Saturday, 29 October 2011

Victory for Sons against Stirling Albion

A SECOND half goal from Scott Agnew sealed a vital 1-0 win for Dumbarton against Stirling Albion at Forthbank this afternoon.

Sons dominated play for large chunks of the first half, but were unable to find and convert the opportunities in front of goal that they needed to consolidate their superiority.

After the break the Binos pushed back hard, but Dumbarton held on and made several chances themselves before Agnew latched on to a ball during a goalmouth scramble late in the game, slotting home past the visitors' 'keeper to give Sons all three points.

Next up is the Stirlingshire Cup Final at Falkirk on Tuesday night, followed by a trip to Arbroath in the league campaign on Saturday. (29 Oct 2011).

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Green versus green

Leith is in the spotlight tonight, as Celtic, who have already lost to Hearts in Gorgie this season, seek to avoid more capital punishment in Edinburgh this evening. They face Hibernian at Easter Road, competing for a place in the semi-final of the Scottish Communities League Cup.

Since the match is taking place around a mile from where I live, I was very tempted to be there. But the lure of watching the game on Sportscene and saving precious football pounds proved more of an attraction in the end, compounded by the thought of more Old Firm gloating.

So far - with half-time approaching - Colin Calderwood's decision to put out an attacking Hibs line-up (partly because he lacks resources elsewhere, compared to the Hoops) is paying off, with the Leith side one up as a result of a deflected own-goal within the first five minutes.

Celtic are also struggling on the left, failing to cope with deep balls, hesitating at set pieces, and squandering chances. The one that produced the biggest local cheers, unsurprisingly, was a shot that clicked off the outside of the post from former Hibee Anthony Stokes.

Oh how sweet it would be to have an SLC last four without either Celtic or Rangers in it. I haven't made a League Cup Final yet, but I'd go for it if two other teams made it to Hampden.

Reality bites big time in the second half, however. Four Celtic goals in 24 minutes. Ivan Sproule off for Hibs for a second bookable offence. The ten men have 20 minutes to avoid further humiliation. Glad I didn't go now... 

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Hard fought draw for Sons

DUMBARTON had to settle for a 1-1 draw against ten-man Airdrie United in a tough game at the Rock this afternoon, with both sides missing opportunities to claim three points.
A penalty converted by Mark Gilhaney gave Sons the lead on 27 minutes, following a foul against Pat Walker. But the Diamonds were level just eight minutes later, when Jamie Stevenson capitalised on a swift breakaway that left the defence stranded.

The visitors' Kevin Green received a red card for pulling down a clear-through Bryan Prunty before the break. However, in the second half it was Dumbarton who often found themselves pinned back, despite their advantage in numbers.

A late flurry of attacking activity from Sons failed to produce a winner. The two goalkeepers had fine games, denying the forwards on both sides on several occasions.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Dumbarton claim first home win

SONS claimed their first home win of the season with a 2-1 victory against Albion Rovers and ended the first quarter of the campaign on a positive note.

Dumbarton triumphed in a poor game spoiled by blustery conditions thanks to a goal in each half by Ross McKinnon and Scott Agnew.

Steven Lawless gave the Wee Rovers hope with a late strike but the on-loan Motherwell man's effort was too little too late for the visitors allowing Sons to register three points and keep the Coatbridge side at the bottom of the division.

Sons now leap to 7th on 10 points. (18 Oct 2011)

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Sons lose to Stenhousemuir

DUMBARTON'S league woes continued against Stenhousemuir, as they went down to a 3-1 defeat on a dark and windy afternoon at Ochilview.

An unstoppable shot from Andy Rogers before the half hour and a well taken header from Ross MacMillan just before the referee blew his whistle to end the first half gave the home side a comfortable 2-0 lead at the break.

Sons had the ball in the net shortly after the restart, but Pat Walker's strike was disallowed for offside. MacMillan made it 3-0 to Stenny with a close range header on 77 minutes. Scott Agnew secured a consolation for Dumbarton shortly afterwards, curling a free kick around the home side's wall.

Next up for Sons is an important game at the Rock against bottom side Albion Rovers on Tuesday night, with Airdrie United the visitors next Saturday. (15 Oct 2011).

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Who will reign after Spain?

Well, it's Alicante and the moment of truth for Scotland tonight. Realistically, there's little chance of claiming points against World Champions Spain. As Pat Nevin has just said on BBC Sportscene, a victory here would be the best result in the Scottish national team's football history. So the weight of Euro-qualification rests heavily on Lithuania's ability to silence the Czech Republic.

Six minutes in and things are looking decidedly grim. 1-0 to Spain. But even worse, the Czechs are 1-0 up in Lithuania through an early penalty. That's the one that really hurts.

8.40  Steven Naismith picks up where he left off in Liechtenstein the other night, missing an opportunity in front of goal.

19.50  The Czech Republic are now 2-0 ahead, courtesy of Jan Rezek (who took a dive to win a penalty at Hampden). Scotland are all but eliminated from the European Championships, with less than a quarter of their own game over. Worse than I imagined. (My wife has ventured the opinion that, "on the positive side", it can't be blamed on whatever happens in Alicante this evening. I've had to explain that, with Scotland and football, there isn't a positive side -- just different kinds of unrelenting misery!)

34.00  To be fair, Scotland are doing pretty well, given the scale of the task. Great move between Naismith and Darren Fletcher, with the Manchester United man just failing to keep the ball down from his strike on goal. Then in a further attacking move, Alan Hutton is caught offside.  An excellent wing move by James Morrison, too.

41.00  Magnificent save by Scotland 'keeper Allan MacGregor, and then, at the other end, a corner from the men in blue and a flashing shot from Charlie Adam. A reasonable shout for a penalty for a push on Gary Caldwell, too. But no-one shouted, and within a minute David Silva had made it 2-0 to Spain with a superb left-foot strike. His second of the evening.

Meanwhile, the Czechs are now 3-0 in front. Game and tournament over.  Congratulations, however, to the Republic of Ireland, who are into the play-offs for Euro 2012 after beating Armenia 2-1.

Meanwhile, in the second half, Scotland have been doing a good job of getting behind the Spanish defence. Substitute David Goodwillie made it 3-1 with a fine, confident penalty -- and then wasted a chance to create a tap-in for Craig Mackail-Smith by blasting over the bar himself. Inexperience or selfishness: one or the other. Perhaps both.

90.00  Christophe Berra has done well at the back, incidentally, and on 74 minutes almost created a second goal with a well-placed header. Morrison could have put Goodwillie through, too. But his intended pass was too well advertised. 

A pretty good Scottish performance overall, despite it being a disappointing evening.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Back on the tortured path

Having watched Scotland's last three games (the friendly against Denmark, and the Euro-qualifiers against the Czech Republic and Lithuania) at Hampden Park, this evening I'm settling down in front of the television with thousands of other hopeful souls as the Scots take on Liechtenstein at the Rheinpark Stadion.

Greetings to all my friends in Vaduz. I'll be commenting on the action as it develops, in between biting my nails. The BBC's live stream is here.

The team line-ups are as follows:  Liechtenstein - Jehle, Ritzberger, Kaufmann, Martin Stocklasa, Rechsteiner, Martin Buchel, Hanselmann, Nicolas Hasler, Polverino, Beck, Frick. Subs: Benjamin Buchel, Eberle, Michael Stocklasa, Flatz, Niklas Kieber, Wolfgang Kieber, Bicer. Scotland - McGregor, Hutton, Berra, Caldwell, Bardsley, Morrison, Adam, Fletcher, Bannan, Naismith, Mackail-Smith. Subs: Marshall, Goodwillie, Robson, Cowie, Wallace, Whittaker, Forrest.

What are we going to witness, I wonder? A big test for Craig Mackail-Smith, for sure. It has to be an attacking stance, too. As Scott Booth has observed on BBC Radio Scotland: "If we can look confident and take the game to them, I think we can create chances. Getting an early goal is a key thing."

18:31  A lively start, and also good to see that the Liechtenstein anthem was respected, despite being set to the same tune as 'God Save the Queen'. The pitch doesn't look good.

18:41  Charlie Adam's free kick finds Steven Naismith, who gets a head-flick to the cross. But his effort slips wide. Mackail-Smith has also had a couple of chances. Positive from Scotland, but no real signs of the much needed breakthrough yet.  I think we're going to win, but probably only by a goal.

18:49  A great shot from Thomas Beck of Liechtenstein, and an equally fine save from Allan McGregor in the Scotland goal. The midfield are focussed on moving the ball upfield, but they looked dozy at the back.  Mackail-Smith hits back, but he is caught offside. (Note the the BBC commentator: Brighton is not in the Midlands).

18:55  Having rounded the 'keeper, Naismith should have done much better than hitting the ball into the side-netting. Then Barry Bannan comes close.

19:03  Goal for Scotland! Craig Mackail-Smith heads over the oncoming Jehle, who has looked good so far. A crucial lead.

19:46  Well into the second half, and Scotland look comfortably in control. But they are not turning chances into more goals. Phil Bardsley has just missed a chance provided by Bannan's sweeping cross. Things are looking safe at the moment, but it only takes one slip to put the Scots in danger.

20:00  Nineteen minutes plus time added on to go, as  Liechtenstein make their first substitution. James Forrest is on for Bannan for Scotland. It's going to get very tense unless Scotland can claim another goal.

20:03  Another Liechtenstein substitution. I expect David Goodwillie to be on for Scotland shortly, probably for Naismith. But first it's Cowie for Adam. Keep the ball up the park, lads. Don't try to sit back deep on a 1-0 lead at this stage. (I can see that assistant coach Peter Houston agrees with me!)

20:10  Seven minutes plus left. This is a workmanlike performance against relatively low-grade, if well-organised, opposition. But Spain are going to be a different proposition altogether on Tuesday night.

20:14  Not exactly elegant viewing or a beautiful game, but if the job is done we will all be content. The bagpipes and drums sound out from the 2,000 Scotland supporters. With all the flags and banners, it almost looks like a home game.

20:18  Great attempts by Naismith and Christophe Berra, and excellent saves once more from Jehle. Three minutes time to be added on for stoppages.

20: 21  That's it, all over. Phew! 

Final score:  Liechtenstein 0 -v- Scotland 1.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Rallying the home support

First published in Sons View, 01 October 2011, Dumbarton -v- Albion Rovers

Last week’s positive display and 2-0 victory away at Forfar Athletic was a real boost for Sons, and we are all hoping that the good work will continue at home against Albion Rovers this afternoon.

If performances at SHS had matched Dumbarton’s away form, we would be sitting comfortably in the play-off promotion zone. As it is, we are at the other end of the table and our aim today is to put a good distance between ourselves and our visitors, to achieve stability at the Rock, and to push upwards.

Today’s game will be our fourth home league outing this season, and astonishingly Sons are still searching for that elusive first point on domestic turf in 2011/12 – having leaked 13 goals during those 270 minutes of football, while scoring just four.

By contrast, we’ve picked up 11 goals and seven points from two wins and a draw in the last three away games – though because of various commitments I’ve unfortunately had to miss them all. I was present for the opener at Airdrie United, but the less said about that one, the better…

The superstitious among my Sons friends have therefore suggested that I should stay away so we stand some chance of getting a good result. On the other hand, people who haven’t quite figured out probability theory reckon that, following three ‘tails’ in a row, a ‘heads’ is now more likely!

The truth is that breaking this particular duck is a football issue, though chance and the fans obviously make a difference. As the cliché has it, “football is a funny game”, and one of its abiding curiosities is that the familiar territory of your own stadium can prove the toughest arena of all to get things right.

Why? Well, sometimes there are factors at play which have little bearing on the location, like injuries, flukes, refereeing decisions, tactical changes and the sheer quality of the opposition.

Even so, the level of expectation is inevitably ratcheted up on home soil. The team is playing in front of a majority of its own supporters, and – let’s face it – home fans can be the first to get on your back (“not least at Dumbarton!” I hear some of you crying).

So today the men in gold will definitely be wanting some verbal encouragement from you, even (perhaps especially) if things are not going Sons’ way on the field.

Ironically, just a handful of away supporters can make much more noise than a significantly larger local crew. It’s healthy lungs and the solidarity of being an embattled minority that makes the difference. Today we need to reverse that.

Having been out on the pitch for 70 minutes myself, during the Play for the Sons match, I know that you pick up a good deal of what’s shouted. So it would be great if we could all make it positive this afternoon, following the fantastic example of many of our younger fans.

I have an additional reason to be looking forward to this game, because the Match Ball Sponsorship has been taken out on behalf my wonderful parents-in-law from the USA, Willard and Alice Roth. I have no doubt that the traditional Scottish hospitality will be extended to them.

As someone once put it, neither Alice nor Willard “know one end of a football from the other”, but I think they’ll recognise a goal if (when) Sons get a few, and sampling the local food and drink is bound to go down well.

Let’s hope we’re feeling content at the end of 90 minutes, too. ’Mon Sons!


Albion Rovers are ten years younger than Dumbarton, having been founded in Coatbridge in 1882. Our history has been well entwined with the Wee Rovers; particularly during the time we shared Cliftonhill as part of the transition from Boghead to the Rock, and in the recent managerial figures of Paul Martin and Jim Chapman.

In 2009/10 Albion missed a promotion play-off position by a single point. Last term they put that right, earning promotion to the Second Division by beating Queen’s Park and then Annan Athletic to escape the Third Division.

I saw the first leg of their play-off semi-final at Hampden, and they looked a determined, well-organised outfit. As with Sons, it has been a difficult start to the new season for Rovers, but they don’t intend to be tourists at this level.

Over the years Albion’s major honours have been wins in the old and new Second Divisions (the second and third tiers respectively), incidentally.