Saturday, 29 January 2011

Prophet before loss

There had been some concern overnight and early in the morning that the sub-zero temperatures might deleteriously effect the pitch at Strathclyde Homes Stadium for today's match between rock-bottom Dumbarton and high-flying Brechin. Thankfully, by the time I arrived at SHS, in time for a 10.30am Sonstrust board meeting, it was clear that the surface was firm but playable. Club Secretary David Prophet, who regularly has to negotiate such anxieties during the inclement winter conditions, took me out to have a look for myself - while making one or two last minute adjustments, as my photos indicate.

A large number of people are involved in ensuring that the matchday goes ahead at a small club like Dumbarton. Not just players, coaching staff, fans and refereeing officials, but also club officials and ground staff, administrators, stewards, caterers, bar staff, programme sellers, the receptionist, the photographer, and more. It's a team effort as much off the field as on it.

On the football side, things are decidedly tough at the moment. Today Brechin looked much more assertive, mobile and in-control than the 2-1 scoreline in their favour might indicate. Without a moment of inspiration from Sons' Mark Gilhaney it would have been worse, and the Hedgemen missed several begging chances, including a penalty. They were more fluid in movement and distribution of the ball, as well as physically stronger (as Forfar Athletic had been in midweek, too).

Dumbarton's young side is making too many unforced errors, hasty decisions and hesitant responses. Three points away East Fife (who have two games in hand) and five from Stenhousemuir at the foot of the Second Division table, the men of the Rock are going to have to display some granite-like qualities in order to claim enough of the remaining 54 points to avoid relegation back to the fouth tier of Scottish football.

In spite of it all, I haven't given up hope. But the pressure and possibility of resignation mounts along with the losses. The coming midweek game at Airdrie United (New Broomfield is a ground I haven't been to before) will be another important marker, since the Diamonds are seven points ahead of us with a game in hand. They, Peterhead, Stenny and the Fifers are the ones we are now chasing, with the hope that we can at least get out of the automatic demotion spot, and preferably the play-off zone too, by May. Still possible, but you wouldn't put a lot of money on it right now.

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