Malcolm Dawson writes…..Pete Sixsmith and I returned to the wind tunnel that is Tow Law on Friday night where Shildon were the visitors and stuck 5 or maybe it was 6 (I lost count as well as my woolly hat) past our two favourite keepers. One does a passable impression of Eddie Large whilst the other is more Edgar Davids with his swimming googgle inspired safety specs. It’s only ten minutes away from me which is enough for a pre-season friendly between a team who could well challenge once again for the Northern League title and another who will almost certainly have a fight on their hands to stay in the League at all. Pete needs his footy fix and decided that a trip north of the border was in order to satisfy his craving for a game where there was something to play for. And wherever you go these days it seems that there are Sunderland supporters. Ha’way the Lads!
MACKEMS IN KIRKCUDBRIGHT
Many years ago, M Salut was on his way to Northern Ireland and stopped off in Kirkcudbright to entertain this predominantly Protestant town with some Irish rebel songs. The good people of Galloway refrained from tarring and feathering him and running him out on a rail, but the town immediately fell in love with Sunderland AFC.
Well that’s my rather fanciful explanation of why there was a Sunderland shirt fluttering on a washing line as I approached St Mary’s Park, home of South of Scotland League St Cuthbert Wanderers in my quest for competitive football. Friendlies are like a McDonald’s “meal” – they fulfil immediate hunger but there is no lasting satisfaction.
And so it was that I set off over the A66 stopping at the wonderful Llama Karma Kafe near Penrith for a coffee and a look at the llama’s – gentle, peaceful animals who, unlike French cycling fans, do not spit. That was followed by a short sprint up the M6 to Gretna and then along the A75, through Annan where I was tempted by the home team’s game against Aidrieonians. The visitors wear the best strip in British football – white with a huge red diamond that covers front and back.
The temptation resisted I ploughed on to Dumfries, turning my back on a Galloway derby between Queen of the South and Stranraer and then down the A711 to Kirkcudbright (pronounced Kirk-coo-bree). The road signs pronounced it “Artists Town” and there were also road signs for The Wicker Man Festival – but none for St Cuthbert Wanderers v Lochar Thistle. Kirkudbright is a very pleasant town situated on the estuary of the River Dee. The buildings are solid and reassuring and there is a lack of chain shops – a small Co-op, a small Tesco and no sign of Greggs, Subway or Costa, just local butchers, bakers and candlestick makers – although the last was shut, presumably burning a police officer at the Wicker Man Fest. Kirkcudbright has connections with St Cuthbert, the saint buried in Durham Cathedral and with St Ninian, the patron saint of old Cardiff City supporters. It was also where the 1973 horror film “The Wicker Man was shot.” It’s a classic British film, directed by Robin Hardy and starring Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee and Britt Ekland. Few who have seen it can fail to be impressed by Ms Ekland bumping and grinding in the buff while Woodward’s strait laced police officer is unsure of whether to flee or fight.
The SAFC shirt was spotted as I walked back to the ground after an excellent lunch in The Belfry Café (BLT far better than anything from Subway et al). It was fluttering on the line, its Bidvest logo proudly exhibited between the laundry of the other occupants of the house. I felt that the taking of a photo would be “inappropriate” and could end up with Police Scotland being involved.
But the SAFC connection was reinforced when the St Cuthbert DJ played “Ready to Go,” and “Three Little Birds”. Alas, no “Can’t Help Falling In Love With You” or “5-4-3-2-1.”
The game was entertaining. The South of Scotland League is at Step 7 of the Scottish Pyramid, not that any club has ambitions of moving up. It is based in Dumfries and Galloway, with many clubs located in and around Dumfries – which is where Lochar hailed from. Grounds are basic although some have floodlights and some have 3 or 4G surfaces. There were no seats at St Mary’s Park unless you brought your own, as one elderly spectator did. The home team were 3 up at half time thanks to a storming goal from a bulky No.9 who then fell in the penalty area to claim a second from the spot. Lochar conceded a third from the kick off and it looked like game over.
They pulled one back at the start of the second half before going 5-1 down and again it looked like game over. But Lochar had the obligatory small, red-haired midfield player and he inspired a fight back, having a hand in three goals as it went to 5-4. The home team, who had missed more chances than Fletcher and Wickham were wobbling but the referee blew his final whistle to give the Wanderers a home win.
The crowd was about 70, including a number clad in Rangers shirts, presumably the offspring of those who heard the Irish rebel songs from the 1960’s. One man was impressed with Martyn Waghorn, who had scored twice in the 6-2 win at Hibs, but dismissed the new keeper Foderingham as “absolute f****** s****.” He was not a patient man and grumbled throughout the game at the referee, who had failed to give Wanderers a penalty when a ball hit a Thistle hand.
I drove back along the Galloway coast to Dalbeattie, past the Wicker Man Festival (Lulu Friday night, Jimmy Cliff Saturday) and then on to Gretna. Instead of the dash along the A66, I went to Brampton, up to Alston and then down Weardale to Sixsmith Towers. It reinforced my view that, on a good day, there is nothing to beat the U.K. Shame the good days are so few and far between.
I missed a good win for the Under 21’s who beat Hamilton Accies 3-1 at Hetton. Charis Mavrias scored twice and had my correspondents raving. Could he be the answer to the lack of pace in the team? We shall keep an eye on him at Boston (Lincs not Mass) on Tuesday.