So here we are back at Strathclyde Homes Stadium a little earlier than originally planned, following the disappointing last-minute postponement of the Peterhead league game on 21 November, and our encouraging Cup exploits at Cappielow last Saturday.
A hard-fought draw against our First Division Greenock rivals has kept Sons in the frame for the fourth round of the Scottish Cup, and this afternoon we welcome back Morton for what should be another fair old tussle.
Dumbarton ’keeper Jan Vojacek and our defenders played an important role last week, and manager Jim Chapman will be hoping that the strikers can repay their continued efforts this time.
Sons have already picked up some silverware this season, with the Stirlingshire Cup final win over Stenhousemuir ensuring another prize-winning term – but a decent Scottish Cup run has eluded us for a while, in spite of that grand day out at Celtic in 2006.
The rivalry between the two sides on display at the Rock today is long-standing, though in recent seasons it has more often been renewed in friendly games and in Cup-ties than in the Scottish Football League, given our different positions.
After a difficult start, the ’Ton have undergone something of a revival in recent weeks, with a 4-2 away win at Airdrie United keeping the North Lanarkshire side firmly rooted at the foot of the table.
That followed an impressive 5-0 victory against mid-table Raith Rovers – which puts Sons’ achievement last week in an even better light. League points and goals over the next few weeks are undoubtedly the most coveted prize for those with Dumbarton hearts, but we wouldn’t say no to a bit of Cup glory either.
Though consolidation in 2009 is what both sets of supporters are looking for, it’s hard for those of us with longer memories not to let an occasion like this cast our minds back to past achievements.
Morton fans were recently reminded of the successes of their 1979-80 side – both in the Premier League and in trophy exploits against Kilmarnock (in the League Cup) and Aberdeen (in the Scottish Cup). At a special celebratory dinner, and in his BBC column, football writer Chick Young waxed lyrical about their then star player Andy Ritchie – one that Jock Stein surprisingly let go – and manager Hal Stewart.
Back in February 1980 the now defunct ‘Soccer Monthly’ magazine declared ’Ton to be a team “to strike fear into the hearts of the Old Firm.” Since that time, however, the Cappielow side have plummeted down to the Third Division before bouncing back to the Second and now the First – something Dumbarton are hoping to emulate, though without all those intervening traumas.
In 2000, you will recall, it took a local council intervention to stop the sale of Morton’s famous ground to a supermarket chain in a development move that could well have ended the club’s proud history, which goes back to 1874 – two years after Sons came into being.
Given the growing number of small clubs in financial trouble across Britain at the moment, it’s important that proper football ambition is matched by equally hard headed business thinking at this level of the game. Everyone wants success, but based on realism not pie-in-the-sky – or ground-in-the-air.
Talking of the earth beneath us, let’s hope it’s a lot more solid today than it was at the Rock a fortnight ago. I had made my way from down south for the Peterhead game, so was disappointed that it didn’t go ahead – but at least I was well into a good lunch (as a grateful guest of the Sonstrust) before the sad news broke.
I also managed to get some good socialising in, including a long pub chat with Sons’ legendary ’keeper Lawrie Williams – who had come up for the game from Cardiff with a friend. Among other things he was recalling team-mate Kenny Jenkins, also part of that fantastic 1971-2 Second Division Championship winning side, who sadly died earlier this month, and who will be remembered fondly again today.
But back to this afternoon’s proceedings. There are two reasons why we all want to see another solid Dumbarton display against Morton. One is the chance to extend our run in the Cup, but the other is to add further confidence to the side for the tough Winter period of our all-important League campaign. ’Mon Sons!