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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

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

Forth Wanderers v Real Kashmir

Sunday 9 July 2017, 15.00, Kingshill Park

More pre-season action, this time to see Forth Wanderers against Real Kashmir.

A first ever visit to the home of Forth Wanderers, based in the village of Forth in South Lanarkshire.

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They play their football in the West Region of the Scottish Junior Football Association and currently ply their trade in the Central District First Division.

Formed in 1904, they have been at their Kingshill Park home since 1934, although they have twice had to decant when it became unusable.  It’s very much an old school ground, with a few obvious more recent additions, like the small covered area, which stands alone on one half of the pitch.  I imagine it gets very busy in there  when the weather is bad.  The pitch didn’t look in the greatest of condition which doesn’t bode well for the Scottish winter (or summer, autumn or spring for that matter).  There is also a structure selling food and drink, which is named “The Pie and Bovril Lounge”.

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They spent most of their history in the Lanarkshire Leagues and the Lanarkshire Hozier Cup was their first trophy in 1914.  They won the Lanarkshire League in 1966 and have also bagged the Lanarkshire Junior Cup and League Cups.  They reached the Scottish Junior Cup semi-final in season 1980-81 and that is the furthest they have gone.  A Central League Cup win in 1984-85 had been their last silverware until they lifted the Central District Second Division title in 2015-16.  Last season saw them manage to avoid relegation, although it was touch and go for a while.

Their most famous son is Rangers legend Willie Waddell who came from the village and played for the team in his early years.

After seeing Real Kashmir at Stenhousemuir the day before, we were interested to see how they would fare against a Central Division side, and hoped it would be more evenly matched than the day before.

Real were once again resplendent in top of the range looking kit and were wearing a different strip to the one they wore on the Saturday.

Both sides had played friendlies the day before, with Forth drawing 1-1 at AFC Red Star.

There were around 130 in attendance.

Mohammad Hammad took an early knock and required treatment in the third minute, but was ok to continue.

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A chip to the back post by McLaren in 6 minutes found two Forth players unmarked at the back post and Rennie stepped forward to sweep the ball into the net, but the flag was up for offside.

A pass through the middle of the Real defence in 8 minutes by McGeechan found McLaren through on goal, but Safiz Riyaz was quickly out of his box to block, then got up to stop Rennie’s effort with his chest.

In 9 minutes, McLaren put a good ball into the Real box and Rennie slid in to send the ball low into the corner of the net on the volley.  The keeper got his fingertips to it, but couldn’t keep it out.

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It had been a strong start from the home side and the men from Kashmir must have been having flashbacks to Stenhousemuir at this stage.

Hanan Mir received the ball into his feet on the edge of the Forth box in 13 minutes after Mohammad Hammad had played a free kick from the half way line forward.  He controlled it and then rolled it into the path of Ishafq Ahmad who struck a well hit shot high into the net for the equaliser.  It was easy to see the delight of the players and officials at their first goal in Scotland.

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Three minutes later and Aqib Mushtaq saw his shot from the edge of the Forth box deflected into the path of Asrar Rehbar, but his low shot was taken well by Cherrie.

McLaren curled a Forth free kick to the back post in 18 minutes and found Rennie, but he put it wide.

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With 22 minutes gone, Aqib Mushtaq played the ball forward to Asrar Rehbar.  He cut it back for Hanan Mir, but his shot was saved.

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McLaren put a dangerous cross into the Real box in 23 minutes, but a great interception by Mohammad Hammad halted the attack.

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Another ball across goal by McLaren in 24 minutes saw everyone miss it in the middle.  It came to the trialist, but it hit off him and spun wide.

McLaren was everywhere and his through ball in 25 minutes sent the trialist scampering in on goal, but Safiz Riyaz was out quickly to block.

The Real defence was carved open again in 26 minutes and this time it was McLaren himself who was through on goal.  As the keeper came out, he expertly lifted the ball over him and into the net to put Forth back in front.

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A well struck shot by the trialist in 28 minutes from the right didn’t look far wide of the post.

A clever ball by Asrar Rehbar in 29 minutes sent Ishafq Ahmad through in the Forth box, but a heavy touch allowed Cherrie to come out and smother.

McGeechan had a shot at goal in 34 minutes from the edge of the Real box after being set up by McLaren, but he hammered wide.

With 4 minutes to half time Rennie played the ball inside to Grenfell.  He cut the ball back to trialist, but his low shot produced a great save from Safiz Riyaz.

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Still 2-1 at half time and Forth had the better of the chances and possession and should have been further in front.  Real were certainly in the game though and were far from out of things.

Asrar Rehbar was through for Real in 48 minutes, but Cherrie came out to smother at his feet.

In 49 minutes, Aqib Mushtaq showed good close control on the edge of the box, but his low shot was saved by Cherrie.

McLaren won the ball for Forth on the left in 54 minutes and ran into the box, but Musaib Mushtaq made a good save at his feet.

Danish Farooq hit a fine crossfield pass to send Aqib Mushtaq running in from the left in 62 minutes, but Cherrie showed good awareness to come out quickly and block with his feet.

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A Real corner a minute later was taken short to Prem Kumar and he flashed the ball across goal with Hanan Mir inches away from making contact.

McLaren made an incisive run along the Real by-line in 64 minutes, but Mohammad Hammad got a tackle in to send the ball behind.

Cockerill was forced to limp off for Forth in 70 minutes, with the man he had replaced coming back on.  Forth did more of this as the second half developed.

Liyaqat Gul burst down the left for Real in 72 minutes and went past two defenders, but couldn’t pick out a team mate in the middle.

Forth produced a pre-planned free kick in 74 minutes with McLaren passing to the feet of Dick on the edge of the box, who flicked it on to McGeechan, but Musaib Mushtaq was able to turn the ball behind.

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It was clear that Real were coming more into the game as it went on and were seeing more and more of the ball.

McLaren showed good skill to play the ball into the feet of Jarvie in 84 minutes and he turned and shot for goal, but Musaib Mushtaq was well positioned.

Up the other end a minute later and Prem Kumar found some space at the edge of the box, but he shot well over.

In 87 minutes, Prem Kumar chased a through ball and got the break of the ball off Cherrie and stroked the ball into the empty net to tie the score again.

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McLaren went down in the Real box in 88 minutes with two defenders challenging, but the referee wasn’t interested.  It looked a stonewaller, but it would have been harsh on the visitors to deny them a draw.

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Real broke forward in the last minute and Prem Kumar looked to be tripped off the ball by Corbett, but he escaped punishment.

Tippen had a go from distance in injury time, but it was just wide of the Real post.

An entertaining game and great to see Real Kashmir get something from it.  They came more and more into the game as it went on and showed very impressive stamina and desire right to the end.  Forth will rue not putting the game to bed when they were on top and will point to the penalty it looked like they should have had, but I don’t think they would hold too much of a grudge over the result.

McLaren showed some great ability for Forth and looked a very good player.  Rennie worked hard and was rewarded with a goal.  For Real, Aqib Mushtaq showed some good skill and Asrar Rehbar was a threat on the left.

The players from both sides posed for pictures together on the pitch at the final whistle.  There was a good atmosphere in the ground and a very friendly feel to it.  I’ll be heading back to Forth.

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Credit to Real Kashmir who carried themselves very well over the two games I saw them and hopefully they will return in the future.

Full Time: Forth Wanderers 2 Real Kashmir 2

Admission: By donation.

Forth Wanderers: 1 David Cherrie, 2 Stephen Tait (Cockerill 52 (Tait 70)), 4 Jason Corbett, 5 Kieran Brown, 3 Stewart Nicoll, 6 Kris Dick (J Dick 86), 10 Barry McGeechan (Trialist 9 79), 8 John Rennie (Tippen 59), 7 Warren Grenfell (Trialist 52), 11 Wullie McLaren, 9 Trialist (Jarvie 52). Subs: 12 Kris Jarvie, 14 Willie Tippen, 15 Trialist, 16 Andrew Cockerill, 17 Jim Dick.

Real Kashmir: 30 Safiz Riyaz (Musaib Mushtaq 45), 5 Sameer Fayaz, 2 Amir Hussain (Suhail Ahmad 45), 3 Mohammad Hammad, 14 Basalat Javaid, 24 Ubaid Harron, 7 Amer Rehman, 13 Ishafq Ahmad, 24 Ubaid Haroon (Danish Farooq 45), 17 Aqib Mushtaq (Liyaqat Gul 69), 11 Asrar Rehbar (Prem Kumar 56), 22 Hanan Mir. Subs: 31 Shabir Ahmad Sheikh, 4 Suhail Ahmad, 9 Danish Farooq, 15 Liyaqat Gul, 21 Musaib Mushtaq, 25 Prem Kumar.

Referee: Ross Birrell

Programme: £1

Follow me on Twitter @blowyfootball

Stenhousemuir v Real Kashmir

Saturday 8 July 2017, 14.00, Ochilview

Friendly action between Stenhousemuir of Scottish League Two and Real Kashmir of I-League 2nd Division, the second division of football in India.

We hadn’t seen Stenhousemuir since they won the League One play-off final to preserve their status in the third tier of Scottish Football in May 2015.  We had been to Ochilview since though, to see their tenants East Stirlingshire.

Stenhousemuir earned the nickname ‘The Warriors’ in the 1880s, but there seems to be no definitive reason how it came about.

Season 2015-16 saw The Warriors avoid a play-off by a single point, but last season they finished bottom, three points from safety and one behind the play-off spot, and they fell to the Second Division.

Stenhousemuir FC began in 1884 after a breakaway from a local junior team called Heather Rangers.  After a couple of brief flirtations with other grounds, they moved into their current Ochilview home in 1890.

Early successes included triumph in the Scottish Qualifying Cup in 1901 and 1902 and a year later, they reached the Scottish Cup semi-final.

Their early years saw them play in various Central Leagues, before they moved to the newly established Scottish League Division Two in 1921.

The wooden main stand was burnt down in 1928 and the new stand appeared to have been built by John Wayne and Roy Rogers, as the architect had designed it without any stairway access.  These were subsequently added.

Stenhousemuir were involved in the first floodlit match played in Scotland between two Scottish teams, when they played Hibs in 1951.

Local rivals East Stirlingshire moved in to groundshare in season 2008-09.

In the 1994–95 season, when a four divisional structure was introduced, along with a new Third Division, Stenhousemuir’s third place saw them playing their football outside of the bottom senior league for the first time since the early 1920’s.

They won the Challenge Cup in 1995-96, when they beat Dundee United in the final, on penalties.

A new stand was erected in 1996 (the old stand was demolished in 1999) and things seemed to be looking up for the club, but they were relegated from the Second Division to the Third in 1997-98.  They regained their Second Division status a year later, but dropped again in 2001/02.

A new covered enclosure behind one of the goals was added in 2003 and changes have continued, with a synthetic pitch installed before season 2006-07, along with new floodlights.  (An upgraded synthetic pitch was put down in 2014).

Stenhousemuir got back to the Second Division for season 2009-10 after winning through in the play-offs.

A second Challenge Cup Final appearance almost came in 2013, but they lost by a solitary goal to Rangers in the semi-final.

Last season’s relegation has seen a lot of players depart and a lot of new faces brought in.

Departing Ochilview were Thomas Grant, Graham Bowman, Mason Robertson, Kieran Millar, Alan Cook, Sean Robertson, Vinnie Berry, Liam McMaster, Paul Nash, Calum Runciman, Grant Hamilton, Liam McCroary, Jamie McCormack and Mark Gilhaney, who retired.

Coming in are winger Eddie Ferns from Arbroath, goalkeepers Lewis McMinn from Falkirk and Chris Smith from Stirling Albion, left back Ruaridh Donaldson from Bonnyrigg Rose, midfielders Mark Ferry from Albion Rovers, Nathan Blockley from Peterhead and Jimmy Scott from Arbroath, forwards Jamie Longworth from Alloa Athletic and Mark McGuigan from Stranraer, and defenders (and brothers) Michael and Ross Dunlop from Albion Rovers.

Midfielder Harry Paton also joins the squad on a season long loan from Hearts and Thomas Halleran, Robbie Sinclair and Joshua Gracie have signed from the Forth Valley Football Academy.

Stenhousemuir fans could be forgiven for checking they were in the right ground with all the new faces.

Founded in 2016, Real Kashmir FC are an Indian professional football club based in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir.  Kashmir is the northernmost geographical region of the Indian subcontinent.

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Real Kashmir compete in the I-League 2nd Division, the second division of football in India. The club participated in their first national competition in September 2016 when they played in the 2016 Durand Cup.

The I-League 2nd Division is split into three mini-groups of four who play each other home and away in the preliminary round. The top two from each group then go through to the next stage where they again play each other home and away to determine the league winners.  Promotion and relegation of clubs takes place between the top league and 2nd Division.  The 2017 season saw Real Kashmir eliminated in the preliminary round, missing out on the next stage on head to heads.  They beat the winners of the Group, local rivals Lonestar Kashmir, home and away, but it wasn’t quite enough.

Former Scotland, Aberdeen and Rangers left back David Robertson is the manager of the Indian side and he is responsible for their visit to Scotland.  Friendlies had been set up against Albion Rovers, Hamilton Accies under 20s and Stenhousemuir.  The first two were, however, postponed.  Their initial visa application was rejected for lack of paper work so they had to resubmit before they were granted.  A closed-door game was arranged against Albion Rovers which Real lost 5-0, probably still suffering from the four flights it took to reach Scotland.

Interesting tannoy announcement, after reading the teams out, the man on the mic said “If you think Stenhousemuir can kick Real Kashmir’s ass, give me a hell yeah!” There were no replies.

The teams posed for photos together before the game kicked off.  It was noticeable that the Indian side had branded everything, from bibs to jackets and rucksacks.

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Some lovely skill by Paton in 2 minutes before he passed to Scott.  He fed the overlapping Donaldson, but his cross was taken by Sheikh.

It was interesting to see that all the Real players had crammed into one of the two dugouts available for the away side.

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Halleran took the ball down in the Kashmir box in 7 minutes and hit a shot which went just wide of the post.

Paton was showing some lovely touches in the opening minutes in the Stenhousemuir midfield.

A fine pass into the Kashmir box by Paton in 12 minutes was to the feet of Scott.  He took it past Shabir Ahmad Sheikh and played the ball across goal, but Mohammad Hammad was there to clear the ball behind.

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Paton fed Meechan on the right for Stenhousemuir in 14 minutes and his cross was met by the head of Longworth, but he didn’t get much power in it and it was an easy save for the keeper.

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Longworth picked the ball up on the left hand side of the Kashmir box in 16 minutes and sent a thunderous half volley at goal.  The ball came off the underside of the bar and hit the luckless Suhail Ahmad and went into the net to give the home side the lead.

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Another Stenhousemuir ball into the box in 17 minutes by Meechan came off a defender into the path of McGuigan, but his first time shot was over the bar.

A minute later and Scott played the ball wide to McGuigan on the left.  He went past Shahid Nazir and chipped the ball to the back post where an unchallenged Longworth hit a side-foot volley into the net to make it two.

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A great ball by Real’s Ubaid Harron in 20 minutes sent Asrar Rehbar running through on the left, but the flag was up for offside.

In 26 minutes Ross Dunlop played through for Longworth on the right hand side of the box.  He chipped to the back post where Scott jumped highest to head home and make it 3-0.

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A pass into the feet of Longworth in the Real box in 30 minutes saw him slightly caught by Liyaqat Gul and the referee pointed to the spot.  McGuigan sent Shabir Ahmad Sheikh the wrong way for the home side’s fourth.

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McGuigan went down in the Real box in 32 minutes, but nothing was given.  It looked more of a penalty than the one they did get.

Scott played the ball up the left for Longworth in 33 minutes as Stenhousemuir attacked again.  He played it back to Donaldson who passed inside for Halleran on the edge of the box, but his shot was wide.

Paton’s corner in 35 minutes saw the ball bobbling around in Real’s box.  It fell to Michael Dunlop, but his shot was deflected behind.

Another corner for the hosts just before half time saw the ball come to Scott whose shot rattled the post.  The rebound fell to Longworth, but it was deflected wide.

A big lead for Stenhousemuir at the break and the visitors were struggling to get into the game.

Paton found space in behind the Real defence in 47 minutes with his pass for Scott, but he shot over the bar.

Some neat passing by Stenhousemuir in 49 minutes ended with Donaldson crossing into the box for McGuigan, but he put his header just wide.

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With 53 minutes gone, Paton put a free kick into the Real box and Donaldson headed across goal for McGuigan who had time to bring the ball down and shoot into the opposite corner of the net to make it five.

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A clever pass up the right hand side of the Real box in 54 minutes by McGuigan to Meechan saw him cut the ball back to Scott.  He was all alone in the box, but Shabir Ahmad Sheikh blocked well.

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Halleran struck a free kick at the Real goal from a 25 yard free kick in 56 minutes, but the keeper took it well.

After Shabir Ahmad Sheikh had turned a shot around the post in 62 minutes, Paton’s corner found the head of McGuigan at the front post, but he nodded over.

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Real Kashmir won a free kick in 66 minutes about 23 yards from goal.  Hanan Mir struck at goal, but McMinn smothered.

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McGuigan ran onto a through ball in 70 minutes, but couldn’t get the ball past Shabir Ahmad Sheikh.

A great run down the left by Donaldson in 76 minutes saw him go past three defenders as he ran into the box.  His shot though went wide of the post.

A mistake in the Real defence in 81 minutes saw Shabir Ahmad Sheikh misplace a pass and give the ball to McGuigan.  He ran into the box and took it round the keeper, who brought him down.  Before the referee could whistle for a penalty, McGuigan put the ball into the net from a prone position for his hat-trick and to make it 6-0.

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A confident Scott had a go at the Real goal from the half way line in 85 minutes, but it was well off target.

A tough afternoon for Real Kashmir, who improved a little in the second half.  While they have some talented players in the team, Stenhousemuir were too big and strong for them to compete against and the home side looked to have made a number of good signings.

Most impressive for Stenhousemuir were Paton (particularly in the first half), Donaldson who looked very assured at left back and McGuigan who was a constant threat.  For Kashmir, Amer Rehman looked tidy in midfield and Shabir Ahmad Sheikh made some good blocks in goal.

A number of fans stayed behind to clap the Real Kashmir players off the pitch.

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Full Time: Stenhousemuir 6 Real Kashmir 0

Admission: £5

Stenhousemuir: 1 Chris Smith (McMinn 57), 2 Ross Meechan, 4 Ross Dunlop, 5 Michael Dunlop, 11 Ruaridh Donaldson, 14 Mark Ferry, 6 Harry Paton, 7 Thomas Halleran, 12 Mark McGuigan (Ferns 82), 3 Martin Scott, 9 Jamie Longworth. Subs: 17 Lewis McMinn, 8 Robbie Sinclair, 10 Eddie Ferns, 15 Joshua Gracie, 16 Ross Gilmour.

Real Kashmir: 31 Shabir Ahmad Sheikh, 18 Shahid Nazir (Sameer Fayaz 57), 3 Mohammad Hammad, 4 Suhail Ahmad, 15 Liyaqat Gul (Basalat Javaid 31), 7 Amer Rehman, 11 Asrar Rehbar (Adnan Ayub 72), 9 Danish Farooq, 24 Ubaid Harron (Ishafq Ahmad 57), 23 Shayik Rasooi, 25 Prem Kumar (Hanan Mir 45).  Subs: 30 Safiz Riyaz, 2 Amir Hussain, 14 Basalat Javaid, 27 Hanan Mir, 13 Ishafq Ahmad, 12 Adnan Ayub, 5 Sameer Fayaz, 6 Shazan Ali, 17 Aqib Mushtaq, 21 Musaib Mushtaq.

Referee: Stewart Luke

Programme: By donation.  Free teamsheet.

Spartans v East Fife

Tuesday 4 July 2017, 19.45, Ainslie Park

Lowland League side Spartans take on League One’s East Fife in a pre-season friendly.

An early season look at Spartans since seeing them win the Lowland League Cup Final on 21 May in their final game of last season.  It’s their second pre-season game, with them having lost 2-0 at newly promoted Championship side Brechin City the previous Saturday.

Two former Spartans players have returned to the club for the new season.  Willie Bremner returns from Australia while Jack Nixon returns from Stirling University.  Jack Beesley and Chris Townsley have left to join Broxburn Athletic.

Spartans would be hoping to be challenging at the top end of the Lowland League table and the challenge of East Fife, following the visit to Brechin, sees them testing their mettle against higher league teams.

We last saw East Fife when they were promoted from League Two at the end of season 2015-16 at Clyde.

East Fife were established in 1903 and began life in the Fife League before joining the Eastern League for the 1904-05 season.  They continued to move around with the Northern League being their home from the following season until 1909, when they joined the Central League.  They stayed there until it became the Second Division of the Football League in 1921.

They reached the Scottish Cup Final in 1927 and in 1929-30, gained promotion to the top tier.  It was only a one season stay, but they won the Scottish Cup in 1938 while in the Second Division, with victory over Kilmarnock in the final.

In 1948 they returned to the top division after winning the league.  The same season, they won the League Cup and repeated the feat in 1950 and 1954, becoming the first team to win the League Cup three times.  They also reached their third Scottish Cup Final in 1950.  During this period they were consistently finishing in the top half of the top tier.

Relegation came in 1958 and they have only had 3 seasons in the top flight since then, in the early 1970s.  After that short spell in the top league in the ‘70s, the rest of the decade and the ‘80s saw them go between the second and third tiers.

They remained in the third tier from 1988-89 until promotion in 1995-96, but it was a one season stay.  November 1998 saw a move to a new purpose-built stadium.  Reconstruction of the leagues created a new fourth tier and East Fife spent most of the first decade of the new century in that league.

2009 saw promotion to the Second Division and they stayed there until winning the league in 2015-16.

They finished an impressive 5th in last season’s League One.  They will be playing their home games on an artificial pitch for the new season, having put it down in place of grass during the close season.

Manager Barry Smith left to take over at Raith Rovers at the end of June and former Albion Rovers manager Darren Young has taken charge.

Players who have left the club are Jordan Austin, Ross Brown, Alex Cooper, Jesse Curran, Kieran Duffie, Mark Hurst, Jason Kerr, Nicki Paterson, James Penrice, Scott Robinson and Luke Watt.

Paul Willis has been brought in from Albion Rovers, Kieran Miller from Stenhousemuir, Kyle Wilson from Kennoway Star Hearts and Mark Docherty from Dumbarton.

With their 3 League Cup wins and one Scottish Cup, they are the most successful club in Fife in terms of major honours won.

Both teams had a number of trialists on show.

There were around 150 in the ground as the teams kicked off.

A great turn on the half way line by East Fife’s Reilly in 3 minutes sent him scampering down the right, but he was eventually tackled.

Willis had a shot at the Spartans goal in 4 minutes from around 23 yards which wasn’t far wide.

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East Fife were showing some neat one touch passing inside the Spartans half.

In 15 minutes, a clever ball by Spartans went between two defenders and into the path of Brown, whose shot at goal was just wide of the far post.

Reilly ran onto a loose ball on the edge of the Spartans box in 17 minutes and fired just over the junction of post and bar.

The Fifers put together a good move in 23 minutes with Willis finding Mutch on the left.  He cut the ball back to Reilly who sclaffed his shot, but it took a nick before going behind.  From the corner, Docherty’s delivery was met by the head of Kane, but it looped onto the top of the net.

A long ball forward by East Fife in 27 minutes saw Mutch chasing into the box with Spartans’ Corbett.  The striker got his foot to the ball first, but couldn’t direct it on target.

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Some neat build up play by East Fife in 31 minutes ended with Mutch playing the ball to Willis who sent a powerful effort over the bar.

Reilly broke forward for East Fife in 36 minutes and was caught by McFarland about 23 yards from goal.  Willis took the free kick, but it was straight at the Stobie.

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Mutch headed on a through ball by East Fife in 38 minutes and Willis ran onto it and hit a dipping half volley just wide of the right hand post from the left hand side of the box.

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A great ball by Gallagher sent Docherty away on the left for East Fife in 39 minutes.  He cut the ball back from the by-line, but Tolmie managed to get the ball behind.

Allum controlled a high ball forward from Spartans in 43 minutes and laid the ball off to Spartans number 7.  He returned the ball into Allum’s path and from just inside the box, he hammered the ball into the top corner to give the hosts the lead.

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Spartans held the advantage at the break, which wasn’t really a true reflection on how the half had been.  East Fife played some great football at times and were passing the ball well, but they lacked penetration and had been wasteful when chances did come.  Spartans had worked hard and Allum hadn’t had a sniff until he took his chance.

A strong tackle by Thomson on East Fife’s Duggan on the edge of the box in 50 minutes saw the referee award the away side a free kick.  Thomson had got at least some of the ball, but he got the man too.  Duggan took the kick himself, but it was straight at the keeper.

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A minute later and East Fife had another free kick, this time about 2 yards further away.  Lamont took it and it came off the head of Thomson and went wide.

Guthrie played the ball wide to Spartans number 17 in 55 minutes.  He returned the ball to Guthrie on the edge of the box, but his shot was wide of the post.

Lamont made a good run forward for East Fife in 60 minutes and poked the ball into the box looking for Duggan, but Stobie was out quickly to smother.

A minute later, Lamont passed to Willis as East Fife came forward again.  He found Duggan on the right hand side of the box, but the keeper managed to turn his shot around the post.

In 66 minutes, Dunsmore found Willis on the right of the Spartans box.  His ball into the middle was too hard for those making runs into the area.

Reilly got to the Spartans by-line in 68 minutes, but his ball across hit Wilson and spun wide of goal.

Aitchison squared the ball for McFarland in 70 minutes and his strike from the edge of the box was brilliantly tipped around the post by East Fife keeper Mason.

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Wilson flicked on an East Fife through ball in 81 minutes and Willis chased it into the box before firing over the Spartans bar.

With 83 minutes gone, Duggan stole the ball from a home defender and shot for goal, but it was a comfortable save for the Spartans number one.

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Spartans attacked with 5 minutes left and number 7 found number 17 who took the ball into the box and went down under the challenge of Docherty, but nothing was given.

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A Spartans corner in 87 minutes was cleared to McFarland.  He played the ball back to number 15 whose shot from inside the box was spectacularly turned over the bar by Mason.

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The final minute saw Young cross from the left into the Spartans box.  He found the head of Duggan but under pressure, he could only head wide.

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Spartans held on to take the win.

For Spartans, Herd and Dishington stood out, while Kane, Docherty and Willis impressed for East Fife and Kelby looked good in goal.  Kane was competitive in midfield in the first period and played at centre half in the second, while Willis supported Mutch up front in the first, while playing a little further back in the second.

East Fife played some good stuff but lacked a cutting edge.  Spartans worked hard throughout.  Certainly not a game that will live long in the memory, but a decent work out for both teams.

Full Time: Spartans 1 East Fife 0

Admission: £5

Spartans: 1 Andrew Stobie (T), 2 Michael Herd, 4 Adam Corbett (14 45), 5 Blair Tolmie (Thomson 45), 6 Craig Stevenson, 11 Jamie Dishington (17 45), 8 Ian McFarland (T), 3 Alan Brown, 7 Trialist, 10 Ross Guthrie (T) (Aitchison 65) 9 Ross Allum (15 65).  Subs: 12 Paul Thomson, 14 Trialist, 15 Trialist, 16 Blair Aitchison, 17 Trialist.

East Fife: 1 Kelby Mason (T), 2 Aaron Dunsmore (T), 5 Ben Gordon (T) (Young 71), 6 Gallagher (T) (Wilson 45), 3 Mark Docherty, 7 Ben Reilly, 4 Kieran Miller, 8 Chris Kane, 11 Brian Clark (T) (Duggan 45), 10 Paul Willis, 9 Ross Mutch (Lamont 45). Subs: 12 Mark Lamont, 14 Chris Duggan, 15 Kyle Wilson, 16 Darren Young (T), 21 Ryan Goodfellow.

Referee: Daniel Graves

Programme: None.

 

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