Saturday, 2 October 2010

Identifying the way forward

First published in Sons View, 02 October 2010, Dumbarton -v- Airdrie United

For most of the first quarter of the home game against Brechin last week, it looked as if Dumbarton might be about to turn the corner and secure another positive result. In the end, it all unravelled, with City gradually grasping control of the midfield. Sons were also unable to capitalise on several chances or to get behind their opponents in the box.

Even so, some good football was played, and this week it is important that we take the game to challenging opponents Airdrie United, who previously came from behind to claim all three points in their match against Forfar at Station Park, while Sons were frustratingly losing out to the Hedgemen.

Jimmy Boyle’s North Lanarkshire outfit sit just outside the play-off zone in the Second Division, and will be as keen to maintain their current momentum, as Dumbarton are to return to winning ways at the Rock.

The Diamonds are theoretically legitimate successors to the mantle of our old rivals Clydebank. But with Bankies fans reconstituting their side in junior football, and bringing them to SHS for a pre-season 1-1 draw back at the end of July, most people – friend and foe alike – think of United as the continuation of the town's previous side Airdrieonians, for whom manager Boyle once played.

Such identity confusion seems a common feature in modern football. For example, here I am, happily ensconced in Scotland at last. But when I return from watching the Sons of a Saturday, the TV fare available in the evening is from another country. That’s right, I can see every goal in the English Premier and Football Leagues, but have to rely on the internet, radio and the Friday night STV show to follow what’s going on up here.

Still, at least the English games enable me to track a couple of ex-Sons heroes. Our former captain Neill Collins, who won his under-21 Scotland cap the year after departing from Dumbarton (for whom he played 63 games), is establishing himself well as a central defender for Championship high flyers Leeds United – in spite of the setback of that own goal against Barnsley three weeks ago.

Meanwhile, Stephen Dobbie, who revived his career to Sons’ considerable (if brief) benefit in 2006, is now plying his trade as a striker at Swansea City. He got his first goal for the Welsh side in a 4-0 home win against Preston North End (for whom Collins also made 5 appearances earlier this year) on 14 August. He followed that by finding the net against Leeds and then Scunthorpe, giving himself a tally of three goals from eight appearances this term.

On the other hand, it’s possible that things may work in the opposite geographical direction if Scotland manager Craig Levein follows through with his interest in QPR striker Jamie Mackie, moving him into the national squad for the October games against the Czech Republic and Spain.

Mackie is another of those “grandparent Scots” who Tartan Army followers often have distinctly mixed feelings about. There’s no Sons link in there, but when I was based in southwest England, making as many forays as I could to the Rock, but also seeing locals Exeter City for my routine football diet, Jamie was making 87 appearances and scoring 19 goals for the Grecians between 2005 and 2008. That was the year of their return to the English Football League. He crossed my journalistic path several times, and his recent success was forged on the back of a controversial (but logical) move to Devon rivals Plymouth Argyle, and thence to Loftus Road.

Over the past week, Premier League side West Ham United have been linked with Mackie, as well as the manager of the national team. It’s the latter Scots will care about, obviously. My own view is that if he’s prepared to be genuinely committed to playing for Scotland, he would be well worth investigating.

Meanwhile, Dumbarton are urgently looking for their own solutions up front. The magnificent strike that Derek Carcary achieved on 72 minutes against Brechin last Saturday was the latest in a series of impressive goals from the ‘impact’ striker. But it was also only the second goal from open play scored by Sons so far this season.

That statistic tells its own story. Sons have often started to weaken after applying pressure on opposing defences to no avail, and at that point mistakes have crept in at the back too. It’s a cumulative problem. Undoubtedly a couple of goals would galvanise confidence and help to turn the tide in Dumbarton’s favour. That’s the scenario we very much want to see unfold against Airdrie United this afternoon.

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