Saturday, 14 August 2010

Time to get going again

First published in Sons View, 14 August 2010, Dumbarton -v- Livingston

Over the past couple of seasons, Dumbarton have been slow starters – but have still ended up in strong positions, winning the Third Division title in 2008/9 with an extraordinary run of victories, and claiming a pretty respectable sixth place in our first season back in the Second Division last term. Things could have turned out even better in May with just a few improved results, illustrating that the margin between triumph and trial is as small as it is crucial.

The temptation to predict how things are going to turn out after just one or two games is strong in modern football, but can prove as illusory as false optimism. It’s worth bearing that in mind as we try to gain some perspective on recent events in anticipation of the first game of the new campaign at the Rock.

For sure, last week’s 4-1 defeat away at newly-promoted Forfar in the opening game of the 2010/11 season was obviously a huge disappointment to Sons fans, especially following that 5-1 Co-Operative Insurance Cup humbling by Queen of the South at Palmerston. But the performances against Morton in the Alba Cup, and against Partick Thistle and St Mirren in pre-season friendlies, show that Dumbarton have the capacity and the potential to be an attractive, competitive side.

The last two games have obviously posed serious defensive questions, which Jim and the boys will have been working on over the past few days. The quest for more decisiveness in the box is another challenge for a side bristling with youth, capable of pushing the ball around well in midfield, and galvanised by the flashes of inspiration summed up in Derek Carcary’s last three goals – which have all been top class.

With the arrival of Livingston here at SHS this afternoon, the league campaign will feel well and truly underway. Sons undoubtedly face a stiff test from the team who many pundits have been confidently predicting will work their way through the divisions and back to the SPL once more. As Alloa showed against Livi last Saturday, however, this will be no one-team league. Indeed, it may prove to be the toughest Second Division in several years.

From the outset it looked as if last term’s Third Division Champions were going to run away with the match at Recreation Park, following a two minute opener headed in by Kyle Jacobs, and former Sons’ man Iain Russell’s doubling of the Lions’ lead on 21 minutes. But the Wasps epitomised the ‘never give up’ spirit which is essential at this level of the game, and in the end they snatched what observers say was a well-deserved point at the impressive Almondvale Stadium.

Today, both sides will be highly motivated to go out and find their initial victory (and in Dumbarton’s case first point) of the season. For Iain Russell it will be another return to the stadium where, as a Sons striker, he claimed 27 goals in 92 appearances between 2003 and 2006.

A close season signing for Livi, we last saw him here on 3 April, when Sons recorded a 2-1 win over eventual champions Stirling Albion. Hopefully that’s a good precedent for this afternoon. Incidentally, ex-Son Allan Moore gave Iain a championship medal in acknowledgment of his contribution, even though he hadn’t technically played enough games to qualify for one. We hope there will be no prizes for anyone but Dumbarton today, though.

I’m anticipating this game with particular relish, as it will be my first at SHS as a season ticket holder: the realisation of a 41-year ambition achieved by a family decision to relocate from way down south to Edinburgh a month ago.

Since my arrival I’ve managed to take in four Dumbarton friendly and cup games. I also took a quick mid-week trip to Tynecastle to see Hearts get canned by Wolves, and as I was working in London last weekend I substituted that Forfar debacle for watching Fulham beat Werder Bremen 5-1.

That’s definitely a record number of friendlies for me, and the records are bound to keep tumbling every week at the Rock after I get past the ‘five home games’ stage – the most number of Sons games I’ve managed to see in one season before, due to restrictions of geography and finance.

Naturally I’m as keen as anyone for Dumbarton to show real progress in 2010/11. But even in tougher times it’s going to take a long while before the sheer pleasure of getting to see Sons play on a regular basis fades. Fingers crossed all round for this campaign, then.

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