Saturday, 22 November 2008

Time to turn up the heat

First published in Sons View, 22 November 2008, Dumbarton -v- Albion Rovers

It was symmetry, certainly. But not of the kind that we want to be seeing on a regular basis, thank you very much. After dishing out a 5-2 hammering to Berwick Rangers at home a month ago, Sons took a licking by the same score at the hands (or rather, feet) of the Shire at Ochilview last week, punctuated by that 1-1 draw away to league leaders Stenhousemuir in between.

You hardly need me to tell you that getting back to winning ways against Albion Rovers at the Rock this afternoon is a priority. With defensive frailties in evidence over a number of games, the result against East Stirlingshire was, if not exactly predictable, not entirely surprising either. Football can dish out hard lessons when you are not expecting it. Even more so when you’ve come to the match in question off the back of surviving against fellow high flyers by determination, but not by playing at your best or doing anything spectacular.

At this stage of the season we can take some comfort from the truism that ‘the table doesn’t lie’. But it is most truthful in the last third rather than the first third of term, and while Dumbarton are still in second place, it is by the skin of our teeth. Stenny have been able to surge ahead on points due to our mighty stumble, Montrose and Cowdenbeath are poised to pounce at a point’s distance, and we have allowed Shire to continue their revival while smelling the possibility of promotion contention. Last season East Stirlingshire’s early successes made for a grim start to a miserable season for Sons. This time we mustn’t let them become more than a temporary footfall on the path to success.

Next up, then, is today’s tussle with the boys from Cliftonhill. Like us, Rovers are very much in need of a lift. They are well clear of the wooden spoon zone, which no-one wants as a Christmas present. But after succumbing last week to newcomers Annan Athletic, whose early promise has wilted on the Third Division’s wizening vine, Albion will be pulling out all the stops at SHS, hoping that Dumbarton are in the midst of a ‘difficult patch’.

Now is the time for Sons to claim back the initiative again. Five goals would be good, too, though without any obligation to give away two for charitable purposes at our end. Mind you, we’d take a scrambled 1-0 win just as eagerly… though what is really required is a proper morale boosting performance, to clear our heads of recent difficulties on and off the pitch.

There are many pieces of history that relate Dumbarton and ‘the Wee Rovers’, who were founded ten years after us by the amalgamation of two teams called (you guessed it) Albion and, let’s see… yup, Rovers. One link is that we share the strange distinction of being the only two League teams to reach a Scottish Cup final in the same year as being relegated. For the Albion it happened in 1920, when they went down to Kilmarnock in front of 95,000 spectators at Hampden, before going down altogether at the end of the 1919/20 season.

Dumbarton got there first in 1897, however, just five years after being crowned Champions of Scotland. While in League Two, Sons made it to the Scottish Cup final against Rangers. It was not a great day. We lost 5-1 and then two months later we were voted out of the League, entering a time of enforced exile before going out of existence in 1901 and returning to life in 1905. After winning the Combination, Dumbarton returned to the Second Division of the Scottish League in 1906/7. Out of interest, we beat Albion Rovers 1-0 at home that season, drawing 2-2 away. The omens from 1919/20, when the Wee Rovers did their own Cup Final / relegation double, are even better. Two 2-1 victories. Mind you, our opponents did finish bottom, so Sons were not exactly isolated in their triumph!

One thing we can guarantee this afternoon is that neither of the sides appearing before you at the Strathclyde Homes Stadium will be making the trip to Hampden Park in May 2009. For one of us, however, a date with First Division football next season is still the hoped-for destination. Three points please, lads.

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