Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Stenhousemuir 2 -v- Dumbarton 2

My match report first appeared on the official DFC website. 

Another goalmouth scramble
In a game of sharply contrasting highs and lows, Sons claimed a point from a 2-2 draw away against Stenhousemuir, when only 20 minutes from the end it had seemed they were on course for a comfortable victory after leading by two clear goals.

Dumbarton showed most of the initial purpose, coming out of the starting blocks with real pace, and pushing the home team firmly onto the defensive.

Sons' best early chance came when Pat Walker burst through on 8 minutes and steamed a shot past Ally Brown in the Stenhousemuir goal, only for the ball to ricochet off the far corner and upright.

By then Craig McLeish and Jon McShane had already threatened with a wide strike and looping header respectively, as the eager visitors milled around the opposition area, trying to find a way past a packed defence.

It was around the quarter hour before Stenny started to come back. There was a minor scare for Dumbarton when a seemingly harmless ball almost caught Stephen Grindlay off balance, but the big 'keeper stretched his arm out and recovered well.

As the half progressed, Sons started to give the ball away needlessly, despite gaining more of the possession, and Stenhousemuir grew in confidence visibly.

On 24 minutes Pat Walker broke again, but his probing pass across the face of the area could not find another Sons player far enough forward, with McLeish just beyond range.

A slightly scrappy period of play ensued, with neither side able to maintain shape in the middle of the park. Sons had a let-off when Scott Dalziel hit the bar with Grindlay stranded.

For Dumbarton, Ryan McStay struck another effort wide of the post on 37 minutes. But Stenhousemuir, though often pinned back, continually denied Sons the space they required.

The home side came out fired-up for the second half and began to create all kinds of problems for an uncertain looking Sons back line. It was almost a reverse mirror of the opening of the game, when the visitors had looked dangerous.

Then suddenly Dumbarton turned a corner. A fine run and through ball from Mark Gilhaney found Jon McShane in a good position to slice a curving shot past the Stenhousemuir 'keeper to put Sons one up on 50 minutes.

More home pressure followed, however. Dumbarton conceding two perilous free kicks on the edge of either side of the area, but both of them came to nothing.

On 68 minutes, with nerves jangling among the away support, McShane again asserted himself in front of goal with a thunderous strike to give Dumbarton a 2-0 lead.

Two minutes later the pendulum seemed to swing further in Sons' favour when Stenhousemuir went down to ten men after a straight red card for a late challenge as the ball went out of play by Ian Thompson.

Only a miraculous one-handed save from Ally Brown prevented Dumbarton from going three up, as they began to use the space to search for further advantage.

But in the space of less than four minutes disaster struck. First, a challenge from Andy Geggan conceded a penalty that enabled Eric Paton to pull a goal back from the spot for the home side. 2-1 on 80 minutes.

Then Stenhousemuir caught the Dumbarton defence flat when run at with pace from the wing, and Mike Hunter charged in to head decisively past Stephen Grindlay to equalise on 83.

Sons tried hard to regain the lead against Stenny's ten men, with two opportunities going wide and the men from Larbert pushing back to find unexpected space with which to torment Dumbarton's back line.

The score stayed 2-2 in the final minutes. With other results going the right way the damage was not as bad as it could have been, but it still leaves Sons in need of good performances and results in successive home games against fellow-strugglers Alloa and Peterhead.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Late Stenny guns silence the Sons

This short summary appears as Draw for Sons at Stenhousemuir on the official DFC site. 

Vying for possession
What should have been a comfortable win turned into a deflating 2-2 draw for Sons at Larbert this evening, as Stehousemuir came back from two behind to claim a point in the foot-of-the-table scrap.

Two very well taken goals from Jon McShane on 50 and 68 minutes looked to have sealed victory for Dumbarton, especially after the home side went down to ten men a couple of minutes later, following a late challenge by Ian Thompson.

But then disaster struck on 80 and 83 minutes. A weakly conceded penalty enabled Eric Paton to pull a goal back from the spot. Then Mike Hunter levelled with a close range header after the Sons defence was outpaced on the wing.

The result leaves Dumbarton needing points and goals for safety from successive home games against Alloa Athletic and Peterhead. [SB]

Time for some Larbert fizz

Off to Stenhousemuir tonight, nursing the remainders of a nasty cold -- but this is a crucial match, and hopefully Dumbarton can shine an advance light into my 53rd birthday celebrations tomorrow by pulling off a vital win. Last Saturday was a bit of a disaster, plummeting 0-6 to Brechin. But that just has to be forgotten by the men in the white and gold jerseys. In every way. It's all about now. In football cliche-speak, this evening's game at Larbert is a 'six pointer'. We can pick up three ourselves, and deny fellow relegation candidates the same. Or vice versa. Or somewhere in between. By all means legal and necessary, my Sons!

A reminder of cheerier days

Ah well, Scotland lost 2-0 to Brazil the other day, and weren't really in the same league. But at least this clip reminds us that there have been times when a small nation has shone at the highest level within the beautiful game...

Sunday, 27 March 2011

All aboard the Brazilia-Caledonia express

No flagging, lads...
I would have loved to have made the journey to the Emirates Stadium in north London (once again) to see Scotland take on Brazil - the first meeting of the two teams in 17 years, and only the tenth ever. Unfortunately, I have already used my 'work credits' on three London trips in the past month - and besides, as it happens, I'm nursing a stinking cold.

Even so, it's a ringside seat with a comforting cuppa in front of the television to watch the match, courtesy of STV. Much better than the lamentable ITV, but you still have to put up with the irritating advertisement breaks.

The large crowd seems to be creating a really special atmosphere, which you can readily pick up even through the ether.  Scotland, who have secured a couple of historic draws against football's first nation (apart from us) and frequent World Champions, have made a bright start.

We have never beaten the samba boys, and you wouldn't put your money on it happening this afternoon (bright, but windy).  Logic dictates that Brazil, even without a number of their top names, should win by about as many goals as they choose to score. But the Scots can and will raise their game.

This may only be a 'friendly', but it matters in terms of pride, FIFA rankings (barmy though they are), and the opportunity to see just how the up-and-coming generation of Scottish internationals can do against one of the world's great sides.

Let's hope it's a fantastic game. Things look good do far.  And I'm also keeping an eye out for numerous Dumbarton friends in the seething crowd. Some have travelled down overnight by bus. Bleary, but happy. Mind you, a really good day out is needed to put the wounds of yesterday's crushing of the Sons by Brechin City behind us.

The team need to do that, too. Bring on Stenousemuir on Tuesday 29 march - the day before my birthday.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

A heavy defeat for Dumbarton

This match report also appears on the official DFC website.

Sons pressed on goal
Any notion that an under strength Brechin City might be easy pickings after midweek Scottish Cup exertions against SPL St Johnstone were soon dispelled at Glebe Park on a chilly afternoon - as Dumbarton sunk to a crushing 6-0 defeat.

Both sides started with physical determination on a battered playing surface. But the home side were quickest on the offensive, and on 7 minutes a goalmouth scramble in Dumbarton's area led to Brechin striker David McKenna placing a dipping header over Stephen Grindlay - who did well to get a hand to the ball, but could not quite keep it out. 1-0 to the Hedgemen.

Sons had a good chance to equalise minutes later. However, big Jon McShane's effort brought out a fine save from Craig Nelson in the Brechin goal. The football traffic then flowed mostly in favour of the home side up to the half hour.

Near to half time, Sons' Mark Gilhaney struck over the bar following a good move through the centre and a series of free kicks. But although they were pushing back solidly, Dumbarton could not find the necessary bite in the final third.

Minutes before the break a defensive slip up almost put Brechin through for a second goal, but the Sons back line and 'keeper recovered well.

The second period started in the worst possible way for Dumbarton, with Jamie Redman putting Brechin 2-0 up. His low, driving shot past Grindlay came just half a minute after the restart, as Sons reeled from a speedy attack.

The prolific Rory McAllister then increased the visitors' misery by making it three for the home side on 52 minutes, with another polished strike.

Andy Geggan could have pulled one back for Sons on the hour, after Jon McShane caught Brechin 'keeper Nelson off his line on the edge of the area and squared back a good, angled ball that the number 8 snatched at and ratcheted over the bar with two defenders on the goal line to beat.

But as the match drew to a close things only got worse for Dumbarton. On 79 minutes, McKenna added a fourth with his second goal of the match. The fifth Brechin goal came from Mitchel Megginson (83 minutes) after a corner, before McKenna completed his hat-trick for the sixth two minutes later.

Sons had a couple of attempts at claiming at least one goal back, but there was to be no consolation on a cheerless afternoon.

Bad day at the office

This summary appears as Sons crushed at Brechin on the official DFC website.

McNiff tries to lunch Sons forward
Dumbarton endured a torrid time at Glebe Park this afternoon, losing 6-0 to an under-strength but determined and well-organised Brechin City side.

Goals early in both halves, from David McKenna on 7 minutes and Jamie Redman on 46 minutes (just 30 seconds after the restart), effectively sealed Sons' fate. The surface was ill-suited to a passing game and the home side dominated possession for much of the match.

The prolific Rory McAllister added to the visitors' misery with a solid strike to make it 3-0 for Brechin approaching the hour. Then on 79 minutes, McKenna added a fourth with his second goal of the match.

The fifth came from Mitchel Megginson (83 minutes) after a corner, before McKenna completed his hat-trick for the sixth, two minutes later.

Dumbarton now head into a crucial midweek away match against Stenhousemuir on Tuesday 29 March, looking for a revival of fortunes and more points to help secure safety in the Second Division.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Taking it on the chin

JR cogitates...
East Fife manager and Hearts legend John Robertson stopped over for a quick chat with the Edinburgh Sons' supporters' car on the way out of Strathclyde Homes Stadium today. And very good hearted he was, too, seeing that his side had just been beaten 4-2 by Dumbarton - something of a dent to their play-off aspirations. Sons' striker Jon McShane, who scored two superb goals, had played a fantastic game, Robbo willingly conceded. His own front-man Craig Johnstone had hit a really polished equaliser midway through the second half, it should be added. Indeed, all the goals will be well worth watching via the SonsTV highlights early next week. The only pity is that, as a result of SFL rules (which really don't seem to benefit anyone at the moment), DFC are only allowed to show five minutes of the match. Even though we pay to film it. Football is a mad industry, sometimes.

Dumbarton 4 -v- East Fife 2

This article appears as the match report on the official DFC website.

Sons tussle with the Fifers
In a match which began scrappily, but turned into an end-to-end encounter in the second half, Dumbarton beat East Fife 4-2 at SHS, re-establishing their strong recent form.

It took both teams a while to settle in and find their pace. On 7 minutes it looked as if Pat Walker had found Jon McShane in space inside the East Fife box, only for the big number 9 to lose his footing just as the ball came in.

Moments later Sons' Stephen Grindlay pulled off a polished, diving save from a dangerous and low incoming cross at the other end.

Mark Gilhaney, Pat Walker and Jon McShane all looked threatening up front for Dumbarton, but the home team's long balls and occasional uncertainty in midfield conceded possession too often.

Sons gradually began to impose themselves on the game, despite a couple of stoppages, but could not find a breakthrough.

Then on 27 minutes a slip in the area by defender Iain Chisolm allowed the Fifers' Bobby Lynn to twist, turn and slot the ball efficiently past Grindlay. 1-0 to the visitors.

A quick switch of wings over to Gilhaney, a cut inside and a sharply-angled shot from the busy number 7 almost pulled Sons level, but Michael Brown in the East Fife goal was equal to the task - as the home side began to rediscover their fluency.

Two corners followed and Dumbarton continued to pile on the pressure. Ryan McStay came close again. Then on 41 minutes Andy Geggan equalised for Sons with a beautifully flighted header, lobbing the East Fife keeper from an acute angle on the edge of the penalty box.

In the second half, Dumbarton began with determination, but East Fife pushed back. Then on 51 minutes Jon McShane let lose a superb, driving shot from 20 yards. It flew past Brown's despairing hands and into the far corner of the net to put Sons 2-1 in front.

Another fine passing move from midfield ten minutes later put Martin McNiff through. He manfully fought off his marker, but could not quite steady himself before the shot, which fizzled wide on the right.

Then just as Dumbarton began to look well in control, East Fife broke forward, and finding himself with plenty of space, Craig Johnstone struck a commanding volley past Grindlay to make it 2-2.

Sons did not give up, however. On 68 minutes Pat Walker burst through after a lucky break. He looked set to shoot, but seeing Brown advancing fast chose instead to sweep the ball out to Mark Gilhaney, who steamed it into the bottom corner of the Fifers' goal to restore Dumbarton's lead at 3-2.

It got better for Sons on 77 minutes, as Jon McShane latched on to another sharp Sons attacking move, placing a swinging ball past the visitors' keeper. 4-2 to Dumbarton, and a deserved second goal for the industrious striker - who was named sponsor's man of the match.

The victory gives Sons renewed impetus and confidence for the vital remaining eight games of the season.

Sons claim another three points

This brief summary also appears as Dumbarton back to winning ways on the official DFC website. 

Sons push forward
In a match which started slowly but later turned into a pulsating encounter, Dumbarton beat East Fife 4-2 at Strathclyde Homes Stadium, re-establishing their strong recent form.

The visitors went in front on 27 minutes after a scrappy start, but Andy Geggan equalised on 41 minutes with a fine looping header.

In the second half Sons put themselves 2-1 up through a piledriving Jon McShane shot six minutes after the restart. Then defensive uncertainty allowed East Fife to draw level again.

But two fabulous goals from Mark Gilhaney and McShane again, on 68 and 77 minutes respectively, put the game beyond all doubt and gave Dumbarton another morale-boosting victory.

Not just weather, but a series of 'ifs'

First published in Sons View, 29 January 2011, Dumbarton -v- East Fife.

Ah, the good old Scottish weather, eh? Having spent a good deal of February negotiating a welter of games, including re-arrangements brought about by the earlier ‘cold snap’ (more prosaically known as ‘winter’), Dumbarton found themselves twiddling their thumbs rather than thumping in the shots and crosses last Saturday.

Despite the synthetic pitch at Larbert, the game against fellow-strugglers Stenhousemuir was called off due to the sudden burst of bad weather in the central belt. Snow and freezing waterlogged conditions are not unprecedented in mid-March, or even later.

I remember a midweek postponement against Forfar in Dumbarton’s 2007-8 Third Division campaign… on 2 April. That was a bit of a personal blow, given that I’d travelled up from Exeter, where I was living at the time. Thankfully, the game against Stranraer the previous Saturday, which I’d sponsored jointly with the Sonstrust to mark my 50th birthday, went ahead – just. Even if we did lose 1-0.That morning, the pitchforks had been out in force at SHS to assist the drainage, and it was a close call.

So nothing is entirely predictable in the latter part of the season, and that includes this afternoon’s important clash against East Fife at the Rock. A few weeks ago the Fifers were below a resurgent Dumbarton, but with games in hand. They’ve taken good advantage of those catch-up matches, and now sit just on the edge of the play-off zone in the Second Division – their precise points tally depending on the outcome of a midweek visit to Brechin on Tuesday night.

That is both a challenge and a spur to the Sons today. We’ve been a little unfortunate to come away with only one point from the last three games. The performances have certainly merited more than that, but we’ve also been up against a series of determined promotion contenders.

The loss at Forfar on 26 February came against the run of play in the 78th minute. On 5 March, the boys looked tired against polished League leaders Livingston. And in between there was a titanic struggle leading to a 3-3 draw in the mud against Brechin City, on a cold night at Glebe Park. Both teams deserved three points for sheer effort and skill-against-the-odds alone. But fitba doesn’t quite work like that.

Talking of Brechin, we hope that they will take points off Alloa Athletic this afternoon, in order to boost Sons’ position further. If Ayr United had defeated the Wasps by two goals rather than one on 12 March, Dumbarton would now be sitting in seventh rather than eighth position in the League table, on account of respective goal differences. This is the time of year when it isn’t just the weather we have to watch, but a series of ‘ifs’.

Better still, Sons need to take destiny back into their own hands by continuing the good form, attacking prowess and defensive strengthening we have seen in the impressive run that started with a solid 2-1 win away at Airdrie United on 1 February. It can be done. By my calculation, based on form in the past five or six seasons, we need another 11 or 12 points from the remaining 9 games to be safe in the Second Division for next term.

All these matches will be important, but perhaps it is the ones against today’s opponents, Stenhousemuir away (to be re-arranged) and Alloa (home) where there will be greatest expectation of goals and results in our favour. That’s because the infamous football cliché about ‘six pointers’ comes into play when taking on the sides immediately around us.

This does not mean, however, that the Sons squad is unable, in principle, to pick up points against the high-flyers. At our best we’ve been up with them in performances, if not always in results. No-one should be given a free ride on the basis that we are looking down the table rather than up.

Meanwhile, before we turn our full attention to this afternoon’s clash on the park at the Rock, it’s appropriate to send out a hearty word of congratulation to Brechin City for their impressive Scottish Cup quarter-final performance against SPL visitors St Johnstone last Saturday.

The 2-2 draw was a tremendous result, and a credit to the Second Division as well as to the Hedgemen. It reminds onlookers that there is so much more to the game in Scotland than the Old Firm soap opera and the top flight.  It also shows what sheer determination and hard work from a smaller side can achieve.

We certainly need that kind of gutsy spirit from the chosen of Dumbarton at the Strathclyde Homes Stadium come 3 o’clock today.

In addition to the Romans...

The business end

So it's just nine games to go for Dumbarton, starting with the match this afternoon against East Fife. If the Sons play with anything like the commitment and creativity they've been showing over the last eight, they should survive for another season in the Second Division. But nothing is guaranteed, and points on the board as soon as possible are needed. Manager Alan Adamson tells Alan Findlay for the official DFC site: "Having last week's game cancelled was a bit of a blow given the importance of it. We are now at the business end of the season and tomorrow's game is crucial for us. A win would take us to within a point of East Fife, albeit they do have a game in hand...  We have the upper hand against them, so far this season having won two of the three previous matches, but we know it's going to be a hard game and as ever we'll need to be alert and focussed."

Dumbarton fans vote to keep football national

First published in Sons View, 19 March 2011, Dumbarton -v- East Fife. An edited version of this article also appears on the Sonstrust website as Fans vote for Dumbarton's future.

Dumbarton supporters have voted overwhelmingly against ‘regionalising’ the lower divisions in Scottish football. More than 95% of the 250+ supporters who took part in the match day ballot on 5 March, and in the equivalent online polls, want to maintain a national, professional league below the SPL.

There was also very strong opposition to SPL ‘colt’ teams being admitted to the lower leagues – something which the Scottish Premier League has also put forward as part of its outline proposals for restructuring the game in Scotland.

In response to the third and final question, almost all Sons fans said they believed that supporters should be properly represented on the governing bodies that run Scottish football.

Dumbarton is the first SFL club to directly ask its supporters what they think of some of the major issues raised by the much-publicised SPL proposals, and the similar ideas produced by former first minister Henry McLeish in his report for the SFA on the future of the game.

The poll took place at the match against Livingston last Saturday, as well as on the Sonstrust website (where the full results will be published) and on the three Facebook groups associated with the club.

The Sonstrust Board will be following up the vote by writing to DFC, Supporters Direct and the Scottish Football League over the issues.

The Scottish Premier League has announced that it will unveil and vote on its full plans for SPL1 & 2 “within a few weeks”. But its draft ideas also included proposals – including ‘regionalisation’ and colt-teams in the lower leagues – which would have a dramatic impact on smaller clubs.

At a meeting of 34 Supporters’ Trusts six weeks ago, there was a strong feeling that what has been put forward so far does not offer a sustainable future for the game in Scotland, and a desire that fans should be consulted and involved. The Sonstrust has taken a lead in this regard.

Sons supporters speak out

First published in Sons View, 19 March 2011, Dumbarton -v- East Fife. An edited version also appears on the Supporters Direct website as Dumbarton Trust gives fans a voice.

The Supporters Trust at Dumbarton FC (called ‘Sonstrust’ after the club’s historic nickname – ‘the Sons of the Rock’) has held an online and stadium ballot to give fans a voice in the current debate over the future of Scottish football.

Full results will be announced next week, but hundreds have taken part and the interim findings suggest overwhelming opposition to the ‘regionalisation’ of the lower leagues and to SPL ‘colt’ teams playing in them – two of the proposals put forward by the SPL and the McLeish report.

Dumbarton supporters also back fan representation on the governing body of Scottish football, and the Sonstrust board is keen to work with others in Supporters Direct to ensure that the voice of fans – including the verdict of the SD survey – resonates at the highest levels within the game.

Sonstrust campaign coordinator Simon Barrow commented: “Football fans are used to being ignored, but at Dumbarton we’ve had a huge response to our online and stadium exercise in ‘direct democracy’. People have also been joining the Trust in record numbers, and are keen for a body like SD to be a really effective vehicle for grassroots-driven change in the game.”

Since the meeting of Scottish Trust representatives at Falkirk a month ago, the Sonstrust, which has over 300 members, has announced the results of a £1000 community bursary scheme (which has given three youth-oriented local projects a boost in funds), and is also holding a major recruitment drive running through to 19 March.

“Given that we already have half our regular home gate in the Sonstrust, we thought we might have ‘peaked’ – but we’ve already picked up a further 5%, said Barrow. “There’s a real appetite for supporter involvement in running clubs and shaping the future of the game. Our message to other Trusts is, ‘get out there, recruit, and get people involved’.”

Who's the wally with the scarf?

"The hedge at Glebe Park last night was more impressive..."
Here's my dignity-free moment at the Emirates Stadium on 2 March - showing 50,000 Arsenal fans, and around 9,000 Leyton Orient ones, what a real football team's knitwear looks like. O's supporter Mark Smith balked somewhat, but was gracious enough to snap it for me. I was in north London to watch the East-enders try to repeat their moment of glory at Brisbane Road, when they earned the prestigious, money-spinning FA Cup Fifth Round replay with a fine 1-1 draw.

This evening, things would turn out a little differently. Arsenal's pitch is like a billiard table, well suited to a flowing, passing game. Orient, to their great credit, took on the Gunners in this department and displayed not a little technical ability. The standards of lower league football in England have increased exponentially since I first saw (old) Fourth Division Brentford in 1967. However, whatever the Os could do, Arsenal could do better. They clinched the game 5-0, going in at half time 3-0 up. It could have been more.

But Orient had a couple of good chances too, and did not disgrace themselves, in spite of the end result and only having 35% of possession. It was a clear, freezing cold evening, though, and not one on which it was ever going to be possible for the comparative minnows to hassle the Champions League wannabes off the ball. At one point, the away support chanted, along with "2-1 to the Birmingham!" (a reference to the previous week's Carling Cup final), "You're going to win f*ck all!" towards the Arsenal end. Cruel but possibly not unfair - as the Gunners' ejection from the top table of European competition to Barcelona and subsequent FA Cup exit to Manchester United indicated. I'd really love Arsene Wenger's men to win the EPL - on pure footballing grounds. But I still doubt that it will happen.

Meanwhile, Orient's supporters, including the contingent I was with (thank-you, Kevin Scully, for my early Christmas present, including the special scarf and programme) had a wonderful time, defeat notwithstanding. "You're so loud, you sound like Aldershot!" they cried to the relatively silent home fans. And, when the third goal went in, "We're going to win 4-3!"  Marvellous stuff. This was also my first visit to the Emirates. Wonderful architecture, pitch and scale. Mind you, the concourse at the away end was a bit spartan, given all the oil money behind it. And did I mention how cold it was?  You'd think they could afford central heating. Not even any free snoods, before FIFA bans them.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Rangers down and out

Diouf is briefed by Smith
It's Europa League night again. The multi-millionaires of Manchester City have just been dumped out of the second-string European competition by Dynamo Kiev, Liverpool have a careless goal deficit to overcome against FC Braga (Who made monkeys of Celtic) and - in the match I'm watching - Rangers are trying to dig themselves out of the hole they've got themselves in against PSV Eindhoven.

Controversy will follow this one, as a clear Dutch handball on the line by Atiba Hutchinson (a cast-iron penalty and sending off) is missed by all five officials. UEFA will have some questions to answer. However the Glasgow Blues only have themselves to blame for the situation they're in. As for much of the 0-0 first leg in the Netherlands (a good result for Walter Smith's men), the 'Gers chased the game for the first 50 minutes - outplayed, out-positioned and out-paced. This is not the SPL, fellas.

In the latter part of the second half, Rangers - behind to a well-taken Jeremain Lens goal, provided by slack marking on the break - are showing some purpose and have gone 4-4-2. They'd get killed trying that on Barcelona. But PSV are a different proposition. Greg Wylde is having a good game for the Scots. They are now looking to Steven Naismith and El Hadji Diouf to work some magic.

I can't see it happening. They should be be level by rights, but even then they'd be out on away goals. I want Rangers to pull it back for ex-Dumbarton man Walter Smith's sake (his last season in charge), and because they represent Scotland. Normally I wouldn't give them the time of day, being Old Firm. And the mourning period will be very brief if they exit tonight. Funny old (emotional) game.

Update:  Rangers, Manchester City and Liverpool all out. OK, back to real life.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Supporting Dumbarton's youth

This article first appeared as Sonstrust backs youth football on the Sonstrust website. 

Kevin Murney from youth side Dumbarton United AFC has written to thank the Sonstrust and DFC for their day out at SHS and for their Community Bursary Grant.

Dumbarton United AFC were founded in 1958 and have been developing local footballing talent for the last 53 years.

“We would like to thank you for your hospitality on Saturday 5 March at Strathclyde Homes Stadium,” he writes. “We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, although the score line [Sons lost to Livingston 3-0] was not to our liking!”

Kevin adds: “We would also like to thank you for choosing our team to receive one of the first bursary grants. It has helped us immensely towards providing tracksuits for our boys.”

“We would like to wish you every success in the future,” he says.

Pat's the goals man

This article first appeared as Pat helps Sons strike the right note on the official DFC website.

Pat in action against Ayr
In-form striker Pat Walker has made quite an impact since he first appeared (and scored) for Dumbarton in a 3-2 home win against Ayr United on 13 November 2011.

Sons were rooted to the foot of the table at the time. The performance proved a vital boost. And since January, Pat has added another six goals to his league tally.

The Scottish Football League News featured an in-depth interview with the busy front-man at the end of last month. You can still read it online here.

Pat, who speaks about his New Zealand connections and wide football experience, says of his arrival at SHS: “Alan Adamson invited me to come in for training as Dumbarton is really close to where I teach. Scoring against Ayr was a weight off my mind and winning was a big thing for Dumbarton as well.”

He adds: “The spirit was good when I started, but you can really sense that everyone is looking forward to games now. We have pulled together well to move us [up] the League table.”

Sons' squad are certainly determined to continue that kind of attitude going into the important home game against East Fife on 19 March 2011.

Picture courtesy and (c) Donald Fullarton

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Where all the money goes

For a number of years David Hills has been putting together the excellent 'Said & Done' column in the Observer newspaper each Sunday. It's a "must read", combining useful research and a tongue-in-cheek approach to highlight the growing gap between rhetoric and reality among those who run, play, manage - and profit from - the global game.

Sepp orders a Latte...
This week, we learn, inter alia, that  ever-charming Sepp Blatter's report for FIFA on the World Cup ("I am the happiest man. It's a huge, huge financial success") reveals: • $4.19 billion income from the four-year World Cup cycle, tax-free via FIFA's status as a "non-profit body existing to invest in football development". • A rather smaller $794 million amount invested in football development, including FIFA's 'Win in Africa' social project. • $631 million added to FIFA's reserves (now standing at a record $1.2 billion, up from just $76 million in 2003). • $707 million on "expenses". Naturally. • FIFA's wage bill: $65.3 million paid to 387 employees – averaging $168,700 each.

And the rest?  Watch Hills' space.

Great win for Scottish women

Scotland's women have beaten England 2-0 in the Cyprus Cup, to end a run of 17 successive victories by the Auld enemy. Kim Little's drive on 26 minutes and Jennifer Beattie's glancing header on 54 secured the win for Scotland - ending 34 years of heartache.

Aberdeen-born Little, who has 50 caps for the national side, and who plays for Arsenal after moving from Hibernian in 2008,  told the BBC: "We've come close to England before, but we've been closing in on all the big teams and we're going into matches like this believing we can get a result. We were very organised defensively, got forward well, created chances and took them. It was a deserved victory - and a great day for Scotland."

Meanwhile, head coach Anna Signeul has set her sights on reaching the 2013 European Championship finals, and sees a good performance in the Cyprus Cup as a stepping stone to that goal.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

League leaders beat Sons 3-0

This article first appeared as Dumbarton well beaten by Livingston on the official DFC website.

Jon McShane
Second Division league leaders Livingston ran out convincing winners against a sometimes tired-looking Dumbarton at the Strathclyde Homes Stadium this afternoon.

After a huge effort in the 3-3 draw away to Brechin on Tuesday night, the last in a series of midweek games, Sons struggled to contain Livi, despite bright starts in both halves and fine goal efforts from Jon McShane and Andy Geggan.

Keaghan Jacobs and Iain Russell struck for the visitors on 5 and 7 minutes respectively, and then substitute Liam Fox claimed the crucial third goal to kill off the game on 69 minutes.

The result leaves Dumbarton in eighth spot. The Sons now have a week to prepare for the away trip to Stenhousemuir next Saturday, followed a week later by the visit of East Fife.

Match of the day

Sadly, I shall miss the 'match of the day' in the Scottish Second Division this afternoon, revived Dumbarton versus top-of-the-table Livingston - and also the Sons' supporters ballot and community bursary awards. Pressing work and charitable trust duties in London have intervened. But I shall be following the Twitter feed whenever I can.

The away draw against Brechin City earlier in the week represented a very determined and positive performance by Dumbarton in pretty unfriendly conditions (climate and pitch-wise). This afternoon will be equally tough, for different reasons. A point would be a  satisfactory outcome, but the aim must be three. We need to get to 41 or 42 points (the effective 'safety zone") as soon as possible.

Making Dumbarton's voice heard

This article first appeared as Have YOUR Say On Saturday on the Sonstrust website.

The Sonstrust's ballot on three key issues to do with the futures of the club and Scottish football will take place at the match against Livingston on Saturday. You will be handed a leaflet / voting paper at the game.

But it’s also possible to vote online. The first question, about ‘regionalisation’ of our leagues and the second one, about ‘colt teams’, have already been getting people talking and voting. Now the third question, about the involvement of fans in the running of the game is linked below.

There has been real anger among supporters that ‘reconstruction’ proposals are being discussed without any direct reference to the people who pay for and watch the game in their thousands.

One way of addressing this is to do what we’re doing here – work with others and get YOUR voice heard. Another is to seek proper representation of supporters at all levels of Scottish football which is what this question is about.

Do you want supporters to have representation in Scottish football’s governing bodies?

There's everything to play for

First published in Sons View, 05 March 2011, Dumbarton -v- Livingston

The defeat against Forfar last Saturday, followed rapidly by a tough midweek game at Brechin, has acted as something of a reality-check for the rejuvenated Dumbarton side and their buoyant fans.

But the fact that we are in the midst of a tough run of fixtures with the best sides in the Second Division, not least today’s top-of-the-table visitors Livingston, should not be allowed to detract from the remarkable overall turnaround achieved by Alan Adamson and the players in the course of the last eight matches.

Not only have Sons gained a significant number of points, won games, scored some great goals, picked up a first clean sheet, and dragged themselves off the foot of the table – they have also been playing a good deal of attractive, entertaining football. This has generated an air of positivity in the course of a season that, not so long ago, was looking like a complete write-off.

After the first few matches of 2011 it seemed as if Sons were being dragged inexorably into the relegation mire. There was almost an air of resignation around the Rock, matched only by the winter freeze that physically stalled our progress.

Now, however, the Sons have a realistic prospect of a decent mid-table finish, and our young team has been demonstrating its genuine football credentials – as a number of us always believed it was capable of doing.

This does not mean Dumbarton can afford to take the foot off the pedal, however. Far from it. The opening 25 minutes at Station Park showed that other teams in this division are sitting up and taking notice of the Dumbarton up-turn – perhaps especially those in the promotion play-off zone who cannot afford too many slip-ups if they are to realise their aspirations.

Dick Campbell’s Forfar side had clearly been sent out onto the pitch with instructions to harry the Sons, to knock them off their stride, to close down spaces for the fluid passing game they have developed up front, and to prevent them from gaining possession. For a time it worked. Ironically, we came out of a first half we had failed to grasp level pegging at 1-1; and a second half that we dominated, beaten 2-1. That, as they say, is football.

Livingston will be determined similarly to thwart Dumbarton this afternoon, and the challenge will be tough. Hopefully the darkest days of this campaign are behind us, but with ten matches left (including today’s game) we have to face the fact that there are likely to be setbacks as well as successes. The important thing is not to get too down about the former or too carried away with the latter.

The raw facts of Sons’ run-in to the last league game of the season (an opportunity for revenge against the Loons at SHS on 7 May) is that the opportunities and threats are evenly balanced. Six out of those ten encounters are on home turf. That’s in our favour. On the other hand, six of them are also against sides pushing for promotion with the wind behind their sails.

History suggests that at least one or two teams who have started strongly or who have moved into an advantageous position are liable to struggle to maintain momentum towards the end of the campaign. Similarly, some of those lower down will bounce back – as Dumbarton have already begun to do through our six-game unbeaten run.

The job now is to steady the ship, keep progressing, try to make sure we don’t drop games in the final minutes, and aim to collect – as soon as possible – those precious 41 points (another 12 out of a possible 30) that have been proved necessary to staying up over the last six terms.

Meanwhile, there are important battles off the pitch, too. Winning back the home support that ebbed away during the tough winter months is important. Bad news tends to travel faster than good. But now we can all do our bit in spreading the word that this is definitely a team worth watching.

Similarly, Dumbarton fans have the opportunity, through the Sonstrust website, of exercising their voice alongside others about the future of the game in Scotland – rather than allowing the richest clubs and interests to make all the running.

With the days and weeks moving quickly towards the 2010-11 season finale, there’s all to play for, in other words – both now and for the years to come. There’s never been a more important time to stand up for the Dumbarton. Starting this afternoon. ‘Mon Sons!

Massively mattering (to someone, presumably)

Dumbarton fans can make a big difference

First published in Sons View, 05 March 2011, Dumbarton -v- Livingston

The Sonstrust is continuing its drive to increase membership and secure a bigger say for Dumbarton fans in the future of the Club, and also the future of Scottish football as a whole.

Fans at today’s clash with Livingston will be getting a ballot paper asking for their vote on three important issues – whether the lower leagues should be regionalised, whether ‘colt’ teams from the SPL should be allowed to play in the second and third divisions, and whether there should be proper fan representation in the governing bodies of Scottish football.

If you’re reading this and haven’t had the chance to vote yet – fear not! You can also do so online at the Sonstrust page or the Facebook pages for either the Trust or Dumbarton FC.

YOUR VOTE MATTERS because the SPL has announced that it may be deciding on ‘reconstruction’ of the league (issues effecting ours too, not just theirs!) within “the next few weeks”.

The views of Dumbarton fans and ordinary supporters across the country therefore need to be heard loud and clear. Today’s vote will give the Sonstrust and the Club a mandate to push the SPL and the SFL to ensure that reforms take our wishes seriously – not just those of the big clubs, the Old Firm, the moneymen and the TV companies.

Similarly, joining the Sonstrust is the key way that ordinary fans can help secure the future of Dumbarton Football Club – both on the pitch and off it.

If you join up today or at the next home game, your membership – which costs just £10 – will count for the rest of this season and the whole of next season too. A bargain!

Just go to the Sonstrust Table in the Community Suite, see Tommy Hughes, or drop a note to

What does the Trust do, what can it achieve and why is it really worth joining? Well, here are a few examples. The Sonstrust has succeeded in:

* Giving supporters a direct voice into Dumbarton FC
* Raising funds and developing facilities for the Club
* Heading up Matchday commercial activity at DFC
* Getting a fully-funded Club Director – paid off 6 years early
* Producing the DFC Matchday programme and developing/running the Club website
* ‘Meet the Manager’
* Working with Dumbarton Stadium Company Ltd (DCS)
* Better supporters’ bar facilities: TV, memorabilia, projector, etc.
* A whole range of social events
* Local community initiatives fund
* Annual match sponsorship – 2 or 3 games per season
* Sponsorship of Match Ballboys at DFC, donating tracksuits
* Management /co-ordination of season ticket distribution
* Raise the Rock days – helping to increase crowds and revenue
* Walk to the Rock – profile for the Club in the community

Equally important is the fact that joining the Trust (it’s easy – just fill out a quick form and give your tenner in!) also links you to dozens of other Trusts and thousands of fans across Scotland. And together our voice can be much, much stronger.

Last week Supporters Direct especially praised Sonstrust for its work in recruiting and involving fans. SD development officer James Proctor declared: “Strengthening individual Trusts and building the Trust movement in Scotland is really important at a time when big decisions are being made over the future of the game.

Henry McLeish’s report into Scottish football recommends the inclusion of fans in the decision making of the SFA and the SPL have recently started to engage with supporters’ trusts and Supporters Direct over their proposals for reorganisation of the leagues. Therefore having a democratic and Scotland-wide fans organisation is an important step in improving the game and ensuring fans are represented.

“The Sonstrust at Dumbarton have set a great example with their recruitment drive, which is emphasising the importance of being part of Supporters Direct, as well as encouraging community ownership and giving fans a bigger say. We hope others will be inspired by their initiative.”

So please join the Trust, make sure that you 'Rock the Vote' today, and make your voice heard in the debate about the future of our game.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

From Glebe Park to the Emirates

Pat Walker
Last night's game between Dumbarton and Brechin City at Glebe Park was a really good muscle-and-guts affair. Getting pitch-side by the famous 'hedge' on a cold night have you a real feel for how much effort and intensity was being displayed by the Sons - together with quite a bit of pace and skill, given the (lack of) quality of the muddy, lumpy pitch. There were mistakes as well as moments of inspiration, of course; and six goals. It was a great evening and a four-hour round trip for the Edinburgh contingent... five-and-a-bit for me, given the additional bus back to Leith.

Tonight, by contrast (and it will be a huge one!), I'm down in London at the majestic Emirates Stadium, watching Leyton Orient seeking to make the most of their FA Cup Fifth Round replay with the mighty Arsenal - smarting from their Carling Cup Final defeat to Birmingham City. This too will be quite an occasion, and hopefully quite a match.

Dumbarton brace Brechin storm

This article also appears as the match report on the official DFC website.

Sons celebrate McShane's final equaliser
Dumbarton braved a difficult surface at Glebe Park, and tough opponents in Brechin City, to claim a point in a hard-fought contest away from home. It produced a vibrant game that ended in a 3-3 draw.

Both sides started positively, with the home side looking slightly more comfortable moving the ball around on a soft and uneven pitch - which only got worse as the evening progressed.

On nine minutes Kevin Byers opened the scoring for Brechin, with a looping header over Sons 'keeper Stephen Grindlay, after the ball had been swept in from the wing.

But two minutes later Dumbarton had found their feet and equalised, following a good through-ball from Mark Gilhaney and a powerful, driving shot from the edge of the area by Jon McShane. 1-1.

For much of the half the Hedgemen looked more threatening, pushing the ball out to the wings and trying to get behind the Dumbarton defence.

Sons' efforts on goal were more speculative, and their attacks based on passing movements through the centre that floundered in the mud.

Ben Gordon and Andy Geggan both made good, solid tackles in central defence as Brechin continued to push. Then five minutes before half-time Geggan released McShane down the right, but the big man's shot flew well over Brechin's bar.

After the break both teams struggled to retain and control the ball in worsening conditions. Pat Walker put it in the net for Sons on the hour, but unfortunately just after the flag had gone up for offside.

Then on 64 minutes a match that looked as if it had (literally) become bogged down suddenly burst into life. First, Kevin Byers made it 2-1 to the home side, squeezing the ball in after a desperate goalmouth scramble.

But the Hedgemen's lead lasted only a minute before Walker struck back for Dumbarton. The swings and roundabouts continued on 75 minutes with a superb, swerving strike from Roy McAllister, making it 3-2 again to the home side.

Sons went on the attack in search of yet another equaliser, while being rescued at the back several times by some determined tackling and a point-blank save from Grindlay. Paul Nugent also put himself on the line to keep Dumbarton in the game.

The last twist came from Jon McShane, claiming his second goal of the evening to draw the sides level for the final time. Walker worked the ball through the Brechin defence, and the Sons number 9 beat the 'keeper, to rapturous applause from the travelling support.

The 3-3 draw keeps Dumbarton in the hunt for safety in Division Two, and a respectable mid-table finish is now possible, as what has been a topsy-turvy season heads towards its finale.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Sons stage impressive recovery

This brief summary first appeared as Sons claim hard-won point at Brechin on the official DFC website.

Dumbarton fought off a determined Brechin City and a difficult pitch to claim a precious point from what turned out to be a pulsating 3-3 draw at Glebe Park this evening.

Sons came back from behind on three occasions, once before half-time and twice after.

A brace of goals from Jon McShane, and a further one from Pat Walker, ensured that the team went away rewarded for a battling display on a cold night and a soft, muddy surface.

The conditions were difficult for both sides, and Dumbarton's defence and 'keeper Stephen Grindlay also played an important part in securing the result against a resolute Brechin.

Sonstrust vote on SPL 'colt' teams

This article first appeared as Do YOU Want SPL ‘Colts’ In Our League? on the Sonstrust website.

The second of three questions being put to all Dumbarton FC fans by the Sonstrust can now be voted on online – using the link below, and on the Trust and Club Facebook pages.

It concerns the proposal being put forward by the Scottish Premier League that SPL ‘colt’ teams should be permitted to compete in the lower leagues – what are now the SFL Second and Third Divisions. The precise nature of what is being suggested is unclear at present – but the media rumour is that it will apply only to the SPL ‘elite’.

Fans of Scottish League Clubs overwhelmingly rejected the idea in the Supporters Direct survey, which 5,000 people participated in, as did representatives of all but three of 33 Trusts at a meeting in Falkirk on 23 January 2011.

However, the Sonstrust believes the question should be put directly to Dumbarton fans as part of our poll – which will be used to seek action from DFC, the SFL and others in advance of decisions which the SPL is planning to make “within the next few weeks“. We gave some more background on the issue here.

Do you want SPL ‘colt’ teams allowed to play in the lower leagues?