Saturday 8 July 2017, 14.00, Ochilview
Friendly action between Stenhousemuir of Scottish League Two and Real Kashmir of I-League 2nd Division, the second division of football in India.
We hadn’t seen Stenhousemuir since they won the League One play-off final to preserve their status in the third tier of Scottish Football in May 2015. We had been to Ochilview since though, to see their tenants East Stirlingshire.
Stenhousemuir earned the nickname ‘The Warriors’ in the 1880s, but there seems to be no definitive reason how it came about.
Season 2015-16 saw The Warriors avoid a play-off by a single point, but last season they finished bottom, three points from safety and one behind the play-off spot, and they fell to the Second Division.
Stenhousemuir FC began in 1884 after a breakaway from a local junior team called Heather Rangers. After a couple of brief flirtations with other grounds, they moved into their current Ochilview home in 1890.
Early successes included triumph in the Scottish Qualifying Cup in 1901 and 1902 and a year later, they reached the Scottish Cup semi-final.
Their early years saw them play in various Central Leagues, before they moved to the newly established Scottish League Division Two in 1921.
The wooden main stand was burnt down in 1928 and the new stand appeared to have been built by John Wayne and Roy Rogers, as the architect had designed it without any stairway access. These were subsequently added.
Stenhousemuir were involved in the first floodlit match played in Scotland between two Scottish teams, when they played Hibs in 1951.
Local rivals East Stirlingshire moved in to groundshare in season 2008-09.
In the 1994–95 season, when a four divisional structure was introduced, along with a new Third Division, Stenhousemuir’s third place saw them playing their football outside of the bottom senior league for the first time since the early 1920’s.
They won the Challenge Cup in 1995-96, when they beat Dundee United in the final, on penalties.
A new stand was erected in 1996 (the old stand was demolished in 1999) and things seemed to be looking up for the club, but they were relegated from the Second Division to the Third in 1997-98. They regained their Second Division status a year later, but dropped again in 2001/02.
A new covered enclosure behind one of the goals was added in 2003 and changes have continued, with a synthetic pitch installed before season 2006-07, along with new floodlights. (An upgraded synthetic pitch was put down in 2014).
Stenhousemuir got back to the Second Division for season 2009-10 after winning through in the play-offs.
A second Challenge Cup Final appearance almost came in 2013, but they lost by a solitary goal to Rangers in the semi-final.
Last season’s relegation has seen a lot of players depart and a lot of new faces brought in.
Departing Ochilview were Thomas Grant, Graham Bowman, Mason Robertson, Kieran Millar, Alan Cook, Sean Robertson, Vinnie Berry, Liam McMaster, Paul Nash, Calum Runciman, Grant Hamilton, Liam McCroary, Jamie McCormack and Mark Gilhaney, who retired.
Coming in are winger Eddie Ferns from Arbroath, goalkeepers Lewis McMinn from Falkirk and Chris Smith from Stirling Albion, left back Ruaridh Donaldson from Bonnyrigg Rose, midfielders Mark Ferry from Albion Rovers, Nathan Blockley from Peterhead and Jimmy Scott from Arbroath, forwards Jamie Longworth from Alloa Athletic and Mark McGuigan from Stranraer, and defenders (and brothers) Michael and Ross Dunlop from Albion Rovers.
Midfielder Harry Paton also joins the squad on a season long loan from Hearts and Thomas Halleran, Robbie Sinclair and Joshua Gracie have signed from the Forth Valley Football Academy.
Stenhousemuir fans could be forgiven for checking they were in the right ground with all the new faces.
Founded in 2016, Real Kashmir FC are an Indian professional football club based in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir. Kashmir is the northernmost geographical region of the Indian subcontinent.
Real Kashmir compete in the I-League 2nd Division, the second division of football in India. The club participated in their first national competition in September 2016 when they played in the 2016 Durand Cup.
The I-League 2nd Division is split into three mini-groups of four who play each other home and away in the preliminary round. The top two from each group then go through to the next stage where they again play each other home and away to determine the league winners. Promotion and relegation of clubs takes place between the top league and 2nd Division. The 2017 season saw Real Kashmir eliminated in the preliminary round, missing out on the next stage on head to heads. They beat the winners of the Group, local rivals Lonestar Kashmir, home and away, but it wasn’t quite enough.
Former Scotland, Aberdeen and Rangers left back David Robertson is the manager of the Indian side and he is responsible for their visit to Scotland. Friendlies had been set up against Albion Rovers, Hamilton Accies under 20s and Stenhousemuir. The first two were, however, postponed. Their initial visa application was rejected for lack of paper work so they had to resubmit before they were granted. A closed-door game was arranged against Albion Rovers which Real lost 5-0, probably still suffering from the four flights it took to reach Scotland.
Interesting tannoy announcement, after reading the teams out, the man on the mic said “If you think Stenhousemuir can kick Real Kashmir’s ass, give me a hell yeah!” There were no replies.
The teams posed for photos together before the game kicked off. It was noticeable that the Indian side had branded everything, from bibs to jackets and rucksacks.
Some lovely skill by Paton in 2 minutes before he passed to Scott. He fed the overlapping Donaldson, but his cross was taken by Sheikh.
It was interesting to see that all the Real players had crammed into one of the two dugouts available for the away side.
Halleran took the ball down in the Kashmir box in 7 minutes and hit a shot which went just wide of the post.
Paton was showing some lovely touches in the opening minutes in the Stenhousemuir midfield.
A fine pass into the Kashmir box by Paton in 12 minutes was to the feet of Scott. He took it past Shabir Ahmad Sheikh and played the ball across goal, but Mohammad Hammad was there to clear the ball behind.
Paton fed Meechan on the right for Stenhousemuir in 14 minutes and his cross was met by the head of Longworth, but he didn’t get much power in it and it was an easy save for the keeper.
Longworth picked the ball up on the left hand side of the Kashmir box in 16 minutes and sent a thunderous half volley at goal. The ball came off the underside of the bar and hit the luckless Suhail Ahmad and went into the net to give the home side the lead.
Another Stenhousemuir ball into the box in 17 minutes by Meechan came off a defender into the path of McGuigan, but his first time shot was over the bar.
A minute later and Scott played the ball wide to McGuigan on the left. He went past Shahid Nazir and chipped the ball to the back post where an unchallenged Longworth hit a side-foot volley into the net to make it two.
A great ball by Real’s Ubaid Harron in 20 minutes sent Asrar Rehbar running through on the left, but the flag was up for offside.
In 26 minutes Ross Dunlop played through for Longworth on the right hand side of the box. He chipped to the back post where Scott jumped highest to head home and make it 3-0.
A pass into the feet of Longworth in the Real box in 30 minutes saw him slightly caught by Liyaqat Gul and the referee pointed to the spot. McGuigan sent Shabir Ahmad Sheikh the wrong way for the home side’s fourth.
McGuigan went down in the Real box in 32 minutes, but nothing was given. It looked more of a penalty than the one they did get.
Scott played the ball up the left for Longworth in 33 minutes as Stenhousemuir attacked again. He played it back to Donaldson who passed inside for Halleran on the edge of the box, but his shot was wide.
Paton’s corner in 35 minutes saw the ball bobbling around in Real’s box. It fell to Michael Dunlop, but his shot was deflected behind.
Another corner for the hosts just before half time saw the ball come to Scott whose shot rattled the post. The rebound fell to Longworth, but it was deflected wide.
A big lead for Stenhousemuir at the break and the visitors were struggling to get into the game.
Paton found space in behind the Real defence in 47 minutes with his pass for Scott, but he shot over the bar.
Some neat passing by Stenhousemuir in 49 minutes ended with Donaldson crossing into the box for McGuigan, but he put his header just wide.
With 53 minutes gone, Paton put a free kick into the Real box and Donaldson headed across goal for McGuigan who had time to bring the ball down and shoot into the opposite corner of the net to make it five.
A clever pass up the right hand side of the Real box in 54 minutes by McGuigan to Meechan saw him cut the ball back to Scott. He was all alone in the box, but Shabir Ahmad Sheikh blocked well.
Halleran struck a free kick at the Real goal from a 25 yard free kick in 56 minutes, but the keeper took it well.
After Shabir Ahmad Sheikh had turned a shot around the post in 62 minutes, Paton’s corner found the head of McGuigan at the front post, but he nodded over.
Real Kashmir won a free kick in 66 minutes about 23 yards from goal. Hanan Mir struck at goal, but McMinn smothered.
McGuigan ran onto a through ball in 70 minutes, but couldn’t get the ball past Shabir Ahmad Sheikh.
A great run down the left by Donaldson in 76 minutes saw him go past three defenders as he ran into the box. His shot though went wide of the post.
A mistake in the Real defence in 81 minutes saw Shabir Ahmad Sheikh misplace a pass and give the ball to McGuigan. He ran into the box and took it round the keeper, who brought him down. Before the referee could whistle for a penalty, McGuigan put the ball into the net from a prone position for his hat-trick and to make it 6-0.
A confident Scott had a go at the Real goal from the half way line in 85 minutes, but it was well off target.
A tough afternoon for Real Kashmir, who improved a little in the second half. While they have some talented players in the team, Stenhousemuir were too big and strong for them to compete against and the home side looked to have made a number of good signings.
Most impressive for Stenhousemuir were Paton (particularly in the first half), Donaldson who looked very assured at left back and McGuigan who was a constant threat. For Kashmir, Amer Rehman looked tidy in midfield and Shabir Ahmad Sheikh made some good blocks in goal.
A number of fans stayed behind to clap the Real Kashmir players off the pitch.
Full Time: Stenhousemuir 6 Real Kashmir 0
Stenhousemuir: 1 Chris Smith (McMinn 57), 2 Ross Meechan, 4 Ross Dunlop, 5 Michael Dunlop, 11 Ruaridh Donaldson, 14 Mark Ferry, 6 Harry Paton, 7 Thomas Halleran, 12 Mark McGuigan (Ferns 82), 3 Martin Scott, 9 Jamie Longworth. Subs: 17 Lewis McMinn, 8 Robbie Sinclair, 10 Eddie Ferns, 15 Joshua Gracie, 16 Ross Gilmour.
Real Kashmir: 31 Shabir Ahmad Sheikh, 18 Shahid Nazir (Sameer Fayaz 57), 3 Mohammad Hammad, 4 Suhail Ahmad, 15 Liyaqat Gul (Basalat Javaid 31), 7 Amer Rehman, 11 Asrar Rehbar (Adnan Ayub 72), 9 Danish Farooq, 24 Ubaid Harron (Ishafq Ahmad 57), 23 Shayik Rasooi, 25 Prem Kumar (Hanan Mir 45). Subs: 30 Safiz Riyaz, 2 Amir Hussain, 14 Basalat Javaid, 27 Hanan Mir, 13 Ishafq Ahmad, 12 Adnan Ayub, 5 Sameer Fayaz, 6 Shazan Ali, 17 Aqib Mushtaq, 21 Musaib Mushtaq.
Referee: Stewart Luke
Programme: By donation. Free teamsheet.