

A fine pass from Elgin’s Cameron in 55 minutes gave Reid a chance, but Murdoch got enough on the shot to deflect it behind.

McManus found Cardle on the left for the Pars in 59 minutes, but a fine tackle by Bronsky halted his progress.

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Cardle featured again in 67 minutes, firing the ball across the face of the Elgin goal, but there was no-one there to convert in the middle.

A shot from the edge of the box from Cardle in 68 minutes was comfortable for Waters in the City goal.

A loose pass by Martin gave Elgin a corner in 71 minutes and an Elgin fan behind us, without a hint of irony, said to her friend that “mistakes can be maken.”

Higginbotham crossed into the Elgin box in 72 minutes, but Bronsky headed away over his own bar.

An Elgin fan returning from the toilet got to his seat just as the giant M’Voto came on as sub for the home side.  He proclaimed “Holy fuck! Look at the size of him!!”

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Some excellent close control by Cardle on the left hand side of the Elgin box in 82 minutes saw him put Cooper on his backside, but his shot was blocked.

A loose Elgin pass in 87 minutes was picked up by Cardle and he quickly raced into the box.  The defenders were all drawn towards him and he squared the ball to the unmarked McManus, but he shot straight at Waters.

In the final minute Lochhead played the ball forward to Smith and he ran into the Elgin box before shooting into the bottom corner to make it 6-0.

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A tough afternoon for Elgin and an earlier change might have restricted some of the damage in the first half.  And impressive performance by Dunfermline who looked as if they still had another gear to go into it.

Higginbotham, Paton and Clark played well for the hosts, with McHardy and McGovern the best for Elgin.

Our late arrival meant that the programme sellers had long since gone and despite what it said on the door, the club shop didn’t open after the game, as all their stock was at a different venue for the following day’s open day.

Full Time: Dunfermline Athletic 6 Elgin City 0

Admission: £10

Dunfermline Athletic: 1 Sean Murdoch, 2 Ryan Williamson, 5 Callum Morris, 6 Lee Ashcroft, 3 Lewis Martin, 7 Kallum Higginbotham, 15 Michael Paton (Lochhead 60), 8 Nat Wedderburn, 11 Joe Cardle, 9 Declan McManus (M`Voto 78), 10 Nicky Clark (Smith 72).  Subs: 20 Cammy Gill, 4 Jean-Yves M`Voto, 18 Conner Duthie, 19 Scott Lochhead, 21 Luke Brandon, 22 Stuart Morrison, 23 Callum Smith.

Elgin City: 1 Marc Waters, 2 Matthew Cooper, 5 Cameron Eadie, 4 Darryl McHardy, 3 Ross McKinnon (Bronsky 45), 6 John Paul McGovern, 7 Jamie Reid (Ferguson 56), 8 Brian Cameron, 10 Thomas Reilly, 11 Chris Dodd, 9 Chris McLeish (Sutherland 45).  Subs: 21 Trevor Dear, 12 Ally Sutherland, 14 Scott Smith, 15 Callum Ferguson, 16 Stephen Bronsky, 17 David Wilson.

Referee: David Munro

Programme: ?

Follow me on Twitter @blowyfootball

Hill of Beath Hawthorn v Arbroath

Saturday 15 July 2017, 13.00, Keirs Park

The friendlies continue with East Super League side Hill of Beath Hawthorn against League One’s Arbroath.

We haven’t seen Hill of Beath since February 2016 and it’s a first ever visit to Keirs Park.

Hill Of Beath Hawthorn were formed in 1975, taking their name from a previous club that had played at Keirs Park during the 1950’s. They began life in the third division of the Kirkcaldy and District Amateur league.

They quickly got to the top of the First Division procuring several cups along the way before joining the Junior ranks in 1982.  It wasn’t long before they had adjusted to their new status and they won the Dryburgh Cup and Laidlaw Shield in 1986. Their first Fife League title came the following year, a feat they have accomplished on a further eight occasions.

Their greatest triumph came in 1990 when they beat Lesmahagow in the final of the Scottish Junior Cup.  The 1990’s saw many trophies come their way, with the Fife League, the Fife & Lothians Cup, the Fife & Tayside Cup and the Fife Cup all making their way to Keirs Park.

‘The Haws’, as they are affectionately known, were runners-up in their first season in the East Super League in season 2002-03, but were relegated the following season.  That lasted only one year and they were runners-up again in 2010-11 and 2011-12.

Their first manager, Jock Finlayson was at the helm for 40 years before he retired in 2015.  He was succeeded by Bobby Wilson who left at the end of last season.  New manager Kevin Fotheringham has been quick to reshape the side for the new season.

Adam Moffat, Colin Wilson and Dale Allan have left the club, with Lea Schiavone from St Andrews and the returning Michael Lee from Kennoway Star Hearts joining the ranks.

Last season saw them finish tenth in the sixteen team Super League.

We last saw Arbroath in the Angus derby against Forfar Athletic in April, while they were on their way to winning Scottish League Two.

They pipped their opponents that day to the title by two points, despite Forfar having led the league for most of the season, until the penultimate weekend.  Forfar managed to join them in the end, coming up through the play-offs.

Manager Dick Campbell has overseen a number of changes in personnel in preparation for the new season.

Departing were Martin Scott, Josh Thomson, Eddie Ferns and Ryan Stewart.  Coming in were midfielders Jamie Henry from Aberdeen and Blair Yule from Cove Rangers, defender Thomas O’Brien from Forfar Athletic, winger Danny Denholm, also from Forfar, striker Josh Skelly from Dundee, who had been at the club on loan and Gavin Swankie, another joining from Forfar, who is starting his fourth spell at Arbroath.

Arbroath travelled without Ryan McCord, Gavin Swankie, Danny Denholm, and Mark Whatley.

Keirs Park is a very neat and tidy ground, with standing covered terrace down both sides of the pitch and a pavilion at one end.  There is a very large square hedge behind one goal, just beyond the ground, which I expect is in place to protect the houses behind the pitch.  (At least one ball went past it when the teams were warming up.)  A very smart ground.

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The legendary Rangers and Scotland star Jim Baxter and the (insert your own word here) Scott Brown of Celtic are both from Hill of Beath.  There is a statue to Baxter near the ground.

Kudos to the home side for not charging to get in, but it was a bit of a blow to have no refreshments on sale, particularly coffee.  There were around 140 who turned up, including a decent contingent from Arbroath.

A persistent spray rain throughout the game made us grateful for the covered terracing.

Straight from kick off Henry played the ball through for Heston in the Haws box, but Lee was across quickly to get the ball away.

Skelly got to the Haw by-line in the second minute and his ball to the back post was perfect for Heston, but Lee saved the home side again, managing to flick the ball behind.

The referee played a good advantage in three minutes as Heston ran in on goal for Arbroath.  He put his shot through the legs of Hall, but it hit the keeper’s heel and spun wide.  Kader’s corner was headed downwards by Little, but Hall smothered.

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A great run by Hester in 7 minutes saw him go past a couple of defenders before he was tripped by Haws’ Leishman about 20 yards out.  O’Brien’s low free kick was held by Hall.

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A poor pass in 12 minutes elicited a shout from the crowd of “For fuck’s sake.  I paid nothing for this.”

Henry was picking passes well for Arbroath and in 15 minutes he fed a through ball to Hester who was brought down on the edge of the box.  Prunty’s free kick was pushed away by Hall.

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Skelly dummied the ball cleverly on the wing in 17 minutes, but was held back by Grierson.

In 20 minutes, Hay won the home side a free kick after being pulled back.  Forbes’ curling effort from 22 yards was held by Brodie.

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Hill of Beath won another free kick in 23 minutes when O’Brien had handled.  Hamilton stood in front of the ball to prevent a quick free kick and it looked like Reid went to play it against him but it ended up being a great through ball for Adamson.  His strike to the far corner produced a fine one-handed save by Brodie.

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There was a slight delay in 27 minutes after the linesman broke his flag.

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Haws broke forward in 32 minutes and Hay found Adamson on the left.  He got to the by-line, but his cross was too close to Brodie.

Henry hit a fine ball to Skelly on the right in 34 minutes.  He fired the ball across the face of the Haws goal, but nobody could get there.

Adamson crossed from the right in 36 minutes and Hamilton miskicked towards his own goal, which forced Brodie into a good reaction save between the Arbroath posts.

A lovely moment in 37 minutes when Arbroath’s David Gold had to retrieve the ball from the gent’s toilet before he took a throw-in.

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In 42 minutes, Kader seemed to get a bang in the face, but was ok to continue.

All square at the break and Hill of Beath had managed to weather the storm in the opening minutes as Arbroath came on strong.  As the game progressed the hosts were becoming more of a feature, but the visitors still had the edge.

A through ball by Arbroath’s Skelly picked out Heston in 48 minutes, but Hall was out quickly to block.

Reid put a great delivery into the Arbroath box from a Haws free kick in 51 minutes, but Little managed to get the ball over his own bar.

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A long ball forward by Grierson in 53 minutes sent Adamson clean through on the Arbroath goal, but he shot straight at Brodie.

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Arbroath broke in 57 minutes with Skelly playing the ball to Prunty, he took it forward and struck at goal from 22 yards, but it was easy for Hall.  He probably had better options than going for goal himself.

With 67 minutes gone, Linn showed some good skill before releasing Doris who rattled the ball off the Haws post.  The ball was played back out to Linn who fired across the face of goal with two players inches from making contact in the middle.

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A Hill of Beath corner in 69 minutes was cleared by Arbroath to Linn.  He took the ball into the Haws half and released Doris who ran into the box before squaring to Kader who put the ball into the empty net to give Arbroath the lead.

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Almost immediately after the opener Adamson got a sight of the Arbroath goal but fired off target from the edge of the box.

Smith went down in 71 minutes after chasing after Arbroath’s Henry and seeming to get a hand in the face, but there was no lasting damage.

Arbroath were forced to go down to ten men in 72 minutes with Hamilton having to come off and the referee not allowing one of the substituted players back on.

There were claims that Gomes had handled outside the Arbroath box in 73 minutes, just three minutes after he came on, and it looked like he may well have, but nothing was given.

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Arbroath won a corner in 76 minutes after Linn’s cross was blocked by the Haws baws of Annandale, who was struggling afterwards.

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Annandale had recovered sufficiently in 78 minutes to break into the Arbroath box, but Brodie got out to block his effort.

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Doris went down injured in 79 minutes after landing awkwardly on his shoulder.  The Hill of Beath physio went on to treat the Arbroath player as Ian Campbell explained to the Haws’ bench that their physio was “on his holidays”.

Yule set Malin up for a strike at the Haws goal in 80 minutes, but Hall tipped his effort over the bar.

Some controversy in 82 minutes as the linesman seemed to flag for a Haws goal kick, but they were allowed to play on and Smith went on to set up Adamson in the Arbroath box, but Gomes saved well.

With three minutes left Adamson found Smith on the right who shot for goal, but Gomes held.

A battling performance by Hill of Beath who were sharp in the tackle and fought hard.  Some of the tackling wasn’t legal, but they certainly seemed fired up for the contest.  Arbroath had some good spells of possession and started the game very well, but would have been hoping for a bit more penetration than they had.

Haws’ Leishman, Lee and Reid were best for them, while Henry, Skelly and Heston looked bright in the first half for the visitors, with Little and Yule more prominent in the second half.  Certainly a ground I will look to revisit.

Full Time: Hill of Beath Hawthorn 0 Arbroath 1.

Admission: Free.

Hill of Beath Hawthorn: 1 Stuart Hall, 2 Shaun Leishman, 4 Michael Lee, 5 Rikki Dair, 3 Russell Grierson, 10 Calum Adamson, 6 Lee Reid, 8 Stephen Forbes (Gray 62), 7 Lea Schiavonie (Annandale 62), 9 Aaron Hay (Smith 45), 11 Lee Bryce (Muir 45).  Subs: 12 Gray, 14 Greig Smith, 15 Muir, 16 Callum Annandale, 17 Trialist.

Arbroath: 1 Calum Brodie (Gomes 70), 2 David Gold, 4 Ricky Little, 5 Thomas O’Brien (Malin 28), 3 Colin Hamillton, 7 Josh Skelly, 6 Jamie Henry, 8 Blair Yule, 11 Omar Kader, 15 Bryan Prunty (Linn 60), 10 Kane Heston (Doris 60). Subs: 21 Ricky Gomes, 12 Bobby Linn,14 Gavin Malin, 9 Steven Doris.

Referee: Jonathan Bell

Programme: None.

Follow me on Twitter @blowyfootball

Livingston v Sunderland

Wednesday 12 July 2017, 19.45, Tony Macaroni Arena

Scottish Championship’s Livingston against the English Championship’s Sunderland in a pre-season friendly.

When Livingston emerged in 1995 to take over Meadowbank Thistle’s place in the Scottish League they went into a newly built stadium which is still their home today.  It’s been called various names, but sponsorship dictates it is currently known as the Tony Macaroni Arena after a chain of Italian Restaurants, including one local to Livingston.  I don’t know if the locals refer to the ground as the MacArena for short, but I hope they do.

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Livingston won Scottish League One last season, 19 points clear of second placed Alloa Athletic.  Striker and League One player of the year Liam Buchanan left to go to Raith Rovers, but manager David Hopkins has been quick to add to his squad for an assault on the Championship.

Signed for the new season are East Fife midfielders Scott Robinson and Ross Brown, strikers Josh Peters from Forfar Athletic and Dylan Mackin from Motherwell.  Hearts youngster Nikolay Todorov has signed on loan again to add to the attacking options.

We last saw Livingston at Albion Rovers in December 2016.  The last time we saw them at home was in pre-season 2015-16, against Real Sociedad.  I think it was the Energy Assets Arena then.

Livingston had already played friendlies against Hearts, Motherwell and Kilmarnock and had lost them all.

Sunderland were relegated from the Premier League at the end of last season and manager David Moyes has been replaced by Simon Grayson.  We last saw Sunderland when their relegation was confirmed at the Stadium of Light against Bournemouth in April.

Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford has gone to Everton while striker Jermaine Defoe has gone to Bournemouth.  Arguably their two best players last season.  Sunderland have signed defenders Tyias Browning and Brendan Galloway from Everton, Galloway being on loan.

It’s the Black Cats’ third pre-season game, having won at Bury and drew with Hibs.  The game with Livingston was their second of three games in Scotland, with St Johnstone still to come.

Although Livingston had suggested this was their “glamour friendly” of their pre-season, they didn’t produce a programme for the match, and the attendance was only 1,199 (which included Darren Jackson), about a third of which were in the away end.

About ten minutes before kick off, there was a group of young boys who went out and stood near the tunnel and began waving flags.  I think their arms must have been in agony by the time the teams ran out.

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The game was preceded by a minute’s applause for Bradley Lowery, the 6-year-old Sunderland fan who had captured the hearts of the nation before succumbing to his battle with cancer. (You can donate to his charity at https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/bradleylowerysfight )

Straight from the start, Mackin headed the ball on for Pittman who worked the ball to Mullen on the right hand side of the Sunderland box, but he fired his shot just wide.

Alexander showed his confidence in the home goal in 2 minutes when he stepped away from Khazri following a  passback.

A cross into the Livingston box in 8 minutes looked for Rodwell at the back post, but Lithgow was there to head behind.

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Sunderland broke quickly in 13 minutes and Gooch found Khazri on the left.  His cross into the middle was dangerous, but Lithgow was there again to head away from danger.

More good approach play by Sunderland in 15 minutes involving Gooch and Khazri set up Galloway to cross which was sent behind by Gallagher.

Sunderland were certainly getting plenty of practice at taking corners in the opening minutes.

An attempted clearance by Halkett in 20 minutes hit Byrne and ran into the path of Gooch on the edge of the Livingston box.  His shot at goal was well parried by Alexander and was picked up by Khazri on the left who cut inside then thumped a low shot into the far corner for the opening goal.

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The game was being played at a very slow pace and there was a lack of intensity all round.

Gooch played the ball into the path of Rodwell in 30 minutes, but his shot was well over the Livingston goal.

Mullen found Knox on the left as Livingston came forward in 35 minutes.  He put a fabulous ball across the six-yard box but nobody could get a touch to send it into the net.

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Khazri produced a great bit of skill in 39 minutes to get the ball away from his own corner flag and clear the danger for Sunderland.

With two minutes to the break Sunderland burst forward and Love cut the ball back for Rodwell on the edge of the box.   As he shot at goal Halkett threw himself at the ball and managed to deflect it behind.

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Not much to write home about at half time, or indeed, write in a report of the game. Sunderland’s front two of Gooch and Khazri had looked lively and Lithgow was having a fine game at left back for Livingston.

De Vita had a go at the Sunderland goal in 53 minutes, but it was off target.

Carelessness at the back by Livingston in 59 minutes let Rodwell in and he ran in on goal but saw his shot saved by Alexander. The resulting corner was played back to Gibson 25 yards out and his powerful volley flew just wide.

It was substitute central in 61 minutes as Sunderland replaced the remaining ten players who had started the game.  Livingston joined in, but only with a couple.

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When the game finally restarted, Pittman passed to De Vita, but his shot was poor and easy for Strjek in the Sunderland goal.

Carrick did well down the left for Livingston in 63 minutes before shooting at goal from the corner of the box.  It was well struck, but straight at Alexander.

Back up the other end a minute later and Honeyman passed inside for Maja, but he shot over from the edge of the box.

With 75 minutes gone Sunderland won a free kick on the edge of the box.  Lens curled the ball over the wall but it looked a comfortable save for sub keeper Maley, who had just come on.  However, Maley fumbled the ball and Asoro just got there in front of team mate Maja to stab home and double his side’s lead.

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A curling effort from Embleton in 87 minutes was spilled again by Maley, but he quickly recovered.

In the final minute Lens took possession at the corner of the Livingston box and showed quick feet to move inside and create space for himself.  He then sent a thunderbolt towards goal that Maley didn’t even move for as it flew into the net.  The ball did look pretty close to him, but it was moving all over the place.

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A comfortable win in the end for Sunderland without really breaking out of third gear.  While Khazri and Gooch performed well up front, their replacements Asoro and Maja also impressed, along with Lens.  For the home side, Pittman and Lithgow were the stand-outs.

Not the most passionate of games, but a useful run out for both teams.

Full Time: Livingston 0 Sunderland 3

Admission: £15

Livingston: 1 Neil Alexander (Maley 75), 31 Declan Gallagher (Hamilton 75), 26 Craig Halkett, 4 Alan Lithgow, 6 Shaun Byrne (Trialist 75), 8 Scott Pittman, 14 Keaghan Jacobs, 16 Matthew Knox (Mullin 46), 23 Raffaele De Vita (Peters 75), 10 Danny Mullen (Todorov 63), 15 Dylan Mackin (Carrick 63). Subs: 3 Jackson Longridge, 7 Josh Mullin, 9 Nikolay Todorov, 19 Dale Carrick, 20 Gary Maley, 24 Josh Peters, 30 Jack Hamilton.

Sunderland: 1 Mika Domingues (Stryjek 61), 2 Billy Jones (Lens 46), 6 John O’Shea (Kone 61), 5 Papy Djilobodji (Beadling 61), 3 Brendan Galloway (Matthews 61), 4 Darren Gibson (Cattermole 61), 7 Didier Ndong (Embleton 61), 11 Donald Love (Ledger 61), 8 Jack Rodwell (Honeyman 61), 10 Whabi Khazri (Asoro 61), 9 Lynden Gooch (Maja 61). Subs: 13 Max Stryjek, 19 Tom Beadling, 14 Adam Matthews, 20 Elliott Embleton, Ethan Robson, 18 Josh Maja, 27 Joel Asoro, 12 Lamine Kone, 15 Jeremain Lens, 16 Lee Cattermole, 17 George Honeyman, 22 Michael Ledger.

Referee: Steven Kirkland

Programme: None.

Dalkeith Thistle v Hearts Under 20s

Tuesday 11 July 2017, 19.30, Kings Park

The friendly watching continued with a trip to see East Premier League side Dalkeith Thistle against Scottish Premier League Hearts’ under 20 side.

We haven’t seen Dalkeith Thistle since pre-season last year when they played Linlithgow Rose, although we have been to Kings Park several times to watch other games.

Dalkeith have threatened a few times in recent seasons to make the East Superleague, but haven’t quite got there.  They reached the play-off in 2013/14, but were soundly beaten by Kelty Hearts.  They have finished the last two seasons in seventh spot.

Thistle have made a number of signings for the new season, namely midfielders Darren Leslie from Arniston Rangers, James Laing from Danderhall Miners, Jordan Bain from Whitburn Juniors, young goalkeeper Jack Findlay from their own youth side, striker Kenny McMillan from Easthouses Lily and Lewis Cairns returns to the club following a lengthy injury.

We’ve not seen the Hearts youngsters in action for a while, with them now playing their home games in Stenhousemuir.  They had four trialists in their starting eleven for the game.

Despite it raining all day, it was a warm summer’s evening in Midlothian.

Poor planning meant we missed the opening minutes.

Hearts looked to be on the front foot in the first action we saw.

With 11 minutes gone, Thistle made a foray forward and Bain picked the ball up on the left.  He crossed into the box where it came to Laing at the back post and after it had bounced, he headed into the net to give Dalkeith the lead.

Some good football by Sylla a minute later as he broke from half way saw him pass to Morrison on the left.  He crossed to the back post where Moore headed back to Beith who saw his well struck shot pushed around the post by a fine McQueen save.

Keena had the ball in the net for Hearts in 13 minutes, but he was judged to have been in an offside position when he headed home.

Beith passed inside to Moore in 19 minutes and he slid a pass through the home defence for Sylla who slotted home to level the score.

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A good ball into the box by Dalkeith’s Murray in 22 minutes saw McMillan run towards the ball but Sandison got there first, although he almost diverted the ball into his own net.

Reid found himself on the edge of the Dalkeith box in 24 minutes and went past the challenge of the Dalkeith trialist, but his shot was deflected wide by the alert McNeill.

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Hamilton had a shot at the Thistle goal in 26 minutes, but McQueen was down to block.  Moments later he saved again, turning a shot wide.

In 28 minutes, Sylla took the ball to the edge of the Dalkeith box, but his shot was comfortably saved by McQueen.

With half an hour gone, Morrison won the ball for Hearts and gave it to Petkov.  He returned the ball to Morrison who was through on goal and McQueen made another decent stop.  This time though, Keena was onto the rebound and hammered the ball into the net to put Hearts in front.

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Some great skill by Hearts’ Hamilton in 33 minutes saw him go past two defenders on the edge of the box before he flicked the ball into the path of Moore who drove the ball into the net to make it 3-1.

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Sylla showed quick feet in 34 minutes when he dropped his shoulder at the edge of the Dalkeith box then thumped a shot off the post.

Good control by Keena in 35 minutes saw him go past a Thistle defender before he unselfishly laid the ball off to Moore.  He shot straight at McQueen who saved with his feet.

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Hearts continued to put the pressure on and a minute later Beith found Morrison on the corner of the box.  He quickly struck for goal and despite McQueen getting his fingers to it, it flew into the top corner for Hearts’ fourth goal of the night.

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Laing crossed from the left into the Hearts box in 37 minutes – it took a deflection and spun across the face of goal with Penman scrambling to get there, but it went harmlessly away.

In 39 minutes Tansey swung the ball into the Hearts box from the left side and picked out McMillan who was all on his own.  The big striker headed the ball downwards but made very poor contact and it bounced up, straight to Penman.  Somehow though, Penman let the ball go right through his hands and over his head into the net.

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That was the last action of an entertaining first half which Hearts had threatened to run away with after Dalkeith had opened the scoring.  The home side’s second gave them some hope for the second half.

One of Dalkeith’s half time substitutes, wearing number 12, seemed to be wearing some form of glasses.

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With 52 minutes gone Petkov found Morrison on the right for Hearts.  He went past Robertson and crossed to the back post.  Keena took the ball down and set it up for Moore who saw his shot come back off the underside of the bar, before the defence cleared.

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Keena latched onto a through ball in 53 minutes, but his shot was wide of the Dalkeith goal.

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Hearts were still looking for goals and Moore got to the Thistle by-line in 54 minutes before cutting the ball back for Sylla.  His shot was weak though, and McQueen gathered.

In 55 minutes, Bain crossed to the back post in a Dalkeith attack and found Laing, but his shot was well over the bar.

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A great measured pass by Keena into the path of Sylla in the Thistle box in 57 minutes gave the striker a chance and he struck a low shot into the net for his second to make it 5-2 to Hearts.

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Reid crossed into the Thistle box in 62 minutes for Keena, but under pressure he couldn’t get his header on target.

The game started to become disjointed as the inevitable raft of substitutions began.

A great ball by Dalkeith’s Hunter to Muir in 68 minutes sent him away on the right, but his cross was deflected behind by Logan.  From the corner, McMillan headed over.

Dalkeith’s number 17 was complaining to the ref in 79 minutes and told him that “you never give me nothing!”

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Dalkeith broke forward in 83 minutes and Wales gave the ball to Bain on the left, but his shot from a tight angle was off target.

Roy came into the Dalkeith box in 86 minutes and went past a couple of defenders before squaring the ball to Henderson who fired into the net via McQueen for Hearts’ sixth.

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Dalkeith’s number 17 had a go from distance in 87 minutes, but it was a comfortable save for Penman.

Some good passing in 89 minutes by Hearts ended with Smith putting the ball into the path of Henderson, but he shot wide of the far post.

As the time reached 90 minutes Roy charged into the Dalkeith half and went all the way into the box, but his shot was acrobatically saved, and held, by McQueen.

In injury time Roy used his quick feet to create some space in the Dalkeith box, but his shot was deflected over by Bain.

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An entertaining evening, particularly in the first half before all the substitutions disrupted the flow of the game.  Hearts played some great stuff and looked sharp and quick.  I’m sure they benefited from it being their fourth game of the summer.  It was Thistle’s first friendly and they were probably lacking a bit of sharpness, but there will be few teams of Hearts quality they will face at Kings Park in the season to come.

Tansey showed some good touches for the home side and Robertson put in a good shift at full back.  Hearts attackers all looked good with Sylla’s willingness to run at defenders and Keena’s hold up play, ably assisted by the width of both Moore and Morrison who looked like they could run riot in the opening period.

The pitch at Kings Park needs to get a mention again.  Fantastic work being done by the groundsman there.

Full Time: Dalkeith Thistle 2 Hearts Under 20s 6

Admission: £6

Dalkeith Thistle: 1 James McQueen, 2 Shaun Murray, 4 Callum McNeill, 5 Trialist (12 45), 3 John Robertson, 7 Duncan Muir, 8 James Laing (16 63), 6 Michael Hunter (Whitson 73), 11 Jordan Bain, 9 Kenny McMillan (17 45), 10 Paul Tansey (Wales 63).  Subs: 12 Ryan, 14 Dean Whitson, 15 Blake Wales, 16 , 17 Stu?

Hearts Under 20s: 1 Blair Penman(T), 2 Jay Sandison, 5 Bartlomiej Gajda(T) (Grigor 77), 4 Chris Hamilton (Roy 65), 3 Aaron Reid (Logan 61), 7 Callumn Morrison (Akers 73), 8 Alex Petkov, 6 Angus Beith (Rirchie 73), 11 Lewis Moore (Smith 65), 9 Aidan Keena(T) (McDonald 77), 10 Soriba Sylla(T) (Henderson 65).  Subs: 12 Alastair Roy, 13 Kelby Mason, 14 Anthony McDonald, 15 Connor Smith, 16 Dean Ritchie, 17 Euan Henderson, 18 Zidan Akers, 19 Cammy Logan, 20 Josh Grigor.

Referee: Iain Snedden

Programme: None.

Follow me on Twitter @blowyfootball

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