Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Finding the route up the table

First published in Sons View, 23 March 2010, Dumbarton -v- Stenhousemuir

Last week I was on typical match day (or in this case, match evening) duty from The Far Post, which at the moment means Birmingham. When I can’t get to see the Sons, irrespective of whether its another game, work or domestic duties I’m supposed to be paying attention to, half-an-eye and half-an-ear will always be somewhere else: namely, waiting for my mobile phone to bleep with DFC text updates, monitoring Dumbarton FC ‘tweets’, and probably hoping the BBC football website will let me know what’s happening, too.

That last one can be a bit hit-and-miss. Sometimes the Beeb’s instalments about goals and cards are prompt and accurate. On other occasions, every match seems to have something notable happening in it except the one at SHS, or whichever away ground we’re visiting. Then, suddenly, you’ll be notified of two goals, a sending off and a booking all in a couple of seconds.

Neurotically punching the ‘refresh’ button on my mobile phone or computer is scant therapy if I think I’m being kept in the dark… but at least it doesn’t produce one of those annoying pop-up screens with a message saying, “calm down, calm down!” Not yet, anyway. Technology is always finding fresh ways to nag us, mind. So you never know.

Anyway, though the same digital pattern will undoubtedly have been repeated for me on Saturday against Cowdenbeath, the update I was most eagerly awaiting before penning this column was from Broadwood. Thankfully, in the midst of Sons’ up-down season, it was good news.

As my phone beeped, those two David Winter goals against Clyde really cheered me up. I got a good sight of our latest signing in the flesh when I was up at the Rock for the consecutive home matches against Brechin and Alloa earlier this month. The second of those games, a 3-1 triumph, finally got us the result we had been threatening for long periods against the Hedgemen. Sadly, though, the Sons were the ones who hedged against City, before our opponents eventually clinched the match.

Hopefully tonight’s game against Stenhousemuir will be much more like the visit of the Wasps, whose sting we well and truly drew with a performance that included some delightful touches and moves – as well as a fifteen minute period after Sons’ third goal where it looked as if we might contrive to clutch defeat (or at least an unwanted draw) from the jaws of victory.

Thankfully, that didn’t happen. But then exactly the same team managed to lose away to Stenny in a manner that had everyone scratching their heads once more. After four defeats on the trot, following a draw against Stirling back in December and then two wins, Dumbarton seemed to be bobbing back and forth between hope and despair even more rapidly, while occasionally playing the kind of football which indicates that we could just as well be competing for promotion as lurking in the shadows – if only a bit more consistency and punch up front could be achieved, alongside regular lockouts at the back.

The lockout scenario may not be what makes instantly compelling football viewing (though I enjoy a really good tackle as much as a sharp pass or a well-taken chance), but as coaches have observed from time immemorial, “if you don’t let the opposition score, the worst you’ll come away with is a point”.

My hope is that as you take your seat this evening, the Sons – with Winters and Dennis Wyness starting to gel into an effective strike duo – will be coming into this game off a decent performance and result against the Blue Brazil at Central Park. But let’s face it, the Second Division this year is predictable only in its unpredictability. Or at least, that’s how it seems.

Rather like the belief that buses mostly come in bunches of three after half-an-hour of you hopping from one foot to the other, trends in football often look as they feel – even when a bit of forensic examination may reveal a different picture. I’m convinced that teams that win promotion as champions often struggle more than those who go up via the play-off route (or in Cowdenbeath’s case, via the misery of Livingston). But that isn’t really a scientific observation. It’s just what I notice at a particular moment like this.

As for this evening, there’s only one thing any of us want to see. That’s another Sons win.

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