Sunday, 2 February 2014

The Edinburgh massive

The rivalry between Hibs and Hearts here in Edinburgh is, frankly, not as friendly as it should be at times. I have friends on both sides of the maroon-and-green divide, and over the course of the season -- when and only when Dumbarton are not playing -- I will make trips to see both of them.

That said, I live in Leith and Easter Road Stadium (pictured) is less than a mile from where I stay… plus the Hibees link with the Sons, through gaffer Ian Murray and others, is strong. So I lean green. Or at least, I  have in recent Scottish Cup finals, though I tend to avoid the derbies.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to the possibility/probability that the mighty DFC will get to play at Tynecastle next season, and hope that Hearts can recover and flourish as a fan-directed club after their recent woes. This afternoon they are up against Inverness Caley Thistle (former boss: new Hibs gaffer Terry Butcher) in the Scottish League Cup semi-final this afternoon… and, ironically, the match is at Easter Road.

If I'd had the time and money I'd have tried to grab a ticket. As it is, I'll be watching on BBC1 Scotland. The other semi, won 4-0 by Aberdeen against St Johnstone, grabbed the headlines for the right, footballing reasons. I hope the same is true of today's showcase, given the unsavoury happenings after the game at Gorgie yesterday.

There will be another major Scottish final without either of the Old Firm involved at the end of this season, that's for sure. This can only be good for the game here, which deserves much more of a break (especially in the media) than it gets.

Sons hold Accies in six-goal thriller

This match summary also appears on the official DFC website.

Dumbarton have taken a valuable point from an exciting 3-3 draw against Hamilton Accies away at New Douglas Park.

An amazing last gasp goal, thanks to a superb header from Chris Kane, ensured that Sons deservedly took something from the match -- after Accies had fought back from 2-1 down to lead 3-2 with only minutes to go.

The game started disappointingly for Dumbarton when Hamilton's James Keatings grabbed an opener on three minutes. But Sons were level after 27 minutes thanks to a great strike from Jordan Kirkpatrick.

The visitors went in front on 67 minutes through good work from Andy Graham, given as an own goal by Stephen Hendrie.

Hamilton stormed back. Keatings got his second before Jason Scotland looked to have stolen the match for Accies. Then up popped young Kane to head in at the near post for Sons, with just millimetres to spare.

Dumbarton slipped down one place to fifth in the SPFL Championship, after mid-table rivals Queen of the South beat Livingston, who now travel to the Bet Butler Stadium to face Sons on Wednesday night. The 5th February midweek game begins at 7:45pm.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

We hoped it would be the winner

But it wasn't. I didn't quite whip my camera out quite in time after the free kick that set this up was awarded. But I caught 'the end of the goal' that made it 2-1 to Dumbarton on 67 minutes. Sons' Andy Graham put the hard work in, but it went down as a Stephen Hendrie own-goal for Hamilton Accies. we hoped that would seal it, but then James Keatings equalised with bhis second of the afternoon, and Jason Scotland made it 2-3…. before Chris Kane rescued the day. I wish I had captured that one. A sublime header, squeaking in at the near post. Just one point, but we celebrated it like three!

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Practice makes… (well, we can hope)

Off to New Douglas Park today, to see the rejuvenated (but on this Saturday, depleted) Dumbarton take on Hamilton Accies. It was sunny in the morning, but the afternoon became progressively more overcast until the rain broke. This picture was from the midway point, about fifteen minutes before kick-off. Shooting practice at the away end. Good stop by young Josh Lumsden. You can actually see the blue sky giving way to grey. It was a battle between those two elements in the game itself, too. It ended 3-3. Another good result, all things considered.

Friday, 3 January 2014

A game, and more than a game

Someone reminded me of this t-shirt produced by Philosophy Football (who mash up everyone from Pele to Gramsci in their aim to highlight the pitch behind the the match, so to speak). Anyway, I'd certainly buy this one, and I don't just mean commercially… Happy 2014!


Saturday, 26 October 2013

Sons draw with Cowdenbeath

Dumbarton shared the spoils with Cowdenbeath in a 0-0 draw in an energetic game at the Bet Butler Stadium this afternoon.

Sons started the first half with pace, attitude and aggression, but as the tempo slowed down Cowdenbeath gradually came back into the game.

Jordan Kirkpatrick saw an outstanding strike crash against the crossbar, and both Mark Gilhaney and Mitch Megginson came close for Dumbarton. By half-time the game was still goalless, despite chances at both ends.

The visitors were fast out of the starting block after the restart. Kane Hemmings struck the ball over the bar from a rebound off Jamie Ewings' near post.

The Sons 'keeper made a fine save from another break as the Blue Brazil piled on the pressure. At the other end, Megginson was also denied by the woodwork.

The Sonstrust Man of the Match was doughty midfielder Chris Turner. The draw means Dumbarton remain in seventh place in the SPFL Championship.

Cowdenbeath are back at the Rock next Saturday, 2nd November, for a third round William Hill Scottish Cup tie.

[First published on the official DFC website]

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Paying the penalty

It was a little difficult to 'take the positives' from Dumbarton's second league game of the season, away against Hamilton Accies this afternoon. But at least Scott Agnew's penalty was something of a consolation in the second half. It didn't sop Sons from losing 4-1, however.

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Solid beating for Sons

Dumbarton received a thorough 4-1 beating from Hamilton Accies at New Douglas Park this afternoon, in their first away fixture of the season in the new Scottish Championship.

After a bright start, Sons went behind just before the half hour when the referee adjudged that a follow-through from an Aaron Barry tackle, which caught another player, was a penalty infringement. James Keating made no mistake with the spot kick on 28 minutes.

Two minutes later things went from bad for worse when lax defending allowed Keating to grab his and Hamilton's second of the afternoon. Dumbarton were not able to pull a goal back before the break.

In the second half they tried to press a little more, and on 67 minutes Scott Agnew gave the visitors hope with a sweetly struck penalty after an Accies foul in the area.

For a brief time it looked as if Sons had the momentum and might storm back. But then more lapses allowed Accies' Grant Gillespie (72 minutes) and Anthony Andreu (77 minutes) to put the game well beyond reach.

Next up for Dumbarton is a home match at the Rock against Greenock Morton on Saturday 24th August, before Premiership side Dundee United visit the Bet Butler Stadium on Wednesday 28th in the second round of the Scottish League Cup.
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Monday, 12 August 2013

Dumbarton 1 -v- Falkirk 1

Dumbarton secured the first point of their Championship campaign against Falkirk at the Rock this afternoon, pulling back a goal late on to claim a 1-1 draw.

The match started tentatively, but ended with passion and energy. Sons have started poorly over the past few years, taking ten games to pick up a point last season. This time they got going straight away.

The 2013/14 Championship season began with a heart-felt minute's applause for Sons legend Colin McAdam, who died unexpectedly earlier this month.

In the early exchanges, both sides were clearly testing one another. Falkirk appeared more direct and physical than last season. They have a number of promising youngsters in their squad who will take time to bed in.

There was an early panic for the home side, when a half-clearance went to Roberts and almost gave the Bairns an opportunity to break through.

New Sons loan signing Aaron Barry reacted quickly to the oncoming Roberts, but could do little other than to pull him down and was booked.

There were tense exchanges in the middle of the park, with the visitors looking to push forward. Both teams were losing the ball too early.

Then Dumbarton broke through. Garry Fleming went down under a challenge in the box. There were appeals for a penalty.

The referee took a different view however, and Fleming became the second Sons player to be shown a yellow card in a short space of time.

A good chance came Dumbarton's way when Scott Agnew curled in a trademark free kick to give Barry a virtually free header. But the Sheffield United youngster's effort went frustratingly wide.

Shortly after it was Agnew's turn to test Michael McGovern in the Bairns' goal. A short corner came to the playmaker and he unleashed a fierce shot.

The 'keeper was up to the challenge, producing an extraordinary diving save to tip the ball over the bar.

At the other end, Rory Loy got in behind Scott Smith to cuts the ball back for the onrushing Blair Alston, This time it was Jamie Ewings' turn to show his goalkeeping prowess for Dumbarton, saving well.

Both sides then had chances to open the scoring in fairly quick succession. First an attempt by Loy was ruled offside. Then, for Sons, Mark Gilhaney tormented the visiting defence and crashed the ball across goal.

His strike ricocheted off a Falkirk defender, hit McGovern and was somehow scrambled clear by the Falkirk defence.

Barry made a fine tackle to stop Loy once more, as the Bairns pressed forward towards the end of the first half.

However, neither side was able to find the net in the opening 45 minutes, and the match was poised goalless and even at the break.

In the second half, Falkirk upped the pace, and for the first ten minutes or so looked by far the more likely to score. They pressed forward, controlling the ball and forcing Dumbarton onto the back foot.

Just after the hour, the visitors' efforts were rewarded. After a quick breakaway Conor McGrandles positioned himself well and fired the ball at Ewings.

The Sons 'keeper looked as if he had it covered, but it deflected off Andy Graham to give Falkirk a 1-0 lead and send Dumbarton back to the drawing board.

If the home side were deflated, they did not show it for long.

First, however, it was necessary to stop the Bairns pressing their advantage yet further.

Roberts got into a one-on-one situation with Ewings, who saved the ball impressively and then blocked the rebound.

Ian Murray made his first switch of the afternoon on 63 minutes, bringing on Mitch Megginson for Steven McDougall.

The youngster looked keen and busy almost straight away, using his skill and determination to test the visitors' back line.

Dumbarton began to come back into the game. An Agnew shot was pushed away in the midst of a busy penalty area.

Sons were pressing for an equaliser, but it was not coming. The bench decided that it was time for more change.

Popular striker Bryan Prunty, famous for his award-winning overhead kick goal last season, replaced the busy Garry Fleming, who had been starting to tire, to give the line up a more attacking flavour.

There was annoyance for Sons when a promising looking forward move was halted when the referee blew for a knock on Jay Fulton a few seconds earlier. However, the Falkirk man seemed unhurt, and the game resumed.

As the game headed towards a conclusion, Dumbarton were looking ever more urgent in their efforts to find an equaliser.

The reward came on 79 minutes. Great play from Smith held the ball up for substitute Prunty. He took one deft touch and then fired home, leaving McGovern no chance.

At 1-1 it was suddenly all Sons, as the home side surged forward in search of a winner, and Falkirk looked to break back themselves when they had the opportunity.

A later corner for the Bairns looked dangerous, but it was decisively cleared by Barry.

When the final whistle went, Dumbarton had earned their first point of the season with a strong all-round performance, and were rewarded with enthusiastic applause from the sizeable crowd.

Photo: (c) Donald Fullarton.
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Saturday, 10 August 2013

Hard fought draw for Sons

Dumbarton secured the first point of their Championship campaign against Falkirk at the Rock this afternoon, pulling back a goal late on to claim a 1-1 draw.

The match started tentatively, but ended with passion and energy. The first half proved a fairly even affair, with chances at both ends. But the teams went in level and goalless at the break.

In the second half Falkirk upped the pace and began to control the game, taking the lead on the hour after a goalmouth scramble. Conor McGrandles did the damage for the Bairns.

But Sons fought back bravely and were rewarded when substitute Bryan Prunty made it 1-1, finishing well at the end of a good move.

As the game drew to a close Dumbarton had several other chances, but could not quite snatch a victory.

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Monday, 15 April 2013

What's at stake in the SPL's Hampden vote?

HampdenAll eyes in Scottish football will be focused on Hampden today (15th April), when SPL chairmen vote on changes to the structure, resourcing and governance of the game.

An 11-1 majority is required to go ahead with league reconstruction, on a three division 12-12-18 basis, with a further top-end split into three divisions of eight near the end of the season. The majority of SPL clubs look set to support the scheme, despite the fact that it goes  against the repeated wishes of fans for larger divisions, and  that it has has also divided opinion in the SFL.

However, St Mirren, who are particularly critical about retention of the 11-1 voting system, have said they will vote 'no', and Ross County chairman Roy MacGregor has been reported as maintaining this weekend that he will not go against his fans’ wishes after 97 per cent voted against current reconstruction plans at a meeting in February. On the other hand, he has also apparently said he hopes there can be 'compromise', even though the deal is being presented as an 'all-or-nothing' one. If two clubs hold out, the vote may be lost. The outcome remains hard to predict.

So what happens after Monday? SFL members are due to have their say later in the week at the moment. But many full-time clubs are indicating that they will push for an SPL2 if the changes presently on the table are lost in the vote at the National Stadium.

 Immense pressure is being applied to dissidents, with claims that disaster will follow in the game if there is further delay. But critics say that inadequate financial data has been provided and that the assumptions behind the declared income projections are questionable.

They also point out that previous claims behind the imminent doomsday scenario attached to the attempt to put Rangers FC into the First Division proved misleading, and that other options have been excluded without adequate consideration.  Some are also alleging bullying and saying that the threat of 'vote yes to this, or end up with SPL2' is tantamount to blackmail.

The SFL had earlier put forward a constructive 16-10-16 reconstruction proposal, which largely chimed with the carefully argued 16-16-10 proposition in the alternative fans’ plan first put out through Supporters Direct Scotland and then developed and published by FansFirst Scotland. But the SPL dismissed this.

The Sonstrust Board's position, arrived at after listening to members and discussing the matter at the society's AGM, has been set out in an 'Open Letter on Reconstruction', which is also being shared with other supporters' groups and publicised ahead of Monday's meeting.

The Trust Board argues that "taking a further season to discuss a workable league structure for all (which should also include greater detail of a viable pyramid system) will enable supporters’ organisations to be properly engaged in the process. It will also help put current disagreements between clubs in the context of a larger vision for Scottish football as a whole – not just the largest and most vocal interests."

The Open Letter has also been featured on All Media Scotland ('Football trust says fans being ignored over league reconstruction'), on Newsnet Scotland, and in my own opinion piece, 'Claiming back Scottish football for the people', as well as appearing on a range of social media sites.
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Friday, 12 April 2013

Sonstrust speak out on Scottish league changes

This is a letter that I drafted on behalf of the Board of the Sonstrust, the Dumbarton FC supporters trust provident society, which is being circulated to other trusts and fan organisations in the run-up to next week's official discussions about reform of Scottish football.

It has been published in full on the Sonstrust website, news released on All Media Scotland, and endorsements are starting to come in.  

Next week SPL clubs, initially, vote on key changes in the way Scottish football is run and structured. Fans at all clubs have made their views overwhelmingly and repeatedly clear – they want larger divisions (not the 12-12-18 proposal presently on the table), fairer and more transparent finance, good governance and proper supporter representation and involvement in the running of the game at all levels. 

Yet, once more, there is a danger that the views of those whose passion and money is indispensable to the flourishing of Scottish football will be ignored or sidelined. No other business could hope to survive in a good shape if it so systematically dismissed the wishes of its customer base by elevating short-term interests, narrow financial projections and political posturing above the need for genuine renovation and renewal. Unless this lesson is finally learned, the future looks dim. 

At present there is obvious and deep division among both SPL and SFL clubs over league reconstruction. If 12-12-18 is pushed through, it will only be through arm-twisting and backroom deals, because in reality there is no agreement. The desirable outcome next week would be for Scottish clubs to resolve together to seek a better formula for season 2014/15, rather than risking further conflict and divisiveness by railroading through a flawed plan that will only need to be unravelled and recast a few years hence. 

SFL clubs had earlier put forward a constructive 16-10-16 proposal, which largely chimed with the carefully argued 16-16-10 proposition in the alternative fans’ plan first put out through Supporters Direct Scotland and then developed and published by FansFirst Scotland. There is a sound football and business case for this, which seems to have been dismissed far too readily as a result of fixation on smaller divisions, assumptions based on existing approaches which have not worked, and consequent lack of innovative thinking. 

We understand the frustration that has built up, throughout the game and in the media, over the time it has taken to get reform proposals to table. But taking a bad decision in the name of avoiding more delay, while effectively ignoring key findings of the McLeish Report and the manifest outcomes of the National Football Survey, would be to squander a historic opportunity for deeper change while further imperilling the future of the Scottish game. 

Taking a further season to discuss a workable league structure for all (which should also include greater detail of a viable pyramid system) will enable supporters’ organisations to be properly engaged in the process. It will also help put current disagreements between clubs in the context of a larger vision for Scottish football as a whole – not just the largest and most vocal interests. 

Meanwhile, we hope that plans to unify the game’s governing bodies, together with proposals to ensure a better distribution of resources, financial transparency and good governance might move forward more quickly. This must be done, however, on the basis of proper financial disclosure to all parties for decision-making purposes, and with voting systems and a constitution that does not put power in the hands of the few and too readily act as a brake on future change.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Whose league reconstruction?

FansFirst Scotland, the policy and campaign group, has written an Open Letter to the chief executives of the Scottish Football Association, the Scottish Premier League and the Scottish Football League.

It follows the group's public statement yesterday, and precedes the imminent launch of the FansFirst Plan, which sets out an alternative path for the future of the game in Scotland, drawing directly on ideas tested with supporters.

The Open Letter can be read here. The Statement unpacks the issues is greater detail, and can also be found on the FansFirst Scotland website.

The full press release on AllMediaScotland can be found here

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Geggsy's tough call

Despite their torrid time in the SPL, my nearest professional football neighbours, Hibernian, are now in the semi-finals of the Scottish Cup, having dispatched First Division Ayr United this afternoon.

Outwith beloved Dumbarton, my sympathy is with fellow Leithers, of course. The taxi-driver who ferried me to a BBC Radio Scotland interview last week is a Hibee, as are many of my neighbours. Following Scottish football from England in my youth, I remember well the Pat Stanton era, the 1973/4 UEFA Cup matches against Leeds United (I have the first-leg programme), and more from Hibs' glorious past.

That said, I'm also an underdog backer, and the Honest Men now have midfielder Andy Geggan, a former Son who gave great service at Dumbarton, with 145 appearances and 9 goals between 2006 and 2011. So I'd have had reason to cheer this one going either way, frankly.

As it turned out, it wasn't Geggsy's day. His bundling over of Isaiah Osbourne at a Hibs corner gave the visitors a penalty, which Wolves loanee Leigh Griffiths put away for his home town club with aplomb. It was a tough call for Geggan, but a fair one.

Andy might have had something at the other end, too. On 55 minutes Ayr's Micheal McGowan sent in a good cross, Geggan fired, but Hibs' Graham Stack made an effective save.

So it was not to be for the First Division side. The Leithers went through 2-0, the other goal coming on 6 minutes from Roy O'Donovan. I'm backing them for the Scottish Cup this year, Celtic notwithstanding.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Catching up...

Yes, I know, it's been ages. Almost six months, to be precise. Some of you may have wondered whether OnlyJustOffside has died. No, it's just been the victim of circumstance - namely a rather crazy work (and life) schedule. Over the next week or so I hope to get up to speed again: particularly curating my Sons View columns, a few newspaper pieces, reports and summaries from the Dumbarton FC site, Changing Scottish Football material, and more. But I'll have to squeeze that in between paid work and other priorities. Hopefully though, "watch this space" will gradually give way to "watch this filled space".