Saturday 1 April 2017, 15.00, Central Park

A first Scottish League Two game of the season and a crucial match between Cowdenbeath and Clyde.

With 5 league games left after this encounter, Cowdenbeath sat bottom of the table, four points behind second bottom Clyde.  Edinburgh City were a further three points ahead.  A must win game for the home side, and vital for Clyde to try and pull away from the relegation zone.

The team that finishes bottom then faces a two legged play-off against either the winner of the Lowland or Highland League (they play each other first).

It’s a first look at Cowdenbeath this season, or “The Blue Brazil” as they are affectionately known, although we did see their under 20 side in pre-season.

Cowdenbeath are the oldest surviving football club in Fife and were formed in 1882, the same year as the Fifeshire Football Association came into being.  They were admitted to the Scottish Football League in 1905.  They won the league in 1914 and 1915, but were not promoted on either occasion.  The league was suspended during the First World War and the club moved to its current home in 1917.

When finishing runners-up in Division Two in 1923-24, they were promoted to the top flight for the first time and stayed there until relegation in 1933-34.  They won the championship in 1938-39, the timing of which could have been better as their promotion was held up by the Second World War as the club closed down for its duration.  When it resumed in 1946, the club were bafflingly put in the new second tier.

A lengthy period of non-movement came before they returned to the top flight in 1970-71, but it was short lived, dropping back down a year later.

More league construction meant when they won promotion in 1991-92 to the First Division, it was the second tier, but they were soon back in the basement league again.  More recent years has seen a number of high profile ex-players have varying degrees of success, with Craig Levein, Mixu Paatelainen, Danny Lennon, Jimmy Nicholl and Colin Cameron.  There were many yo-yo years but they got back into the second tier in 2010-11.  They dropped down again before going back up in 2012-13.

They escaped relegation by the skin of their teeth in the following 2 seasons, in 2013-14 by winning on the last day, and the following year by defeating local rivals Dunfermline Athletic in a play-off.  The luck ran out in 2014-15 in the season when the Championship contained Hearts, Rangers and Hibs.  The four worst defeats came at the hands of Hibs and Queen of the South (5-0), Falkirk (6-0) and Hearts (10-0).  Even then, they were overtaken by Alloa Athletic and Livingston on the final day to send them down.

They suffered successive relegation when they went down again in 2015-16 under new manager Colin Nish.

New manager Liam Fox began the season in charge at Central Park.  Fox resigned on 6 March with Cowden looking likely to drop into the Lowland League with another relegation.  Gary Locke became the new manager four days later.

Under Locke, Cowden had been showing signs of life.  In his five games in charge, they’d won two, lost two and drawn one.  They hadn’t won a game this year up until that point.  They are not out of the woods yet though.

Much of Clyde’s historical documentation was destroyed in a fire, but the general consensus is that they were formed in 1877 and had their ground on the banks of the River Clyde.

They joined the Scottish Football League in 1891 and had a remarkable first game when they defeated Vale of Leven by 10 goals to 3.

Clyde soon outgrew their stadium and moved to Shawfield in 1898.  With promotion not automatic, they were denied promotion from Division 2 in 1904 and 1905 despite second and first placed finishes.  They were finally promoted after the following season.

The period up until the First World War saw Clyde flourish in the top league, with two third place finished and two Scottish Cup final appearances.  Top flight status was lost for two seasons in the early 1920s.  They went on to win the Scottish Cup for the first time in 1939.

After the Second World War they were to have more success in the Scottish Cup with a final appearance in 1949 before the ‘50s saw a couple of relegations followed by immediate promotion each time.  They won the Scottish Cup again in 1955 and 1958

The 1960s again saw some yo-yo years, with again both relegations followed by immediate promotions.  A third place finish in the top division in 1966-67 saw them denied entry into European football due to the one club per city rule.  Changed days indeed.

The ‘70s began with a continuation of the theme with demotion to Division Two lasting just one season, but when they went down again in 1974-75, they didn’t return as the new Premier Division was established the following year.  In fact they were relegated again.

The up and down nature of their existence continued, now between the new Division 2 and Division 1, and worse was to come when they were forced to leave Shawfield in 1986.  Ground sharing was forced upon them with Partick Thistle and then Hamilton Accies acting as their landlords as the yo-yoing continued.

In 1994, they moved into their present home, Broadwood Stadium in Cumbernauld.  That didn’t mean their troubles were over though and they nearly fell out of the league altogether in 1998 and suffered major financial difficulties.  It’s not been all bad though.  In 2004 they almost won promotion to the Premier Division and in 2006, they knocked Celtic out of the Scottish Cup.

More recent years have seen them drop down to the bottom division and they have been there since 2010, with two unsuccessful play-off appearances to try and attain promotion.

This season has been a tough one, with manager Barry Ferguson resigning in February.  First team squad members, Jon Paul McGovern and Peter MacDonald are currently in charge.

Clyde made three new signings in the week of the game, with Kyle Gourlay and Kerr Waddell joining on loan from Dundee.  They have also signed former Scotland striker David Goodwillie, who left Plymouth by mutual consent in January, after a judge ruled in a civil case that Goodwillie had committed an act of rape.  They are missing Ross Perry, Ewan McNeil and Scott Linton through injury.  They suffered a further blow when Chris Smith was injured in the warm up and was replaced in the starting eleven by Jordan McMillan.  Aaron Miller took the space on the bench.

The sides met at Clyde 11 days before this game with Cowdenbeath running out 2-0 winners.

Central Park is sometimes known as ‘Racewall’ as it is also a venue for stock car racing.  Three sides of the ground are terraced, all of which are set quite a way back from the pitch due to the racetrack and a wall, as well as a high fence.  It’s not always easy to get a good view from the terracing depending on the size of the crowd.

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The stand is split into two with the ‘old grandstand’, and the ‘new stand’.  The away fans tend to be housed in the old stand with the home supporters in the new one.  The only real difference is the old one is larger and has wooden seats, as opposed to the plastic ones in the new.

The old stand is half of the original one, which was decimated due to a fire in 1992.  There also used to be a cover on the west end terracing, but it blew away in 1983.  (Yes really.)

Central Park always seems to get a lot of abuse from away fans, but it certainly has character and I enjoy the occasional visit there.

There were 460 in attendance.

There was a brief hold up as there seemed to be a problem with one of the nets.

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The Clyde fans were quite noisy in the old stand.

With 4 minutes gone, Gormley received the ball just inside the Cowdenbeath half.  He looked up and saw he had no support from any Clyde team mates, so went for goal, but it was a comfortable save for Sneddon.

A cross into the Cowden box in 6 minutes came to McNiff, but he hadn’t been expecting the ball to reach him and he took a heavy touch giving McLauchlan the chance to clear.

A minute later and Gormley had a sight of goal in the Cowden box, but McLauchlan managed to block.

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A good ball from the left by Henderson in 14 minutes after two Clyde players had run into each other was just too high for Syme, who managed to get his head on it, but couldn’t direct it at the Clyde goal.

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In 15 minutes, it looked as though Sneddon may have handled the ball just outside his box with Gormley closing in for Clyde, but he got away with it.

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Good closing down by Carrick in 16 minutes resulted in a loose clearance by a Clyde defender and Miller quickly played the ball wide to Renton, but his ball across the face of the goal had no takers.

A promising run down the right by Johnston in 18 minutes saw Miller block his cross into the Cowden box.

In 21 minutes, Henderson chested the ball down and shot first time in the Clyde box, but his effort was off target.

Henderson had another opportunity in 24 minutes when he latched onto a ball across the face of goal, but he shot well over.

Carrick set up Miller for a shot at goal in 28 minutes, but his shot from 22 yards lacked power and Gourlay in the Clyde goal got down to save.

Cowdenbeath were slow to close down Johnston as he came forward in 33 minutes as he ran towards their box, and his shot from just outside it went narrowly wide, although Sneddon looked to have it covered.

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The home side broke quickly in 35 minutes and Henderson found Miller in the box, but Rutkiewicz made a great tackle to send the ball behind.

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In 39 minutes, Gormley slid the ball through for Johnston on the right side of the Cowden box.  He was through on Sneddon, but the keeper managed to block the shot with his legs.

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Mullen had a shot at the Clyde goal from the edge of the box in 40 minutes.  The ball moved in the air, but Gourlay managed to gather.

Cowdenbeath’s Pyper and Clyde’s Flynn were involved in a bit of a shoving match in 41 minutes, but it soon subsided.

A goalless first half with Johnston’s opportunity in 39 minutes for Clyde the best chance of a disappointing 45 minutes.

With 50 minutes gone, a Clyde corner into the box saw Cowden’s attempts to clear blocked by the hands of Clyde’s MacDonald.  He held his face but was fooling nobody, apart from perhaps the referee, who allowed play to continue as the ball ran to Waddell, but Sneddon saved his shot.

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In 54 minutes, a ball forward by Cowdenbeath’s Pyper was missed by McMillan and Carrick was onto it in a flash and slid the ball past the onrushing Gourlay to give the hosts the lead.

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He celebrated the goal by perching himself on one of the giant tyres at the side of the pitch and pretending to drive.

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A fine tackle by Waddell in 55 minutes prevented Henderson from a clear run on the Clyde goal.

Up the other end a minute later and a great cross by MacDonald looked right on the head of Johnston as it went over the head of Sneddon, but his header somehow went away from goal, rather than towards it.

Johnston found some space on the right for Clyde in 65 minutes and his ball across for Gormley saw a great tackle by McLauchlan.

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Goodwillie’s arrival from the bench in 66 minutes was met with a chorus of boos.

A Clyde free kick into the box by McMillan in 80 minutes fell to the feet of McNiff, but Sneddon made a magnificent save to deny him.

McMillan was booked in 81 minutes for a late tackle on Cowden’s Carrick.  He was joined by team mate Waddell two minutes later for a foul on Henderson.

The bookings were coming thick and fast as Clyde’s Johnston was yellow carded in 84 minutes for pushing over Henderson, who was also carded.

An altercation between Cowden’s McLauchlan and Clyde’s Goodwillie in 87 minutes produced, you’ve guessed it, two further bookings.

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There was great entertainment in 88 minutes when a Clyde player raced behind the goal to retrieve the ball quickly and threw it towards Gourlay.  The ball hit the advertising hoardings and went even further behind the goal.  A ball boy got it and carried the ball all the way back rather than throwing or kicking it.

In the 90th minute, Johnston had a shot at the Cowden goal, but dragged his shot wide.

Henderson picked up a loose ball in injury time and tried a shot at the Clyde goal from the half way line.  He really should have been seeking to retain possession for his team, but it didn’t matter in the end as the final whistle blew a few seconds later.

A vital win for Cowdenbeath that gives them hope of staying up and a bad one for Clyde, pulling them further into trouble.  A lot of big games ahead for both.

McLauchlan was impressive at the back for Cowden and Carrick’s tireless running and hold up play (as well as the vital goal) had him head and shoulders above anyone else on the pitch.  For Clyde, McLaughlin put in a power of work with little reward.

Full Time: Cowdenbeath 1 Clyde 0

Admission: £12

Cowdenbeath: 17 Jamie Sneddon, 23 Jamie Pyper, 21 Gerald McLauchlan, 5 Scott Rumsby, 16 Shaun Rutherford, 4 Fraser Mullen, 2 David Syme, 6 Kyle Miller (Ross 62), 12 Liam Henderson, 9 Dale Carrick, 14 Kris Renton.  Subs: 1 David McGurn, 7 Lewis Moore, 8 Burton O’Brien, 18 Craig Johnston, 20 Robbie Buchanan, 22 Brian Ross, 29 Cameron Muirhead.

Clyde: 1 Kyle Gourlay, 23 Kerr Waddell, 26 Kevin Rutkiewicz, 13 Jordan McMillan, 16 Phil Johnston, 8 Matthew Flynn (Ferguson 66), 14 Scott Lochhead (Finnie 64), 6 Scott McLaughlin, 4 Martin McNiff, 9 David Gormley, 18 Peter MacDonald (Goodwillie 66). Subs: 3 David Goodwillie, 10 Marc McKenzie, 11 Sean Higgins, 12 Ryan Finnie, 17 Scott Ferguson, 20 Aaron Millar, 21 John Gibson.

Referee: Grant Irvine

Programme: £2.50

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