Saturday, 7 May 2011

Sons shine on Leith (hopefully)

First published in Sons View, 07 May 2011, Dumbarton -v- Forfar Athletic

Excuse me, it’s the end of the season already? It hardly seems last week that I was picking up my first ever Dumbarton season ticket, after 41 years of being stuck in England. Mind you, for much of this term it looked like it might be relegation we’d be confronting this May. Instead, Sons are heading for seventh spot, our youth players have done us proud, and we’ve won silverware for three seasons consecutively – thanks to that second Stirlingshire Cup victory in a row.

Going into last week’s encounter with Division Two champions-in-waiting Livingston, there was naturally a fair bit of apprehension. Few of us thought we would get much out of that match, leaving the likelihood that this afternoon’s one against Forfar would take place under the shadow of a possible relegation play-off. But Dumbarton’s chosen put in a fine, determined performance. That and defeats by Stenhousemuir and Alloa at the hands of Brechin and East Fife, respectively, saw us safe. And boy, was there a party!

A good part of the story of that visit to Almondvale was constituted by the away support, colourfully attired and determined to keep up a constant barrage of support for the Sons of the Rock. On the pitch, meanwhile, Dumbarton were determined not to be rolled over by the rampant Lions, whose own fans seemed relatively subdued. Perhaps with two titles in a row they were taking it for granted and dreaming instead of a challenge for SPL status? Who knows. What’s clear is that the sunshine, the singing and the roll of the turf went Sons’ way.

We should really have claimed all three points. But with ten minutes to go, Livi sneaked in an equaliser. It was a bit of a symptom of the downside from a bad season that ended well. What’s more, I had just finished getting the DFC website summary ready, referring to only our fourth clean sheet this term. It was not to be. So this afternoon we have chance to put that right and conclude a tough campaign on a winning note. Then it’s time to party once again, with the dance and awards event in the evening.

From the perspective of football’s sporting instincts (hardly getting a good press at the moment, what with another Spanish civil war between the millionaires of Barcelona and Real Madrid!), that 1-1 draw at Livingston put everybody in a decent mood. Sons fans stayed on to cheer out team, and also give credit where it was due to Livingston – who were evidently the standout team in the division. Earlier on the gap between them and the rest had not seemed that huge, but full-time status and deeper squad resources showed in the end.

Dumbarton, meanwhile, turned an early season drought into an attack-focused approach that delivered goals and entertainment on more than a few occasions this year. The problem was that we sometimes looked more leaky at the back than my dear departed dad’s classic Austin 1100 … and though you won’t have been around to see that, even if you were old enough, believe me: that car really leaked!

Newly confirmed boss Alan Adamson will no doubt have more than half a mind on ways of addressing some of this term’s problems as he seeks to reconfigure for August. But meanwhile, it’s time to try and end 2010-11 on an upbeat note, and have fun trying.

Then suddenly we’ll be facing the close-season football hiatus. Having attended 34 Dumbarton matches and a few other SFL and SPL ones since this time last year (more Sons games for me than in the past ten campaigns put together), I’m a bit more adjusted to football sabbatical than usual. I know my poor wife certainly is.

That said, for some of us there’s the small matter of a Play for the Sons match at SHS on 4 June to contend with. At the ripe old age of 53 it will be my first competitive game in 25 years – and you don’t want to know what happened in the last one! So after tonight’s celebrations it will be back to the strict diet and the training regime for me. Well, I say “back to”. But what I mean is, “time for my crash course in match fitness” - preferably without the crash. I need the Sons to shine on Leith for me!

As for this Forfar game: well, it’s the end of a difficult chapter for the Club. But it’s also a boundary beyond which we can look forward. The desire and spirit is certainly there. So have a great summer, and see you next season.

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