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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.

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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

Edinburgh United v West Calder United

Saturday 13 January 2018, 13.45, Paties Road Stadium

Edinburgh United against West Calder United in the East Region South Division.

Our second game of the season in the South league after seeing Lochgelly Albert and Rosyth in December.  We’d also seen Edinburgh United at Pumpherston in the East of Scotland Cup in September and Easthouses Lily Miners Welfare, when they faced Bonnyrigg Rose in the Fife and Lothians Cup.

The game was originally scheduled to be played at West Calder’s Hermand Park, but with their pitch unplayable, the fixture was reversed to Paties Road.

Edinburgh United came into the game in second spot, seven points behind leaders Pumpherston.  The chasing pack all had games in hand on the capital side, one of which were West Calder United, who were three points behind with two games in hand.

United have been challenging at the top of the league since the season’s start, but have fallen away in recent weeks.  Their last six league games have only seen one victory and three defeats.  Most recently they lost 3-0 at leaders Pumpherston.  They needed to get back on track as quickly as possible.

It’d been a number of years since we had seen West Calder United.

There isn’t much information available in terms of West Calder United’s history, but they were formed in 1950.

The new century saw them playing in the South Juniors East Division 2 and they were finishing in pretty lowly positions.  When reorganisation came for season 2002-03, they became members of the Lothian Region Division B, which was renamed Division Two the following season.

Further reorganisation saw them in the East Region South Division for season 2006-07.  They have been finishing in the bottom half in the majority of seasons since  then, although they were sixth of fourteen in 2009 and 2010.

Last season saw another sixth place finish and this season is looking a lot more promising for the men from West Lothian.  They have, however, also been struggling a bit in recent games.

They’ve won one in their last five, which was a 4-0 win against Lochgelly, but have lost the other four, conceding 16 goals in the process.  Their most recent game had seen them lose 6-5 at Harthill Royal.

Both sides were therefore in need of a win to keep their promotion hopes alive.

Arguably West Calder’s most notable game this season had been their Fife and Lothians Cup tie against Super League side Bo’ness United in October.  With West Calder leading 2-0 at half time a shock was on the cards, but Bo’ness came back in the second half to tie the score before winning on penalties.

Strangely, it was the first time we had been to Paties Road Stadium.

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The ground sits in the Colinton area of the city, with tennis facilities nearby.  The area also has woodland that have paths to the Water of Leith.

A covered stand dominates one side of the pitch which also houses toilets, a pie stand, changing rooms and a nursery.  A fence surrounds the area the pitch is in with grass standing areas on the other three sides which extend beyond the fence.  A nice setting.

There were around 40 in attendance.

In the second minute, Edinburgh’s Johnson was caught by a late tackle from Mochan as he cleared the ball.  The referee didn’t see it.

Inglis turned well on the edge of the Edinburgh box in 7 minutes before being brought down by Young.  I don’t think he got booked for the challenge, but I was distracted by my watch having stopped at this point.

McInnes stepped up to take the free kick and placed it right into the corner past the despairing dive of Newman to give the visitors an early lead.

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Edinburgh’s Conlon got the ball in the face from close range in 10 minutes and went down.  He was soon back on his feet, but the referee insisted he go off for what must have been blood on his face.  He was quickly back on.

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McLaren took the ball down the right for West Calder in 13 minutes and went past three Edinburgh players before poking the ball across goal, but Johnson sent the ball behind.

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There was almost disaster for Edinburgh in 15 minutes when Newman passed the ball to Young without realising Mochan was in close proximity.  The West Calder player stole the ball, but his shot was recovered by Newman.

Hendrie was unhappy with a challenge from West Calder’s Nicol in 16 minutes, but the referee was content to just award the free kick.

McInnes was causing real problems for the Edinburgh defence with his quick feet and direct running on the left.

A good ball down the left by Edinburgh’s Flynn in 24 minutes found Hendry, but Fyffe got a cross to block the ball for a corner.

Mearns lost the ball to McLaughlin in 25 minutes after a heavy touch and he picked up a yellow card for fouling him to prevent his progress.

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In 31 minutes, Hendry had a shot at the West Calder goal from 22 yards, but it was well wide of the target.

Hamilton showed a good bit of skill deep in his own box in 32 minutes to turn away from Flynn, although the West Calder keeper had taken quite a risk.

A good run by Edinburgh’s Subasic in 34 minutes took him into the box, but he was halted by a fine Nicol tackle.  The ball came to Hendry who saw his powerful shot blocked.

Flynn had a shot at the West Calder goal from outside the box in 42 minutes which was well held by Hamilton.

Edinburgh came forward again a minute later with a good ball to Hendry on the left, but his low effort was saved by Hamilton.

West Calder broke in 44 minutes and Mochan got through a couple of challenges to get into the box and got the break of the ball off Newman, but it forced him wide and his ball from the by-line was cleared.

Johnson got into the West Calder box in first half injury time and as he crossed into the middle he was caught by a defender and the referee pointed to the spot.  Johnson took the penalty himself and put it right in the corner to level the score.

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One each at the break and it had been a very competitive first half.  There certainly had been no lack of commitment from either side, but there were a lot of loose passes and possession was changing hands rapidly.

McLaren and McInnes had caused Edinburgh real problems from the flanks, but they had both faded out of the game as the half progressed.  McInnes in particular had looked almost unplayable in the opening 20 minutes, but hadn’t touched the ball much since.  The hosts all action midfield had hauled them back into the game after a poor start.

Edinburgh United have a rather novel approach to half time entertainment.

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The home side started the second half on the front foot with Hendry taking the ball down the left in 49 minutes and playing a one-two with Flynn and getting to the by-line.  His chipped cross was lifted over everyone in the middle and the chance was gone.

Nicol was booked in 51 minutes for a foul on Hendrie just inside the West Calder half.  As they waited for the free kick in the West Calder box, Edinburgh’s Johnson and West Calder’s Cooper were having a full blown hug.  I’ve no idea what brought this on, but the free kick was headed away.

There looked to be at least 10 more people in the crowd in the second half.

With 56 minutes gone, McLaren played the ball through the Edinburgh defence for Mochan.  With the whole defence screaming for offside, the referee gave it.  The visiting players were not happy.

I’ve said before how difficult it must be for referees when they have no assistants, and defenders of all teams claim for offside every time the ball is played forward.

Edinburgh’s Hendry was cautioned in 61 minutes for a lunge at Cooper, who managed to jump out of the way of the brunt of the challenge, which was probably just as well.

In 63 minutes, West Calder’s Mochan was the next player in the referee’s notebook for a tackle on McAleavey.  He looked like he may have won the ball from where I was.  The free kick was played into the box and Hamilton punched it clear.  Fyffe was left prone in the box as play raged to the other end.  Nearly everyone on and off the pitch was shouting to the ref that he was down (and didn’t look like he had moved) and after the West Calder attack had broken down he eventually realised,

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As the referee made his way to the injured player one of the West Calder subs told him that everyone had been shouting to him.  Hamilton in goal responded to his team mate with “It was alright if we’d scored, the ref wasn’t going to cure him!”

Devine threaded the ball through for Mochan in 65 minutes, but Newman was quickly out of the Edinburgh goal to smother.

A break of the ball sent Hendry running through on the left for Edinburgh in 67 minutes.  He looked as if he may have been offside, but got to the ball near the by-line before being caught by Hamilton.  The West Calder keeper was the latest player booked.

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Hendry sent the free kick low into the box and found Hendrie, but he blasted over.

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Devine looked like he was through on the Edinburgh goal in 71 minutes, but was given offside.

McAleavey played the ball into the West Calder box from the left in 74 minutes and it went over everyone in the box.  Subasic retrieved it and nutmegged Tinning.  As he raced into the box, Tinning brought him down and it was another Edinburgh penalty.

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Johnson sent Hamilton the wrong way to put Edinburgh in front.

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West Calder won a corner in 76 minutes and McInnes’ cross was met by a thumping header from Devine.  Newman got his fingertips to it and touched it onto the bar.  Devine was first to the rebound but under pressure, could only nod wide.  A great save by the keeper.

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Edinburgh’s Mearns and West Calder’s Devine went into a crunching tackle with each other in 77 minutes and Devine was shown a yellow card.  It had looked to me as though it might have gone the other way, but the referee was well placed.

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When West Calder won a free kick about 22 yards out in 79 minutes, one of the Edinburgh defenders wasn’t happy with the speed that the wall was being formed.  He shouted “Will four midfielders get in the bastarding wall!”  McInnes’ free kick was blocked by the bastarding wall.

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Hendry burst into the West Calder box in 80 minutes but was stopped by a fantastic tackle from Nicol.

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When Edinburgh’s Flynn was substituted in 82 minutes, he went as far away from the bench as possible, then kept stopping to fix his boot on the way off.  The West Calder players made their feelings known.

Conlon was the next to receive a yellow card.  The Edinburgh player fouling McLaren in 84 minutes.

West Calder were bending over backwards to try and get an equaliser.

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A McInnes cross into the Edinburgh box in 86 minutes saw Devine win the ball in the air against keeper Newman to nod the ball down, but McAleavey was there to hammer the ball clear.

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Two minutes into injury time, Hendry played the ball forward to Auriemma who went down under the challenge of Fyffe, who insisted he hadn’t touched him.  Johnson put the free kick well over the bar.

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There was still time for a final West Calder chance when they won a free kick.  Keeper Hamilton went up for it.  Adams crossed into the area and there was a scramble in the Edinburgh box and at least two different claims for handball before the defence eventually got the ball away.

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The final whistle blew soon after with West Calder’s McLaren booked for complaining afterwards.

A vital win for the hosts and a disappointing one for the visitors.  The game could easily have gone either way with chances at both ends and plenty of decisions that may or may not have been correct.  The game was littered with fouls and how nobody got sent off was beyond me.

It was, however, a game that certainly held the attention with both teams desperate to win and everyone on the park could claim to have given their all.

Best for Edinburgh were Conlon and Mearns, who got through a power of work in midfield and Johnson who was involved in all the big plays.  For West Calder, McLaren and McInnes were both good in parts, but didn’t sustain their performance for 90 minutes.  Nicol was outstanding in defence.

Thanks to Edinburgh United’s twitter account for some help with their team.

Full Time: Edinburgh United 2 West Calder United 1

Admission: £5

Edinburgh United: 1 Jamie Newman, 8 Daryl Johnson, 5 Jim Young, 10 Sean Conaghan, 3 Daniel McAleavey, 12 Chris Hendrie, 4 Eddie Mearns, 6 Shaun Conlon (Grieve 90), 2 Ano Subasic (Murray 88), 21 Jim Flynn (Auriemma 82), 7 Taylor Hendry. Subs: 20 Cameron Henratty, 11 Gabri Auriemma, 16 Elliot Grieve, 14 Murray, 13 Walker.

West Calder United: 1 Jordon Hamilton, 2 Mathew Cooper, 3 Seb Tinning (Adams 85), 4 Greg Nicol, 5 Steven Fyffe, 6 Anthony McLaughlin, 7 Jack McLaren, 8 Gary Maclachlan, 10 Ross Mochan, 11 Ally McInnes, 15 Ryan Inglis (Devine 60). Subs: 9 Jordan Devine, 12 Grant Sneddon, 14 Michael Adams, 16 Declan Winters.

Referee: Laurie MacKinnon

Programme: None.

Follow me on Twitter @Blowyfootball

East Stirlingshire v University of Stirling

Sunday 7 January 2018, 15.00, Ochilview

The Lowland League game between East Stirlingshire and the University of Stirling.

We last saw East Stirlingshire in August of 2016, when they won 8-3 in a remarkable league game at Civil Service Strollers.  Despite scoring 104 goals in their 30 league games last season, they could only finish as runners-up, which prevented them from gaining an immediate return to league football.  East Kilbride, who pipped them for the title, lost out in the play-off to Cowdenbeath.

They didn’t start the season well and dropped a long way behind the leaders, but their last seven games had seen them win six and draw one, which was against last season’s champions.  This had put them into fourth spot, ten points behind the leaders.  With the other teams in the league playing the day before, a win would see them close the gap.

East Stirlingshire continue to share Stenhousemuir’s ground, and the plastic pitch was likely the only reason that the game beat the cold snap.

Jamie Glasgow and Dean Shaw have departed since last season with manager John Sludden bringing in right back Jamie McCormack from tenants Stenhousemuir, striker Kevin Kelbie from Linlithgow Rose, centre half Jordan Tapping from Sauchie Juniors and goalkeeper Iain Ure, who was last at Camelon Juniors.  Defender Michael Bolochoweckyi had been on loan from Montrose, but he had just returned to his parent club.  That didn’t stop him being in the stand to watch the game.

It’s the first time for a while we’d seen the University of Stirling side.  The last time was at Edinburgh University in April 2016 when the Capital side won by a solitary goal in the Lowland League.

Two years after the University was founded in 1967, the football club was formed.  Initially, they had two sides in midweek student competitions.  This became three teams and then four at the end of the 1990s.

The club now has six men’s teams who compete in senior and amateur leagues across Scotland and in Scottish and British University competitions.

They first played outwith University football in 1971 when they entered the Scottish Combined Reserve League. This consisted of reserve teams of Second Division clubs and top amateur clubs.

The Stirling and District Amateur League was the next foray in the late 1970s and the Third XI still play in that league to this day.

They were members of the Caledonian League from 1983-4 until 2012-13.

Uni joined the East of Scotland League for season 2008-09.  They won the Premier Division title in 2012 and their second team currently play there.  The title win meant a first appearance in the Scottish Cup, where they went out to Junior side Bonnyrigg Rose.

When the Lowland League was formed in 2013-14, Stirling University were founder members.  August 2014 saw them appoint new manager Shelley Kerr, becoming the first senior club in Britain to appoint a female manager.  Kerr is now manager of the women’s national team.

They lifted the Lowland League Cup in 2014.  Last season saw them finish in fourth spot.

They went into the game in sixth, five points behind East Stirling.  Last time out, they had lost 2-1 to BSC Glasgow.

The University side made a number of signings for this season.  They were Kevin Walker and Nathan Brown, keepers from Berwick Rangers and Stranraer respectively, midfielders Craig Brown from Ayr United, David O’Brien from Camelon Juniors, Ollie Monguel, who has returned to the club and former Ross County player Eachainn Miller, defender Kevin Keane from Haddington Athletic and strikers Blair Lyons from the Upper Iowa University and Kieran Hall from Carlisle United.

The young man on the turnstile tried to give back £14 from a £20 note, which would have made for a particularly cheap afternoon.  We pointed out his mistake and hope he wasn’t doing this with everyone!

There were 142 at the game on a freezing afternoon.

With the hosts in their black and white hoops, it was a surprise that Uni were in their purple and white hoops.  Anyone who was watching who was colour blind would have had a bit of difficulty differentiating between the two strips.

Sludden reacted to a bouncing ball in the Uni box in 4 minutes, but the ball didn’t come down for him and he couldn’t get enough power in it to trouble Walker in the Uni goal.

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A good ball forward sent Sludden in on goal on the right in 8 minutes and although he looked offside, he was allowed to continue and saw his shot turned around the post by Walker.

Brisbane robbed Uni defender Keane on the right in 11 minutes, but the defender managed to recover to block the ball behind.  Walker punched the resultant corner clear.

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Hunter played the ball to the left for Bonar in 13 minutes and his shot was acrobatically pushed away by East Stirling keeper Barclay.

Back up the other end Walker got down well to save a shot from Brisbane in 14 minutes.

A good ball from Rodgers in 17 minutes created some space for Ure on the edge of the Uni box, but his attempted through ball was overhit and the chance was gone.

The home side won a corner in 20 minutes and when the ball came over, Tapping headed home powerfully from inside the six-yard box in the middle of the area to give East Stirling the lead.

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Two minutes later, the Shire won another corner on the same side.  Ure’s delivery was slightly deeper, but Tapping was there again to head into the net to make it two.

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In 27 minutes, Uni got the break of the ball and Lyons passed to Mailer.  He shot for goal from the edge of the box, but it was an easy save for Barclay.

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Rodgers flicked the ball to Brisbane in 29 minutes as the Shire came forward again.  He returned the ball to Rodgers on the left who crossed into the middle where Sludden sent a fine header into the bottom corner to make it three nil.

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Another corner for the home side in 37 minutes saw Ure cross to the back post where it was Greene this time who sent a header at goal, but it was wide.

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Sludden hit a first time shot at the Uni goal in 39 minutes when the ball bounced to him about 25 yards from goal and Walker was forced to push the ball away.  From Sludden’s corner, Tapping headed the ball down and Greene lashed the ball over from about 3 yards, although it did take a nick on the way over.

This time the corner was taken short and then Ramsay passed to McCormack who sent a curling shot at goal which Walker tipped over the bar.

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The Shire again took the corner short and Rodgers put the ball into the middle where both Tapping and Greene went up with hands raised and the referee awarded a free kick for hand ball, booking Greene.

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Three nil at the break and it was hard to see a way back for Uni.  They had struggled throughout the half to deal with crossed balls and all the goals came via this route.  If anything, it could have been even worse for them.  The hosts were starting to knock the ball about with confidence as the half ended and would have been looking to boost their goal difference if Uni heads went down.

With just three minutes of the second half gone, Mailer crossed low into the East Stirling box and O’Brien got there first to touch the ball away from Tapping who brought him down.  Penalty.  Bonar sidefooted the ball into the middle of the goal as Barclay dived and Uni had a lifeline.

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In 52 minutes, Brisbane played the ball to Murray on the left.  He cut the ball back from the by-line for Rodgers who somehow put the ball over the bar from close range when it looked easier to score.

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Brisbane found Rodgers inside the Uni box in 55 minutes and he shot first time when he could have taken the ball closer to goal and Walker blocked.

Things were starting to get a bit tetchy between a few of the players as the match wore on.

Uni were starting to put a bit of pressure on and a sustained period of play inside the home side’s half ended with a shot from distance by MacEwan in 62 minutes, but it was off target.

Sludden had a go at the Uni goal from a free kick in 65 minutes and the ball rebounded back to him.  He threaded the ball through to Brisbane on the right hand side of the box and Uni’s Hunter was blocked by the referee as he tried to get across.  Brisbane’s shot saw Walker get down well to block.  The referee elected not to book himself.

Sludden required treatment in 66 minutes before resuming.

Stirling Uni won a free kick on the edge of the box in 69 minutes and Slattery dinked the ball over the wall and everyone stood and watched as it nestled in the corner for Uni’s second.  It had almost seemed like slow motion, but was very well placed.

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O’Brien was booked in 71 minutes for attempting to bring down the Shire’s Murray.

There was an almighty stramash in the East Stirling box in 75 minutes when the defence couldn’t get the ball away for a good 30 seconds before they eventually managed to clear.

Uni’s Mailer was caught by a Brisbane late tackle in 76 minutes who picked up a yellow card.  Two minutes later, it was the other way round as Mailer was cautioned for a tackle on Brisbane, although it looked as if he may have won the ball.

East Stirling came forward in 80 minutes with Brisbane passing to Ure.  He squared the ball to Rodgers on the edge of the box who shot for goal first time.  Walker seemed to be down to save the ball in the corner, but he looked to dive over the ball and the ball went into the net for the home side’s fourth.

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The tannoy announcer yelled out “Ya beauty!” over the PA system after the goal went in, which seemed a bit bizarre.

Rodgers received the ball from Brisbane on the edge of the Uni box in 84 minutes and he tried to lift the ball over Walker, but could only find the top of the net.

In the final minute Brisbane knocked the ball past Webb who caught him late.  The referee showed the Uni defender a straight red card, which looked a bit harsh from where I was sitting.  Brisbane had to go off following the challenge.

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An entertaining game, which was fortunate, as it got very cold in the second half and frostbite seemed to have set in at one point.

It looked as if the Shire were out of sight at half time, but Uni showed good commitment to fight their way back into the game, and it seemed like they would get something when they pulled two goals back.  Rodgers goal sealed the win for the hosts who didn’t look at their best, but still managed to win the three points.

Ure and Tapping played well for East Stirling while Walker and Mailer stood out for the University.

Both teams didn’t reply to my requests for team line-ups, so apologies if any are inaccurate.

Full Time: East Stirlingshire 4 University of Stirling 2

Admission: £8

East Stirlingshire: 1 Jamie Barclay, 2 Connor Greene, 5 Jordan Tapping, 4 Andy Grant, 3 Adam Murray, 9 Jamie McCormack, 8 Derek Ure, 11 Drew Ramsay, 7 Andy Rodgers, 10 Paul Sludden (White 82), 6 Steven Brisbane (Allison 90). Subs: 17 Robbie Taylor, 12 Simon White, 14 Graeme MacGregor, 15 Liam Allison, 16 Kris Faulds, 18 Chris McLaughlin, 19 Lewis Peddie.

University of Stirling: 1 Kevin Walker, 2 Dominic Slattery, 3 Alex Webb, 4 Kevin Keane, 5 Angus Mailer (Hall 81), 7 David O’Brien, 8 Rory MacEwan, 6 Lewis Hunter, 11 Ross Kellock, 9 Blair Lyons (Kane 77), 10 Lewis Bonar. Subs: 21 Owen Kiljsen, 12 Keiran Hall, 14 Aidan Peden, 15 Craig Brown, 16 Eachainn Miller, 17 Dominic Kane, 18 Chris Geddes.

Referee: Grant Irvine

Programme: None.

Carlisle United v Sheffield Wednesday

Saturday 6 January 2018, 15.00, Brunton Park

The FA Cup third round tie between Carlisle United of League Two and Championship side Sheffield Wednesday.

We saw Carlisle in their opening league game of the season, when they went down 2-1 at home to Swindon Town.  They had been very inconsistent in the league, with nine wins, seven draws and 10 defeats.  This saw them sitting in thirteenth spot.  They had lost 3-1 at Mansfield Town the week before.

United have already knocked out two League One teams in this season’s FA Cup.  A 3-2 win at home to Oldham Athletic was followed up with a 3-1 replay win at home to Gillingham, after a 1-1 draw.  Although they have provided a number of giant killing acts over the years, the best they have ever done in the competition was reaching the quarter finals in 1974-75, the year they played in the top tier.

Carlisle had added two free agents to their squad since we had seen them last.  Striker Steven Rigg and defender Clint Hill have joined the Cumbrians.  Forward Sam Cosgrove signed a new short term deal to keep him at Carlisle for the rest of the season and right back James Brown extended his loan from Cardiff City.  Manager Keith Curle was looking to make further additions in the transfer window.

Midfielders Luke Joyce, Kelvin Etuhu, Jason Kennedy and Nicky Adams were all sidelined with injuries.

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Sheffield Wednesday were formed as an offshoot of The Wednesday Cricket Club in 1867, and were known as The Wednesday Football Club until changing to their current name in 1929.  The club was so named because it was on Wednesdays that the founding members had their day off work.

The football and cricket teams went their separate ways in 1882 and the cricket side folded in 1929.

Wednesday are one of the oldest football clubs in the world.  They are nicknamed ‘The Owls’, as they play in the Owlerton area of the city.  After picking up a couple of local trophies, they were founding members and inaugural champions of the Football Alliance in 1889, before joining The Football League three years later.

Wednesday won the league in 1903 and 1904, but when football resumed after the war, they were relegated for the first time in 1920.  It took six years to return and they won the league again in 1929.

The ‘50s saw them relegated three times, but each time they came straight back up.  They were pipped for the title in 1961, but the turn of the decade saw them relegated again.  This time, there would be no quick return and they fell into the third tier in 1975.  The following season almost saw them go down again, but they managed to survive.

They got to the second tier with promotion in 1980 and four years later, were back in the top flight.  This lasted until relegation in 1990, but they returned straight away and also won the League Cup in 1991.

The new millennium saw relegation hit Wednesday again and 2003 saw them fall back to the third tier, but they returned to tier two in 2005, via the play-offs.  Their stay in what is now known as ‘The Championship’ lasted until 2010, but they returned in 2012.

They reached the play-off final in season 2015-16, but lost out to Hull City.  Last season saw them in the play-offs again, but they were knocked out on penalties at the semi-final stage, by Huddersfield Town.

This season has been a tough one and Wednesday sat in 16th place in the league.

The team has spent most of its league history in English football’s top flight, but they have not played at that level since being relegated in 2000.

Wednesday’s FA Cup history has seen them reach the final six times, with defeats in 1890, 1966 and 1993 and wins in 1896, 1907 and 1935.

Manager Carlos Carvalhal presided over the departure of Urby Emanuelson, Claude Dielna, Filipe Melo, Vincent Sasso, Lewis McGugan and Jose Semedo.  Coming in were strikers Jordan Rhodes from Middlesbrough and George Boyd from Burnley, defenders Joost van Aken from Heerenveen and Frederico Vernancio from Vitoria Setubal (the latter on loan) and midfielder Jacob Butterfield on loan from Derby County.

When Wednesday lost to Middlesbrough on 23 December, Carvalhal left by “mutual consent.”  Penicuik’s own Lee Bullen stepped up to take charge of the team until a permanent appointment was made.  He had presided over a win and two defeats before coming to Brunton Park.

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The night before the game, Jos Luhukay was appointed as the new manager.  The Dutchman had spent most of his managerial career in Germany, with Stuttgart his last club.  He left Bullen to take charge of the team and watched the game from the stand.

Wednesday had had several injury problems since the start of the season and were still missing a number of players including Fernando Forestieri, Sam Hutchinson, Keiren Westwood, Gary Hooper, Barry Bannan, Steven Fletcher and Tom Lees.

Our journey down on the train was relatively uneventful other than an older couple getting on in Edinburgh and taking about 15 minutes to settle into the seats across the aisle from us.  It was incredible the time that they took to find their seats (clearly numbered) and somewhere to put their luggage (ample space) and then to actually sit down  (with one of them in the wrong seat).  After the tannoy announced that the train would be leaving shortly, the woman said “oooh, we only just made it”.  No, they’d been on the train for 15 minutes.  The woman managed to get up another twice before the train departed and she turned to her partner and said “Now we can relax”.  Another 2 minutes passed before she said “Now, what would you like to eat?”  I was very pleased to have my headphones with me after that.

There were 7,793 in attendance, with 1,816 in the away end.

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The hosts went with three central defenders, with Brown and Grainger playing as wing backs.  Cosgrove was effectively up front on his own with the midfield trying to get up to support him.

Wednesday started with two central defenders, with full backs Palmer and Fox playing well forward.  It was almost a 2-4-2-2 formation.

In the opening minute, Palmer whipped in a fine cross from the right into the Carlisle box and Nuhiu met it with a  looping header which had Bonham well beaten, but it came off the bar.  The keeper was able to smother the rebound.

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A free kick floated into the Carlisle box in 8 minutes saw keeper Bonham’s attempted punch clear come off the head of Hill and drop in the heart of the box, but Wednesday were unable to capitalise as Reach fired over.

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The visitors continued to make the early running and Nuhiu had a great chance in 11 minutes when he found space in the Carlisle area, but saw his shot pushed away well by Bonham.

Carlisle first showed as an attacking force in 14 minutes when Hope found some space on the left of the penalty area, but his drive from a tight angle was held by Wildsmith.

Some good football by Wednesday in 17 minutes saw Wallace backheel the ball into the path of Nuhiu, but Liddle made a fine tackle to take it off his toe.

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Brown took the ball down the right for Carlisle in 27 minutes and he cut the ball back to Hope in the box, but his shot was just wide of the far post.

Wallace crossed into the Carlisle box in 29 minutes and the ball was headed away to the edge of the box.  Palmer ran onto the ball, but dragged his shot wide.

A bit of a mix up in the home defence gave Reach a sight of goal in 40 minutes, but he pulled his shot from 22 yards wide of the goal.

Carlisle’s Cosgrove picked up the game’s first booking just before half time when he tried to block Palmer playing the ball down the line.  Palmer went down and the home support reckoned he had dived and let him know all about it.

No goals at half time and the home side had battled hard.  Wednesday had had the vast majority of possession and kept Carlisle at arm’s length, but they hadn’t created many good chances and the game was still in the melting pot.

It was the home side that had the first opportunity of the second half when Lambe had a go from distance in 48 minutes that didn’t go far over the bar.

Two minutes later, Hope went past a couple of Wednesday players, but his shot was blocked.

Joao had a headed chance in 51 minutes when Palmer put a dangerous cross into the Carlisle box, but he glanced it wide.

In 52 minutes, Joao combined with Fox to feed Boyd on the left for Wednesday, but his shot was held by Bonham.

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Palmer won a free kick for Wednesday on the right in 59 minutes and Jones’s cross saw Joao rise and head for goal, but it came back off the base of the post.

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Wallace picked up a loose ball for the visitors in 66 minutes and cut inside before hitting a fizzing shot from 25 yards which was inches wide of the post with Bonham struggling to get there.

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Carlisle attacked down the right in 68 minutes and Devitt found Cosgrove unmarked at the back post and he sent a powerful header past Wildsmith into the net, but the flag was up.

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It was clear that the belief was starting to come to Carlisle that they could win the game, as they became more confident on the ball and were committing more players forward.

Wednesday were still looking threatening though and in 73 minutes a Palmer cross picked out Nuhiu, and his downward header produced a magnificent save from Bonham, who turned the ball around the post.

Bennett played a good ball to Lambe in 81 minutes and he pulled it back for Miller, but Fox intercepted for Wednesday.

The hosts worked the ball into the Wednesday half in 83 minutes and set up Lambe, but his shot from the edge of the box was comfortable for Wildsmith.

Lambe had to go off injured soon after.

Wednesday forced a couple of corners, but the home defence managed to repel them.

In the final minute, Palmer won the ball for Wednesday and fed Wallace.  He centred the ball for Rhodes, but he headed wide.

There were no further chances and the teams would have to meet again to determine the winner.

Wednesday had a lot of the ball but didn’t create enough against a solid home back line.  Carlisle had more belief as the game went on, but couldn’t quite fashion the chance that might have won it.

Carlisle would maybe think they had lost their chance to progress and new Wednesday manager Luhukay looks to have a bit of work to do, but players returning from injury will help.

Carlisle’s Liddle and Brown were impressive and for Wednesday, Palmer, Reach and Joao stood out.  Joao in particular has great feet, but isn’t perhaps best suited to the striker role.

Special mention to the fantastic meat and potato pie on sale in the ground.  Why these pies are never available in Scotland is beyond me.

Full Time: Carlisle United 0 Sheffield Wednesday 0

Admission: £19

Carlisle United: 1 Jack Bonham, 5 Gary Liddle, 29 Clint Hill, 6 Tom Parkes, 17 James Brown, 8 Mike Jones, 11 Jamie Devitt, 19 Reggie Lambe (O’Sullivan 86), 3 Danny Grainger, 9 Hallam Hope (Miller 78), 15 Sam Cosgrove (Bennett 78). Subs: 22 Morgan Bacon, 2 Tom Miller, 12 Samir Nabi, 14 Richard Bennett, 16 Mark Ellis, 18 John O’Sullivan, 20 Shaun Miller.

Sheffield Wednesday: 28 Joe Wildsmith, 16 Liam Palmer, 12 Glenn Loovens, 46 Frederico Venancio, 6 Morgan Fox, 3 David Jones, 33 Ross Wallace, 21 George Boyd (Rhodes 68), 20 Adam Reach, 18 Lucas Joao, 17 Atdhe Nuhiu (Matias 79). Subs: 25 Cameron Dawson, 29 Connor O’Grady, 7 Jordan Rhodes, 8 Jacob Butterfield, 19 Marco Matias. 24 Ashley Baker, 36 Daniel Pudil.

Referee: David Webb

Programme: £3

Albion Rovers v Airdrieonians

Tuesday 2 January 2018, 15.00, Cliftonhill

Albion Rovers v Airdrie in Scottish League One.

The North Lanarkshire derby to start our footballing year and despite concerns that the weather might put paid to our plans, Cliftonhill passed a morning pitch inspection.

Our last sight of Albion Rovers was in December 2016, when they lost 1-0 at home to Livingston.

Rovers manager Brian Kerr took over at the end of last season after Darren Young left the club.  Kerr had been on the coaching staff since the beginning of the season.  He had a busy pre-season.  Leaving the club were Ross Stewart, Mark Ferry, Scott McBride, Calum Ferguson, Kevin McCann, Ross Dunlop, Mick Dunlop, Paul Willis, Ryan Wallace, Ross Gilmour, Kyle Turnbull and player manager Darren Young.

Coming in were midfielders Scott McLaughlin, keeper Mark McMillan, striker Sean Higgins and defender Ross Perry, all from Clyde, keeper Graham Bowman from Stenhousemuir, strikers Joao Vitoria from East Kilbride and Alan Trouten from Brechin City, from Alloa Athletic, midfielder Graeme Holmes and defender Jason Marr, and defender Michael McMullin from Partick Thistle.  Also arriving at the club were keeper Kieran Wright on loan from Rangers and free agents, midfielder Ryan Watters and midfielder Craig McLeish.

Rovers sat in eighth place with 6 wins, three draws and 8 losses from their 17 games played.  They’d had two draws and a win in their last three, including most recently a 2-2 draw at Queens Park, where they were 2-0 down with two minutes left.

Striker Alan Trouten had scored 23 goals in 23 games in all competitions in the season to date.

We last saw Airdrie in pre-season at Gala Fairydean Rovers in June when they were managerless.  Former East Fife boss Willie Aitchison took over in August and left two weeks later.  Under 20s coach Stevie Findlay became the new incumbent in September.

Departing Airdrie since the end of the season were Daniel Boateng, Jack Leitch, Simon Mensing, Rohan Ferguson, Andy Ryan, Joe Gorman, Murray Loudon and Ian Russell, who retired.

Coming in were defender David Brownlie from Ross County, and midfielders Tom Fry from Motherwell and Willis Furtado, who left Stenhousemuir at the season’s end.  They have taken full advantage of the loan market, with winger Jake Hastie, right back Luke Watt and keeper Rohan Ferguson all coming in from Motherwell, the latter who they had just sold to Motherwell.  More keepers, Kelby Mason from Hearts and Kyle Gourlay from Dundee were also on loan, as were defender Jordan McGregor from Hamilton Accies, and strikers Jordan Allan from Wolves and Ryan Tierney from Hamilton Accies.  A number of players were also promoted from the under 20 side.

Airdrie sat one place above Rovers, a point better off with one more draw and one less defeat.  They had two wins and two draws in December, most recently beating league leaders Ayr United by two goals to nil.

It was a particularly soggy afternoon and the water at the side of the pitch showed that the pitch was going to be very heavy.

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There was a presentation to Rovers defender Alan Reid for 400 appearances, before kick off, with both teams giving him a guard of honour as he came out.

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There were 1,032 in attendance.

A nice turn by Airdrie’s Hastie in the second minute saw him create some space, before he tried to thread the ball through for Russell, who was brought down before he could get to the ball.  From the free kick, Brownlie got his head to Furtado’s delivery, but it was straight at Potts in the Rovers goal.

In 4 minutes, the ball was played to Shields inside the Airdrie box, but he took his eye off the ball (and there may have been a bobble) and he failed to control the ball.

Airdrie keeper Ferguson had an attempted clearance up the pitch blocked by Vitoria in 5 minutes.  The striker chased the ball which had spun away to the left and took the ball back towards goal, but saw his shot blocked by the recovering Ferguson.  The rebound came to McMullin, but Ferguson blocked again.

Airdrie were playing a back three, but it seemed a very fluid formation, with several midfielders dropping in to make it a back four as and when required.  Similarly, midfielders were getting forward to support Russell through the middle up front.  Rovers were in a much more structured 4-4-2.

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McIntosh had an unfortunate moment in 13 minutes.  As he shepherded the ball over the byline for a goal kick, he got a bit of a shove in the back and ended up in one of the puddles off the pitch.  Of course, nobody found this funny…

With 21 minutes gone, McLaughlin had a go at the Airdrie goal from the left, but it was wide of the target.

Hastie got to the Rovers byline on the left in 23 minutes and his cross went over the head of Potts, but came off the top of the bar.

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The rain was pretty constant, but now and again it became torrential for a few minutes.  Not the easiest conditions for the players to deal with.  Nor for some of the Airdrie fans who were in the uncovered terrace behind the goal.

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Shields got the better of an Airdrie defender down the right in 27 minutes, but his cross into the box was straight into the arms of Ferguson.

Rovers’ McMullan received the game’s first booking in 29 minutes, but I didn’t see what for.

There was a chance for Rovers in 31 minutes when the ball came to Vitoria in the Airdrie box, but his shot was charged down.

Fisher lined up a Rovers free kick from around 23 yards in 33 minutes, but he dragged his shot wide.

There was some good build up play by the visitors in 36 minutes, but the Rovers defence held firm to prevent any chances being created.

McMullin had a shot at the Airdrie goal from distance in 38 minutes, but it was well off target.

Still no score at half time and not the greatest game in the opening 45 minutes.  The conditions were certainly not conducive to good football and both teams were trying hard, but there had been little in the way of goalmouth action.

It looked as though Airdrie had completely fresh kits as they returned for the second half, whereas Rovers were in the ones covered in mud splatter from the opening period.

Rovers created the first chance of the half, when McMullin got down the right and cut the ball back for Vitoria in 49 minutes, but his shot was deflected behind.

In 55 minutes, Airdrie broke forward and Russell was bundled over by the strength of Perry.  The away fans screamed for a foul, but the referee wasn’t interested.

The hosts came forward in 57 minutes and Vitoria played a one-two with Shields before moving inside the Airdrie box.  He stepped away from a defender and fired at goal.  Ferguson got hands to it to keep the ball out, but it fell to the feet of Trouten who had the simple task of knocking the ball into the empty net to give Rovers the lead.

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Airdrie won a corner in 59 minutes and Fry’s delivery was met by the head of Stewart, but he put it wide.

In 63 minutes, Hastie played the ball inside to Fry.  He was halted in the Rovers box by a fantastic Perry block.

Fry was again involved for Airdrie in 69 minutes when he took the ball down the left and crossed into the middle, but there were no team mates there.

A minute later and Fry played a ball through the Rovers defence to put Furtado through on goal.  Potts came racing out of his goal and managed to block the shot, but the rebound hit Furtado and rolled into the net for the equaliser.

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A smoke bomb went off in the Airdrie end in the aftermath of the goal.

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Fry had certainly made a difference since coming on.

Reid was booked in 74 minutes for hauling down Furtado in the corner on the left.  The free kick was fired across the face of goal by Watt and Hastie stooped to head home from close range to put Airdrie in front.

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Another smoke bomb was set off from the visitors’ terracing as their fans went wild.

A lovely touch by Furtado in the Rovers box in 79 minutes set up Stewart on the right of the area, but under pressure, he could only hit the side netting.

Rovers put a free kick into the Airdrie box in 86 minutes which eventually came to Hopkins, but his effort was turned over via the bar, by Ferguson.

Furtado attempted to run the clock down for Airdrie by taking the ball into the corner in 89 minutes, but he was quickly dispossessed.  Rovers went up the park and won a corner.  The ball was played out for another corner as the game went into injury time.

This time, Fisher’s corner wasn’t cleared and the ball fell to McLaughlin who smashed the ball into the net for a late equaliser, much to the delight of the home contingent.

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There was no time for any further incident and the spoils were shared.

Rovers shaded the first half and Airdrie the second, but a draw was probably a fair result.  The game was much improved after the break and both teams served up some decent entertainment for the crowd.

Holmes and Fisher did a power of work for Rovers in midfield and Perry had a fine game in defence.  For Airdrie, Edwards and Stewart performed well and Furtado showed some good touches.

Full Time: Albion Rovers 2 Airdrieonians 2

Admission: £14

Albion Rovers: 1 Daniel Potts, 2 Daniel Lightbody, 4 Alan Reid, 5 Ross Perry, 3 Scott McLaughlin, 7 Michael McMullin (Hopkins 75), 6 Graeme Holmes, 8 Gary Fisher, 10 Alan Trouten, 9 Connor Shields, 11 Joao Vitoria. Subs: 12 Michael Hopkins, 14 John Guthrie, 15 Jamie Gallagher, 16 Ryan Watters, 17 Trialist, 18 Sean Higgins.

Airdrieonians: 1 Rohan Ferguson, 4 Sean McIntosh, 2 David Brownlie, 3 Kieran MacDonald, 5 Luke Watt, 11 Willis Furtado, 8 Dean Cairns, 6 Joshua Edwards, 7 Scott Stewart, 10 Jake Hastie (Brown 82), 9 Cameron Russell (Fry 58). Subs: 12 Tom Fry, 14 Adam Brown, 15 John Higgins, 16 Jordan Allan, 17 Matthew Kerr, 18 Robbie Leighton, 19 Craig Truesdale.

Referee: John McKendrick

Programme: £2

Newcastle United v Brighton & Hove Albion

Saturday 30 December 2017, St James’ Park, 15.00

Premier League action from England with Newcastle United facing Brighton and Hove Albion.

We last saw Newcastle in October 2016, when they won 3-1 at home to Brentford in the Championship.  They went on to win the title at the end of the season to return to the Premier League at the first time of asking.

Manager Rafa Benitez made considerable changes to his squad for the assault on the top league.  Leaving the club were Florian Thauvin, Grant Hanley, Siem de Jong, Daryl Murphy, Tim Krul, Yoan Gouffran, Haris Vukic, Vurnon Anita, Sammy Ameobi, Emmanuel Riviere, Kevin Mbabu and Lubomir Satka.

Coming in were wingers Jacob Murphy from Norwich City and Christian Atsu from Chelsea, centre back Florian Lejeune from SD Eibar, striker Joselu from Stoke City, right back Javier Manquillo from Atletico Madrid and on loan, midfielder Mikel Merino from Borussia Dortmund.

In the 20 league games they had played, they had lost 12 of them, with just 5 wins.  They sat in 15th place in the 20 team table, just one point away from the relegation zone.  They seem to have picked up the habit of losing by a goal in recent weeks, with Manchester City, Arsenal, Everton and Leicester all winning by a goal since 9 December, with the only exception being a 3-2 win at West Ham.  They need to start picking up points soon.

It had been a number of years since we had last seen Brighton.

Brighton & Hove Albion were formed in 1901 and began life in the Southern League, which they won in 1910, before being elected to the Football League in 1920.

They stayed there for many years, until they started showing some real promise in the 1950s.  After second place finishes in 1954 and ’56, they won the title in ’58 and were promoted to Division 2.  Relegation at the end of season 1961-62 saw them drop down and they fell even further into the newly established Division 4 the following season.

It took Albion two years to get back to Division 3 and they were promoted again in 1972, but it was to be just a one season stay in Division 2.  A return to Division 2 in 1977 was to spark their most successful period, as they were promoted to Division 1, then the top division, in 1979.

Nineteen eighty-three saw Brighton reach the FA Cup Final where they lost in a replay to Manchester United.  They were relegated the same season.

Financial problems hit in the ‘90s and Brighton survived by the skin of their teeth from being relegated out of the league altogether in 1997 and 1998.  A takeover gave them stability and led to back-to-back promotions at the start of the new millennium.

They flitted between the second and third tier for many of the following years until they returned once again to the second tier, by then the Championship.  Last season saw them attain promotion to the Premier League for the first time and for their first season in the top tier since 1983.

Elvis Manu, Chris O’Grady, David Stockdale, Vegard Forren and Rob Hunt all left the club at the end of the season and veteran goalkeeper Casper Ankergren retired.

Manager Chris Hughton was given unprecedented funds to bolster his squad for the Premier League, but very small amounts in comparison to most of the other sides in the league.  Coming in were midfielders Mathias Norman from Bodo Glimt, Pascal Groß from FC Ingolstadt and Davy Propper from PSV Eindhoven, goalkeepers Tim Krul from Newcastle United and Mathew Ryan from Valencia, wingers Soufyan Ahannach from Almere City and Jose Izquierdo from Club Brugge, right backs Ales Mateju from Viktoria Plzen and Ezequiel Schelotto from Sporting Lisbon and left back Markus Suttner from FC Ingolstadt.

Like Newcastle, Albion had won 5 of their twenty games in the league, but had gained three draws more than their hosts.  Those three points meant they sat in twelfth, three places above the Magpies.

Brighton won the corresponding fixture 1-0 in September.

Former Newcastle keeper Tim Krul received a warm welcome from the home support as he returned to St James Park as a Brighton player.

Newcastle made seven changes to the side which lost to Manchester City, with Darlow, Clark, Ritchie, Hayden, Merino, Atsu and Gayle all in.  Brighton made five changes for the visit to Tyneside.   Bruno and Bong returned in the full-back positions, whilst Knockaert and Groß returned to the midfield and Murray up front.

A crowd of 52,209 turned up to watch.

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A pretty scrappy opening period, with little of note in the opening minutes as both teams tried to find their feet.

Hayden found some space down the right for Newcastle in 13 minutes and crossed looking for Gayle but he was unable to connect and Brighton got the ball away.

Brighton won a corner in 16 minutes and the delivery from Groß found the head of Duffy, but he couldn’t keep it down.

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Merino played a fine ball for Gayle in 21 minutes down the right.  He shot for goal from a tight angle, but it didn’t overly trouble Ryan in the Brighton goal.

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The visitors came forward through Bruno in 27 minutes and his low cross was only cleared as far as Knockaert.  He twisted away from a couple of challenges and shot from the edge of the box, but it was straight at Darlow.

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Three minutes later Brighton won a corner which was again taken by Groß.  The ball dropped for Duffy in the box, but he lifted his shot over the bar.

Gayle had an effort at the Brighton goal in 37 minutes blocked and Merino picked up on the loose ball, but he sent the ball wide of the target from around 23 yards.

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In 39 minutes, Atsu found Joselu who also tried his luck from outside the box, but again it was off target.

Another Groß corner in 42 minutes saw Duffy win the header, but it was just over the Newcastle goal.

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Nil – nil at the break and there hadn’t been much to entertain in a pretty turgid first half.  Misplaced passes and unnecessary fouls had been the order of the day, with neither side looking capable of breaking down the opposition’s defence.

There were early signs of improvement at the start of the second half when Newcastle won a corner in 49 minutes.  Ritchie’s corner was cleared by Dunk before Hayden’s shot was deflected towards Brighton’s goal, but Ryan was across quickly to push the ball around the post.

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Two minutes later another Ritchie corner and Lascelles rose well, but he headed wide.

Brighton were certainly not on the back foot though and Propper got to the byline and found Groß, who was crowded out in the box before Propper’s cross moments later was just too hard for Murray.

The visitors were awarded a free kick in a dangerous position in 54 minutes, after Merino brought down Propper.  Groß sent the kick on target, but Darlow gathered without too much difficulty.

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United created a fine opportunity in 58 minutes when Atsu put a great ball into the box from the left and Gayle nipped in front of a defender to steer a header towards goal.  Ryan was alive to the danger though and pushed the ball away.

Yedlin received the game’s first yellow card in 61 minutes when he was late on March.

Newcastle’s Gayle then set up Joselu but his shot was blocked by Dunk, the rebound came back to him but he blasted the ball over.

Groß sent another Brighton corner into the Newcastle box in 68 minutes and Duffy got up to win the ball and head it across goal.  Dunk headed goalwards and Darlow managed to get a hand to it before Clark headed the ball away.

Hayden then set up Gayle for the hosts in 70 minutes, but a defender was quickly across to block his shot.  He went over as he tried to get to the ball and there were muted appeals for a penalty, but it didn’t look like one to me.

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Brighton’s Knockaert became the first Brighton player booked for a foul on Atsu in 73 minutes.  Newcastle’s Merino joined him a minute later for a late tackle on Groß.

The Brighton fans could sense that the game was there for the taking as they chanted “attack, attack, attack, attack, attack.”

There were more home claims for a penalty in 78 minutes when Merino went down under the challenge of Bruno, but more in desperation than hope.

Shelvey nodded the ball into the path of Atsu on the left for Newcastle with two minutes left, but his shot was wild, and went well wide.

There was a further caution in injury time, as Dunk received a yellow for taking down Newcastle’s Perez.

A very disappointing afternoon in a game that looked as though both sides would struggle to survive in the Premier League.  Defences were very much on top and both keepers and back fours were solid.  There was little in the way of creativity with Knockaert looking the most likely for Brighton.

Newcastle boss Rafael Benitez didn’t make his first substitution until 72 minutes and there seemed to be a lack of urgency all round in terms of the home side.

Brighton looked the slightly better side on the ball and their probing looked marginally more likely to come to fruition, but neither side did enough to win.

There was a noticeable lack of movement which made passing difficult for the more creative players.  A bit more ambition from either team may have led to picking up a vital three points.

It seemed like both sides might need reinforcements in the January transfer window, which is likely to be particularly difficult for Newcastle, given that they appear to be in the process of a takeover bid.  The window may well have slammed shut before that is sorted out.

Not a game that will be held long in the memory.

Full Time: Newcastle United 0 Brighton & Hove Albion 0

Admission: £32

Newcastle United: 26 Karl Darlow, 22 DeAndre Yedlin, 6 Jamaal Lascelles, 2 Ciaran Clark, 3 Paul Dummett, 11 Matt Ritchie (Perez 72), 14 Isaac Hayden, 23 Mikel Merino (Shelvey 76), 30 Christian Atsu, 9 Dwight Gayle, 21 Joselu (Murphy 84). Subs: 41 Freddie Woodman, 7 Jacob Murphy, 8 Jonjo Shelvey, 10 Mohamed Diame, 17 Ayoze Perez, 18 Chancel Mbemba, 19 Javier Manquillo.

Brighton & Hove Albion: 1 Mathew Ryan, 2 Bruno, 5 Lewis Dunk, 22 Shane Duffy, 3 Gaeten Bong, 11 Anthony Knockaert, 6 Dale Stephens, 24 Davy Propper, 20 Solly March, 13 Pascal Groß, 17 Glenn Murray (Hemed 62).  Subs: 26 Tim Krul, 7 Beram Kayal, 9 Sam Baldock, 10 Tomer Hemed, 18 Connor Goldson, 19 Jose Izquierdo, 21 Ezequiel Schelotto.

Referee: Anthony Taylor

Programme: £3.

Downfield v Wishaw Juniors

Saturday 23 December 2017, 13.30, Downfield Park

Downfield against Wishaw Juniors in the Scottish Junior Cup Third Round.

A trip to Dundee and it looked like Dundee United v Livingston in the Scottish Championship would be our port of call.  The vast majority of Junior sides do not have games scheduled over the festive period, with the arrangement in the East that teams can request fixtures.  That was until the Junior Cup Third Round ties kept getting postponed.  All the unresolved ties were moved to the 23rd and would then be pencilled in for the 30th if they were off again.

With milder weather all week, this resulted in us heading to the Junior Cup tie between East Premier side Downfield and West Central League Division 1 side Wishaw Juniors.  It had been a toss-up between this and Lochee United v Johnstone Burgh, but the away side there withdrew as they could not field a team.

It was a case of fifth time lucky for this tie, with 4 previous postponements.

Downfield do exactly what it says on the tin.  They play in the Downfield area of Dundee at Downfield Park.

They were founded in 1904 and are known as ‘The Spiders’.  This comes from the same term applied to Queen’s Park as Downfield play in the same narrow black-and-white hooped shirt.  When Downfield were first founded, Queen’s donated a set of strips to them to assist with the start-up.

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It’s maybe because they have that nickname that there seems to be a web of secrecy about their history.  There is very little to be found online about the early years of the club or, for that matter, after that.

It isn’t clear if Downfield have been in existence the whole time since their formation, as the first trophy they seem to have won was in 1987, when they began a great period of success.  The cups came thick and fast as they won the Tayside Premier Division three times in a row at the end of the ‘80s.

The trophies continued until 1995, until there was a ten year gap before the next silverware, the Division One title in 2004-05.

League reconstruction prior to the 2006–07 season, saw Downfield find themselves in the twelve-team East Region, North Division, where they finished third in their first season in the division.  They’ve won the North Division three times, in 2010-11, 2014-15 and 2015-16.  They currently play in the East Premier Division.

Last season saw Downfield finish in tenth place, whereas this season has been tough.  They sat in thirteenth with ten defeats from their 16 games, and just four wins.  The three teams below them all had several games in hand.

They hadn’t played a league game since 18 November due to several postponements.

Downfield won 3-2 at Neilston in the second round, after getting a first round bye.  Neilston play in the same league as Wishaw.

We saw Wishaw in their second round replay at Arniston Rangers on 4 November when they won 3-2.  (Arniston are in the same league as Downfield).  We hadn’t expected to be seeing them in the next round, but circumstances meant that we would.

They had continued their league challenge, having won six of the eight league games they had played.  Their last league game was also on 18 November.

It’s a first visit to Downfield Park for us and it’s a neat and tidy place with a big social club attached.  A small enclosure is opposite the side with the club and changing rooms and there is a portacabin selling food and drink.  There is grass banking behind both goals.

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I was unable to get a response from Downfield on social media, so I do not have their full team.  Apologies for any errors in the ones I do have.  Thanks to Wishaw’s Facebook team for providing their names and numbers.

There were around 70 in attendance.

The game was just two minutes old when Wishaw’s Collinder went down in the Downfield box, but the referee waved away penalty appeals.

Timmons broke down the right for Downfield and his cross was cleared back to him.  He returned it to the front post where Blackwood got there first to turn the ball into the net and give the hosts an early lead.

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The goalscorer was caught as he scored and was down for several minutes and required treatment before rejoining play.

With 9 minutes gone, Timmons played the ball up the right to Davidson.  He played it to Blackwood who laid the ball into the path of Hagen on the edge of the box.  He curled it into the corner to double Downfield’s lead.

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Wishaw looked shell shocked, but created their first opportunity in 12 minutes, when Dan Kindlan found some space on the corner of the box, but sent his low shot straight at Sloan.

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Dan Kindlan was involved again in 14 minutes, sending a free kick into the Downfield box which saw Coffey rise well, but head over.

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The visitors continued to look for a way back into the game and McCafferty tried his luck from the edge of the box in 15 minutes, but his half volley was a couple of feet too high.

Blackwood had failed to shake off his injury and was replaced in 21 minutes.  A blow for Downfield as he had scored the first goal and made the second.

Davidson caused more problems for Wishaw down the right in 22 minutes as he got to the bye-line and cut the ball back for number 12.  His shot was half blocked and when it came back to Davidson, he was offside.

It was Downfield’s turn to shout for a penalty in 23 minutes when Colquhoun went down, but again, the referee wasn’t interested.

A Wishaw free kick in 25 minutes struck Hagen in the Downfield wall, with the referee stopping play for the injury with Wishaw still on the attack.  He restarted with a bounce up just outside the Downfield box on the right.

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Wishaw’s Dean Kindlan picked up the game’s first booking in 28 minutes for a late tackle on number 12.  The free kick into the box was cleared but came to Hagan 20 yards out, but he shot wide.

A clearance by Duell in 29 minutes sent Cameron racing through on the Wishaw goal, but he was halted by a late flag.  It looked from where I was as if the striker had been unlucky to be penalised.

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Dan Kindlan went up the right for Wishaw in 30 minutes and played the ball back to McCafferty, but his shot was well off target.

The Lanarkshire side came forward again in 33 minutes and Dan Kindlan played a one-two with McGeough which took him into the Downfield box and he slotted past Sloan to put Wishaw right back in it.

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Two minutes later, Downfield’s number 6 lost possession inside his own box and Coffey cut the ball back into the path of McCafferty who fired low into the corner for the equaliser.

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A long range effort from the left by Wishaw in 37 minutes was turned behind by Sloan.

Whenever Downfield keeper Sloan was in possession of the ball, he seemed to be taking an age to play it.  On one particularly lengthy occasion, the Wishaw bench suggested that someone tell him there was “still another half to go.”

With a minute to half time, Duell was short with an attempted head back to Sloan and McCafferty latched onto it.  He was forced wide and Sloan managed to block the ball behind.

Wishaw’s Collinder was booked in 45 minutes for a rugby tackle on Davidson on the half way line.

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In first half injury time Downfield’s number 6 won the ball and lifted it into the Wishaw box.  Cameron won the header, but the ball drifted over the bar.  He stayed down after receiving a knock as he headed it. The Wishaw bench helpfully advised that he was alright, as he was “just tired.”

Two each at the break and yet again Junior football confounds the old ‘game of two halves’ adage, with a half of two halves.  There are often 6 or 7 different halves in 90 minutes…..

Wishaw created a decent chance in 49 minutes with Dan Kindlan and McCafferty involved in setting up Grant on the right of the box, but Sloan saved.

McCafferty got to the Downfield bye-line in 55 minutes, but his ball across goal didn’t find a team mate.

Duell tried his luck from around 22 yards in 62 minutes, but it sailed over the Wishaw bar.

It was Wishaw’s turn to lose someone to injury when right back Martin limped off in 68 minutes.

Hagan crossed into the Wishaw box in 69 minutes and the ball was met by the head of Colquhoun who watched it thump off the base of the post with Thomson beaten.  The defence got the ball away.

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Downfield’s number 3 was the next to have a go from distance, but his 25 yard effort was well over the bar.

The crosses of Hagan were causing problems for the Wishaw defence and another ball in from the left by him found Davidson’s head, but he nodded over.

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Wishaw broke forward in 76 minutes and McCafferty played the ball to Smillie.  His shot was well saved by Sloan.  The rebound came to Coffey whose shot was cleared off the line.

Colquhoun was cautioned in 78 minutes for taking out Wishaw’s Dean Kindlan.

Dan Kindlan put a great cross into the Downfield box in 80 minutes, but the defence managed to get the ball away.

Downfield won a corner in 81 minutes and Thomson punched Hagan’s delivery clear.  Number 15 for Downfield fired it back at goal, but the keeper was down well to save.

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Hagan swung another ball into the Wishaw box in 83 minutes which Thomson punched behind.  Number 12’s corner saw a glancing header from number 6, but it flashed wide.

With 5 minutes to go Downfield’s number 15 had a shot which whistled past the post.

In the final minute, Smillie played the ball to the feet of Dan Kindlan in the Downfield box.  He turned quickly and rifled a shot inches wide of the post.

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As we reached injury time Wishaw’s Dan Kindlan was yellow carded for a late tackle on Duell.

In the third minute of injury time Hagan latched onto a loose ball 23 yards from the Wishaw goal, but his shot was too high.

All square at the end and after the game going ahead at the fifth time of asking, they would now have to replay.

An entertaining game and one that could have gone either way.  Credit to both teams for getting the ball down and playing some good football on a windy afternoon.

Best for Downfield were Hagan, Davidson and the number 6.  For Wishaw, McCafferty and McGeough played well and Crawford was solid at the back.

Full Time: Downfield 2 Wishaw Juniors 2

Admission: £6

Downfield: 21 Ryan Sloan, 2 Jordan Timmons, 5 Bryan Duell, 4 Charlie Cargill, 3 , 7 Dale Davidson (15 77), 8 Calvin Colquhoun, 6 , 11 Philip Hagan, 9 Lee Cameron, 10 Paul Blackwood (12 21).  Subs: 12, 15.

Wishaw Juniors: 1 Sandy Thomson, 2 Chris Martin (Young 68), 11 Steven Smith, 5 Craig Crawford, 3 Kevin Barry Grant (Smillie 63), 6 Paul McGeough, 4 Dean Kindlan, 8 Joe McCafferty, 7 Dan Kindlan, 10 James Coffey, 9 Michael Collinder (Kane 46). Subs: 12 Liam Kane, 14 Dillon Young, 15 Neil Schoneville, 16 Ryan Smillie.

Referee: Barry Dickson

Programme: None.

Follow me on Twitter @blowyfootball

Edinburgh City v Stenhousemuir

Saturday 16 December 2017, 15.00, Ainslie Park

Scottish League Two action between Edinburgh City and Stenhousemuir.

With the weather continuing to cause problems, there were a lot of games off again in Scotland, but the trusty artificial pitch at the home of Spartans ensured that Edinburgh City’s temporary home was playable.

With the original plan being to take in a Scottish Junior Cup tie, we ended up having three games in a row at home games of Edinburgh’s League sides, having been at Tynecastle and Easter Road during the week.

We last saw Edinburgh City in July, when they lost 2-1 at home to Motherwell in the League Cup group stages.

City continued adding to their squad after we saw them, with the signings of midfielder Gavin Malin from Arbroath and free agents Abdelkarim Belmokhtar, Farid El Alagui (forwards) and defender Jesus Garcia Tena.  They have also brought in further loan players, with forward Scott Shepherd and left back/midfielder Liam Henderson coming in from Falkirk as well as defender Stuart Morrison from Dunfermline Athletic and Ian Smith, a winger, from Dundee.

Manager Gary Jardine resigned at the end of September with former Falkirk Assistant Manager James McDonaugh taking over on 10 October.

After City’s terrible start last season, they climbed to seventh by the end of the campaign, but things haven’t been easier this season.  When Jardine quit after a 3-0 defeat at Stenhousemuir, they sat a point off the bottom, with six points from 8 games.  After 15 games, they were still in the same spot, four points clear of the foot, but having played a game more than basement team Cowdenbeath.  Nine points from 15 games is far from ideal and new boss McDonaugh was still looking for his first win since taking over.

City have had terrible injury problems, and were missing Shaun Harrison, Gareth Rodger, Zdravko Karadachki, John Dunn, Andrew Blake, Jesus Tena Garcia, Sean Mackie and Stuart Morrison.  Chris McKee was suspended.

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We also last saw Stenhousemuir in July, when they played Indian side Real Kashmir in a friendly.  Since then, they have supplemented their squad with the signings of right back Ross Gilmour from Albion Rovers, former East Fife midfielder Nicki Paterson and loan signings Paul Allen, a defender from Dunfermline Athletic and midfielders Innes Murray from Hibs and Alan Cook from Alloa Athletic.

Stenhousemuir sat in sixth, but just two points from fourth spot and a play-off position.

There were 271 in attendance on a very cold afternoon.

The visitors created the first opportunity with 6 minutes on the clock.  Cook broke down the left, went past a defender then cut the ball back for Marsh, who was off balance as he shot wide of the post.

Some nice football by Stenhousemuir in 8 minutes ended with Donaldson putting in a fine cross from the left touchline which was aimed at Scott, but a defender managed to head over.

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A Stenny corner in 11 minutes was missed by Antell in the City goal, but the defence managed to get the ball clear.

A minute later, McGuigan was through on the City goal and Antell made a great save to deny his half volley.

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City were almost gifted a goal in 16 minutes when Smith in the away goal completely missed his kick, as he looked to clear.  El Alagui almost nipped in, but the keeper managed to poke the ball away.

Stenny’s Cook required treatment in 17 minutes before continuing.

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Grimes sent Shepherd through on the Stenny goal in 18 minutes.  With Ross Dunlop chasing back, Shepherd managed to get his shot away from a tight angle, but it was wide of the post.

A well struck shot from just outside the box on the left by City’s Henderson in 22 minutes was goal bound, but Ross Dunlop managed to get his head on it to send the ball behind.

Scott passed to Paton on the right in 25 minutes as Stenny came forward.  He cut inside and went past two City defenders before sending a low shot into the net to give the visitors the lead.

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City would have been annoyed at conceding such a soft goal, with Paton having got the break of the ball a couple of times on his run, but the tackles had not been firm enough to dispossess him.

In 29 minutes, Cook played the ball back to Paton on the edge of the City box.  He beat two defenders, one of which looked to catch him, but he stayed on his feet to get a shot away, which Antell did well to turn behind.

Stenny were putting some dangerous crosses into the City box, and the hosts did well to repel three corners in a row around the 31 minutes mark, with Marsh and Paton’s deliveries of high quality.

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City won a corner in 36 minutes which saw Thomson’s cross half cleared by the defence.  Laird played a one-two with Thomson then swept the ball into the corner of the net past a static Smith for the equaliser.

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Stenny’s Cook was shown a yellow card in 37 minutes.  I’m not sure what it was for, but he had already been spoken to by the referee.

Cook got to the City bye line in 41 minutes and cut the ball back looking for Scott, but it was turned behind by Walker.  From the corner there was a scramble in the box before a defender poked clear.  Cook put the ball back into the area and it fell to the feet of McGuigan who rifled the ball into the net to put Stenny back in front.

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Two minutes before the break Donaldson had a shot at the City goal from 25 yards.  It was very well struck, but a couple of feet too high.

Stenny led at the interval and they had been the better side in the opening period.  Neither team could have been happy with the defending which led to the goals.

City won a free kick around 23 yards from goal in 48 minutes and Thomson had a go, but it was well over the bar.

A free kick for Stenny 20 yards from goal in 57 minutes was played to Cook whose shot took a nick as it went past the post.

With an hour gone, El Alagui sent Shepherd through on the Stenny goal.  Smith came out of his goal and Ross Dunlop challenged and the striker fell to the ground.  Penalty.  Although there were calls for the defender to receive his marching orders, he was only shown a yellow card.

El Alagui stepped up to take the spot kick and slipped as he struck it, sending the ball high over the bar.  A lucky escape for the visitors.

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City’s McKee was booked in 66 minutes for pulling back Scott when he had dummied the ball and got away from him.

McGuigan had a good chance in the City box in 69 minutes, but he didn’t catch his shot well and the home side survived.

City were looking much more likely in the second half and were putting some pressure on in the hunt for a leveller.

Donaldson got a sore one in 72 minutes when he was booted in the face by El Alagui as he headed the ball on the half way line.  It certainly wasn’t deliberate, but it didn’t stop it from looking a bad one.  He was ok to carry on after treatment.

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Allan had a go at the Stenny goal in 74 minutes from the edge of the box, but Smith saved.

Shepherd burst into the Stenny box in 79 minutes on the right, but Ross Dunlop got a tackle in and managed to play it against the City player for a goal kick.

Great skill by Walker on the edge of the Stenny box in 84 minutes as he lifted the ball up and volleyed at goal, but Smith managed to get hands to it before it was scrambled behind.

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With three minutes left a Thomson effort was fumbled by Smith, but the Stenny defence managed to hack the ball away with Allan about to pounce.

Thomson was booked in 88 minutes for trying to take out Cook as he broke forward for Stenny.

In injury time, Walker broke through a Stenny challenge before sending a dipping shot at goal, but it was too high.

Stenhousemuir held on to take maximum points.

While the visitors had been the better side in the first half, City really took the game to them in the second half, and but for the untimely slip at the penalty, may have got something from the game.

Stenny seemed to try to sit on their lead in the second half and nearly paid the price, but they would have been delighted with the three points.

Henderson looked a useful addition for City and played well, while Walker always looks as though he should be playing at a higher level with his passing and reading of the game.  For Stenny, Paton showed some great ability and Cook was a threat on the wing.  Scott also has to get credit for the shift he put in.

A slight problem at full time.  With the usual portaloos shut, dressing room toilets were being used.  Those were also shut after the game as other teams were using the dressing rooms.  Now I don’t know about you, but sitting in the freezing cold for nearly two hours tends to mean I am in need of a visit to the facilities before heading home.

Full Time: Edinburgh City 1 Stenhousemuir 2

Admission: £12

Edinburgh City: 1 Calum Antell, 2 Jordan Caddow, 25 Stuart Morrison, 3 Chris McKee (Allan 66), 7 Craig Thomson, 5 Josh Walker, 6 Marc Laird, 15 Liam Henderson, 11 Ashley Grimes, 18 Farid El Alagui (Malin 76), 19 Scott Shepherd (lanrewaju 81).  Subs: 8 Gavin Malin, 12 Calum Hall, 16 Moses Olanrewaju, 17 Kieran Watson, 20 Fraser Morton, 27 Lewis Allan.

Stenhousemuir: 1 Chris Smith, 2 Ross Meechan, 4 Ross Dunlop, 3 Michael Dunlop, 5 Ruaridh Donaldson, 6 David Marsh, 8 Mark Ferry, 10 Harry Paton (Paterson 81), 11 Alan Cook, 7 Mark McGuigan (Longworth 89), 9 Martin Scott (McMenamin 76).  Substitutes: 12 Colin McMenamin, 14 Paul Allan, 15 Nicki Paterson, 16 Innes Murray, 18 Jamie Longworth, 19 Edward Ferns, 20 Lewis McMinn.

Referee: Gavin Ross

Programme: £2.50

Hibernian v Rangers

Wednesday 13 December 2017, 19.45, Easter Road

Hibernian versus Rangers in the Scottish Premiership.

A second Premiership game in two days, after being at Hearts against Dundee the night before.

Although we’d seen Hibs Ladies three times, this was our first time seeing the men’s side this season.  We last saw them in February, when they drew 0-0 at Tynecastle in the Scottish Cup, one of four games we saw them play last season.

Hibs finally got back to the Premiership at the third time of asking last season when they won the Scottish Championship title.  Manager Neil Lennon made considerable changes to the squad following promotion.

Leaving the club were Jason Cummings, Danny Handling, Fraser Fyvie, Aaron Dunsmore, Brian McLean, Scott Gallacher, Alex Harris, Brian Graham, Chris Humphrey, James Keatings, Jordon Forster, Jamie Insall and Grant Holt.

Coming in were goalkeeper Ofir Marciano from FC Ashdod in Israel (he had been on loan to Hibs last season), midfielders Vykintas Slivka from Juventus and Danny Swanson from St Johnstone, central defender Efe Ambrose from Celtic, strikers Anthony Stokes from Blackburn Rovers, Simon Murray from Dundee United and Deivydas Matulevicius from Mouscron, right back Steven Whittaker from Norwich City and winger Brandon Barker, who is on loan from Manchester City.

Hibs had started the season brightly and went into the game in fourth spot.  Rangers and Aberdeen were second and third respectively and both three points ahead, so a win would have put them right into the mix.  Their previous game had seen them come back from two down to get a home draw against champions Celtic.

We hadn’t seen Rangers since March 2016, when they went down 3-2 at Falkirk in the Championship.  Their arrival in the top league after the much-publicised financial issues put them in the Scottish Second Division came at the end of that season and they finished in third last season.

As seems to happen at Rangers every year, there was a lot of comings and goings during pre-season.  With manager Pedro Caixinha taking over in March, it was the chance for him to get his own players in.

Leaving Ibrox were Martyn Waghorn, Jow Garner, Barrie McKay, Matt Crooks, Philippe Senderos, Harry Forrester, Rob Kiernan and Clint Hill.

Coming in were midfielders Carlos Pena from Guadalajara, Graham Dorrans from Norwich City and Ryan Jack from Aberdeen, strikers Eduardo Herrera from Pumas and Alfredo Morelos from HJK Helsinki, central defenders Fabio Cardoso from Vitoria Setubal and Bruno Alves from Cagliari and winger Daniel Candeias from Benfica.  On loan at the club were winger Aaron Nemane from Manchester City, left back Declan John from Cardiff City and midfielder Dalcio from Benfica.

When Rangers lost in the League Cup semi final to Motherwell on 22 October, then followed it up with a home draw at then bottom of the table Kilmarnock, manager Caixinha was relieved of his duties.  They sat fourth at the time.  Graeme Murty took over as caretaker.

Rangers approached Derek McInnes, the Aberdeen manager to take over in early December but he turned them down.  Rangers announced that Murty would remain in charge until at least the end of the year.

They came into the match with three wins in a row.  The first time they had managed that in the season.

Hibs were without the injured David Gray, Danny Swanson and Liam Fontaine.  Brandon Barker and Steven Whittaker, who had been injury concerns both made the bench.

Graham Dorrans, Jordan Rossiter, Jak Alnwick and Lee Wallace were all out for Rangers, with Ryan Jack suspended.

There were 20,057 at the game.

It was a fast and furious start with lots of tackles and possession changing hands very quickly.

Rangers created the first opportunity in the third minute, when Windass played the ball back to Morelos 20 yards out, but his shot was wayward, and ended up going out for a throw in.

Holt robbed McGinn in 4 minutes and Morelos played the ball back to him, but his shot from the edge of the box was deflected wide of the Hibs goal by McGinn.

Stokes picked out Boyle on the right for Hibs with a great pass in 5 minutes, and he got the ball into the box, but Alves turned it behind.

A good interception by McGeouch in 6 minutes saw him break forward and lay the ball off to Boyle, but he dragged his shot wide of the Rangers goal from 23 yards.

Hibs came forward again in 9 minutes, with Stevenson playing the ball down the left for Murray.  He took the ball into the area before laying it back to Stevenson just outside the box.  He shot for goal and it came off the foot of the diving Alves and flew into the corner to give Hibs the lead.

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There was more bad news for Rangers in 13 minutes when Miller was forced to come off after going down when attempting to challenge McGeouch and he departed the pitch on a stretcher.

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Morelos fed Barjonas in 21 minutes and he had a shot at the Hibs goal from outside the box, but his low shot was a few feet wide.

Rangers won a corner in 22 minutes after McGregor had headed a free kick from Windass behind.  John’s corner saw Marciano come out of his goal and get nowhere near the ball and it came to the unmarked Morelos at the back post, but he made a mess of the header and knocked it wide.

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McCrorie picked up the game’s first booking in 24 minutes, when he kicked the ball away after fouling Hibs’ McGinn.

In 26 minutes, Hanlon strode forward from defence and played a one-two with Stokes and burst into the Rangers box on the left.  He got his shot away, but Foderingham parried and the defence cleared.

A minute later and McGeouch found Shaw, who played the ball inside John for Boyle, but Foderingham was there to block again.

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Boyle played Stokes in down the right in 37 minutes and his cross into the Rangers box was turned behind by Tavernier with Murray lurking.

The already booked McCrorie bundled over McGinn in 38 minutes and was a bit fortunate to escape further punishment.

A headed clearance from Ambrose in 42 minutes was picked up by Barjonas who stepped inside McGeouch, but dragged his shot wide.

In 42 minutes, Holt took possession of a loose ball and cleverly flicked the ball into the path of Windass who took a touch before whipping the ball past Marciano into the corner of the net to bring Rangers level.

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Quick passing by Rangers in the second minute of first half injury time saw Holt, Candeias then Barjonas play first time passes before the latter played the ball to Morelos.  He took the ball into the box on the right and turned Hanlon inside out before rifling past Marciano at the near post from a tight angle to put the visitors in front.

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The half time whistle blew straight after kick off.  With 5 minutes to the interval, Hibs would have been disappointed not to be more than one in front in a half they had controlled, then found themselves behind at the break.

In 50 minutes, McGeouch passed to Boyle on the right and he put a terrific cross into the box for Murray inside the six yard box, but he somehow didn’t make contact.

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Ambrose picked up Hibs first booking in 57 minutes for hauling down Windass.

Tavernier went down the right for Rangers in 58 minutes and put in a fantastic cross to the back post for the unmarked Morelos who made a complete mess of his header, looking as though he was trying to head it down for a team mate, who wasn’t there.  McGregor headed the ball behind.

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The resultant corner was played to Morelos on the left, but he smashed the ball into the side netting.

Boyle swung a cross into the Rangers box from the right in 59 minutes, which came all the way to Barker on the other side.  He brought the ball into the box then sent a curling effort past Foderingham which thumped off the base of the far post.

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Hanlon came forward for Hibs in 63 minutes and played a one-two with Stokes, but his shot was wild.

Barjonas was booked in 64 minutes for a cynical challenge on Boyle on the touchline as the Hibs winger came forward.

With 68 minutes gone, Boyle exchanged passes with Ambrose on the right before hitting a low cross into the Rangers box, where Foderingham touched the ball away.

Hibs attacked again in 69 minutes with Hanlon playing the ball to Barker on the left touchline.  He came inside and smashed a low shot from 20 yards which came off the inside of the near post with Foderingham beaten.  Stokes was first to the rebound, but he was offside.

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Holt picked up a booking in 74 minutes for preventing McGinn from taking a Hibs free kick.

Ambrose crossed into the Rangers box in 77 minutes and Murray didn’t make good contact with his header, but the ball looked to come off the arm of Bates as it bounced.  The home fans screamed for a penalty, but the referee wasn’t interested.

In 80 minutes, Stokes passed inside to Barker who took the ball away from Bates and hammered the ball at goal, but this time he was just too high.

Windass took down McGeouch in 86 minutes and became the next player to be shown the yellow card.

Hibs threw Hanlon up front in the last few minutes as they chased an equaliser, but they were unable to create another chance.

Hibs should have taken something from the game and were the better side on the night, but Rangers took their chances when they came and defended resolutely to gain all three points.

Boyle and McGeouch were best for Hibs, with Barker causing a lot of problems when he came on.  For Rangers, Holt and McCrorie worked hard in midfield and were the stand outs for them, with Foderingham making a couple of vital saves.

Full Time: Hibs 1 Rangers 2

Admission: £28

Hibernian: 1 Ofir Marciano, 25 Efe Ambrose, 24 Darren McGregor, 4 Paul Hanlon, 17 Martin Boyle, 10 Dylan McGeouch, 7 John McGinn, 16 Lewis Stevenson, 28 Anthony Stokes, 15 Simon Murray (Whittaker 87), 32 Oli Shaw (Barker 50).  Subs: 41 Maciej Dawbrowski, 3 Steven Whittaker, 6 Marvin Bartley, 8 Vykintas Slivka, 20 Brandon Barker, 33 Fraser Murray, 36 Ryan Porteous.

Rangers: 1 Wes Foderingham, 2 James Tavernier, 22 Bruno Alves, 6 Danny Wilson, 3 Declan John, 40 Ross McCrorie, 35 Jamie Barjonas (Bates 72), 23 Jason Holt, 11 Josh Windass, 20 Alfredo Morelos (Herrera 84), 9 Kenny Miller (Candeias 14). Subs: 32 Liam Kelly, 15 Eduardo Herrera, 17 Lee Hodson, 19 Niko Kranjcar, 21 Daniel Candeias, 24 David Bates, 27 Carlos Pena.

Referee: Kevin Clancy.

Programme: £3

Hearts v Dundee

Tuesday 12 December 2017, 19.45, Tynecastle Park

The Scottish Premiership clash between Heart of Midlothian and Dundee.

A return to Tynecastle after last being there on 19 November for Hearts draw with Partick Thistle.  While everyone at Hearts was delighted to get back to Tynecastle, they haven’t hit the heights since being back home.  After that draw, there were further home draws with Ross County and Hamilton, before they got their first win in front of the new stand in their last game.  That 1-0 win against Motherwell was their first win in 6 games and took Hearts up to sixth spot.  They would be looking to cement a place in the top half for the rest of the season.

Midfielders Jamie Walker and Arnaud Djoum both limped off in the win against Motherwell and only Djoum was fit enough to play.  Aaron Hughes was missing again, and teenage striker Rory Currie is out for the season. Jamie Brandon returned from suspension.

A first look at Dundee this season and the first time we had seen them since December the year before, when they won 3-2 against Hearts at Dens Park.

Hearts made four changes. Rafal Grzelak, Anthony McDonald, Cole Stockton and Esmael Goncalves came in for Michael Smith, Don Cowie, Jamie Walker and Kyle Lafferty.  Sixteen year old McDonald was making his first team debut in midfield.

Dundee interim manager Neil McCann had announced he was leaving the club before being given the job on a permanent basis in June.  There have been a number of changes in the playing staff since then.

Leaving the club were Matty Allan, Yordi Teijsse, David Mitchell, Rory Loy, Tom Hateley, Nick Ross, Kevin Gomis, Calvin Colquhoun and Danny Williams.

Coming in were central defenders Jack Hendry from Wigan Athletic and Josh Meekings from Inverness Caledonian Thistle, midfielders Lewis Spence from Dunfermline Athletic, Glen Kamara from Arsenal and Roarie Deacon from Sutton United, goalkeeper Elliot Parish from Accrington Stanley, winger Randy Wolters from Go Ahead Eagles, left back Jon Aurtenexe from SD Amorebieta and forward Sofian Moussa from FC Lokomotiv Gorna Oryahovitsa.  In on loan were midfielder Scott Allan from Celtic and AJ Leitch-Smith, a forward from Shrewsbury Town.

It hasn’t been a great start to the season for Dundee, and they came into the game in tenth spot.  They have been showing real signs of improvement recently, which saw them draw with Kilmarnock, beat Rangers and win at Ross County.  Their previous outing some them lose by a single goal at home to Aberdeen.

Dundee had a full squad to choose from and Scott Allan and Kerr Waddell came into the starting line-up for Cammy Kerr and Faissal El Bakhtaoui, who were both on the bench.

There were 15,566 in attendance, with 531 in the away end.

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The home side looked to get on the front foot from the start, but the Dundee defence comfortably dealt with early crosses into their box.

Djoum then had a go at the Dundee goal from around 20 yards in 10 minutes, after a forward run by Moore, but it was too high.

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While Djoum’s shot didn’t really threaten, it did so more than his team mate Isma’s’, when his effort in 15 minutes went out for a throw in.

The long range efforts continued for Hearts as Randall had a go after driving forward towards goal in 18 minutes, but again, it was too high.

Hearts were really starting to put some pressure on and Buaben’s shot from the edge of the box in 20 minutes appeared to hit Meekings’ hand, but the award of a penalty would have been very harsh.

Berra’s ball across the face of the Dundee goal in 22 minutes was half cleared by Waddell, but Djoum picked up the ball and played in Stockton.  His shot was blocked by the foot of Parish.

Djoum and O’Hara both required treatment in 24 minutes after going into a tackle on the half way line, but both looked able to continue.

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Dundee looked to get into the game in 28 minutes when Deacon was brought down by Grzelak, 25 yards from the Hearts goal.  Allan struck for goal, but it didn’t unduly trouble McLaughlin.

McDonald picked up a loose ball midway inside his own half in 30 minutes and burst forward into the Dundee half.  He continued his run before slipping Isma through in the box and he held off Meekings before sliding the ball past Parish and into the net to give the hosts the lead.

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Hearts were delighted to be in front, but in the aftermath of the goal, Djoum was forced to go off.  With his replacement, Cochrane aged 16, they now had two 16-year-olds and a 19-year-old (Moore) in midfield.  Twenty-nine-year-old Buaben, the other in the midfield brought the average age up a bit.

The departure of Djoum seemed to signal more possession for the visitors, but they lacked any penetration.

A cross to the back post by McDonald in 38 minutes saw Stockton challenge for the ball in the air with Dundee’s Hendry, and the defender collided with the post.  It was good to see that he was ok to continue after treatment.

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Dundee fashioned a great chance in 43 minutes when Moussa chested the ball down for Deacon.  He turned well, but scuffed his shot, which deflected into the path of Moussa, but he couldn’t sort his feet out quickly enough and McLaughlin smothered.

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Aurtenetxe won Dundee a free kick in 45 minutes and Allan’s cross found the head of Meekings, but he glanced it wide.

While Dundee were finishing the half strongly, it was Hearts who had the final chance of the half.  Isma went on a run that saw him spin away from a couple of defenders before he fed Moore.  His shot though, was straight at Parish.

Hearts in front at the break and deservedly so, although Dundee had grown into the game as the half wore on.  They still struggled to create much though and needed to get through the Hearts defence in the second half.

Hendry didn’t come out after the interval, probably still suffering from his argument with the post.  Dundee switched to a 4-2-3-1 formation as Kerr came on.

Four minutes into the second half, Aurtenetxe picked out Deacon on the right hand side of the Hearts box.  He cut inside Grzelak and sent a low shot narrowly wide of the post.

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A fine move by Hearts in 51 minutes ended with Moore feeding Randall on the right and his cross was perfect for Stockton who tapped the ball into the net from close range, but the flag was up for offside.

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Dundee broke forward in 54 minutes and McGowan looked for Moussa in the box, but Souttar managed to turn the ball behind.  From the corner, Meekings won the header, but his effort was too high.

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The visitors were having a good spell and won a couple of corners before Hearts’ Grzelak was booked for a foul on the dangerous Deacon in 57 minutes.

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Allan tried to catch out McLaughlin in the Hearts goal in 59 minutes with a free kick from the right, but the keeper was quickly across.

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There was a blow for Dundee in 63 minutes when Deacon had to go off, not having fully recovered from the earlier tackle.

In 65 minutes, Stockton did well to control a high clearance from the Hearts defence just inside the opponents’ half and he sent a great ball for Callaghan who was clean through on the Dundee goal.  He charged through the middle, but shot straight at Parish and the ball was cleared.

O’Hara won a free kick for Dundee in 69 minutes on the edge of the Hearts box after being fouled by Cochrane.  Aurtenetxe curled the ball around the wall, but it was wide of the post.

The next few minutes seemed to be littered with fouls as both teams looked for the crucial next goal.

Buaben had a shot at the Dundee goal from outside the box in 75 minutes, but it was off target.

A Hearts corner in 77 minutes was taken by McDonald.  O’Hara tried to clear but the ball came off the head of team mate Kerr and fell to Berra at the back post.  He took a touch before slamming the ball past Parish and into the net to make it 2-0.

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Aurtenetxe receive a long ball on the left for Dundee in 82 minutes and sent a great curling effort with the outside of his foot at goal.  McLaughlin looked beaten, but the ball landed on the top of the net.

Lafferty strode into the Dundee box in 87 minutes, but his shot was blocked by the legs of Parish.

There was no further action and Hearts walked away with the three points.

Hearts had looked the more dangerous throughout, but the visitors did improve in the second half, without looking hugely threatening.  Dundee’s change in formation at the interval seemed to help them, but Hearts still had some good chances to extend their lead.

McDonald made a fine debut for Hearts and was heavily involved in both goals.  Moore also did well on the other flank, but Berra was the stand out, as he didn’t put a foot wrong at the back and even managed to score the clinching goal.  Dundee had decent spells of possession and Allan tried to probe his way through the Hearts defence and Deacon looked a threat until his departure, but too many errors were their downfall.

Full Time: Hearts 2 Dundee 0

Admission: £19

Hearts: 1 Jon McLaughlin, 16 Connor Randall, 4 John Souttar, 6 Christophe Berra, 27 Rafal Grzelak, 46 Anthony McDonald, 8 Prince Buaben, 10 Arnaud Djoum (Cochrane 31), 33 Lewis Moore (Lafferty 73), 77 Isma Goncalves (Callaghan 57), 23 Cole Stockton.  Subs: 13 Jack Hamilton, 2 Michael Smith, 9 Kyle Lafferty, 15 Don Cowie, 20 Ross Callaghan, 30 Jamie Brandon, 47 Harry Cochrane.

Dundee: 12 Elliot Parish, 34 Kerr Waddell, 22 Jack Hendry (Kerr 46), 24 Josh Meekings, 14 Mark O’Hara, 8 Glen Kamara, 18 Paul McGowan (Leitch-Smith 74), 10 Scott Allan, 15 Jon Aurtenetxe, 21 Roarie Deacon (El Bakhtaoui 64), 9 Sofien Moussa. Subs:  GK Calum Ferrie, 2 Cammy Kerr, 3 Kevin Holt, 6 Darren O’Dea, 7 AJ Leitch-Smith, 20 Faissal El Bakhtaoui, 29 Marcus Haber.

Referee: Craig Thomson

Programme: £3.50.

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