Looking at the fixtures this week, I felt a trip to League 2 was in order to complete my set.
Being honest, Annan was a trip that I wasn’t particularly looking forward to, mainly due to the travelling involved.
With the days getting shorter and light diminishing quickly in the evenings I thought this was a trip to get done early in the season.
The fog surrounding me on the way to the station didn’t dampen my spirits, although maybe it was a metaphor for things to come with many confusing permutations involved in the journey.
Via Edinburgh, via Glasgow, via Carlisle? Even as I arrived at the station I wasn’t absolutely certain that I would ever get to Annan.
An earlier start than usual saw me on a quieter train than I’m used to.
Time to catch up on sleep is always appreciated.
Changing in Glasgow (which seemed to be the easier route) I found myself on a busier train for the second leg of the journey.
That train was bound for Newcastle and filled with hen parties.
The only party I was interested in, naturally, was the festival of football I was anticipating at Galabank as Annan Athletic took on Clyde.
It didn’t disappoint.
Annan are a club fairly new to the Scottish league setup.
The club were admitted to what was then the SFL in 2008. At that time clubs were admitted on merit of facilities and what they could bring to the league rather than on sporting merit.
It is no surprise then that Galabank is in great condition.
As I walked through the town towards the ground the cheesy music often played at Scottish football grounds caught my ear and helped me find my way.
The ground is nestled in the middle of a quiet patch of road. This seems like the perfect place for it, a quiet location which allows all that attend to forget their troubles and enjoy the game.
Large signs welcomed me to the ground and a board clearly displays the club’s next fixture.
A series of shed like structures make up the entry point for the home supporters.
Tickets are required for entry and available at the club shop, next to the turnstiles.
Within ten steps of the entrance I had access to the refreshment stall, toilets and the terracing behind the goal.
What more does a football fan need?
This terracing is in great shape and it quickly becomes well populated by home fans.
It goes without saying that if I was an Annan fan I would have found a spot behind the goals but I decided to find a seat in the stand to give myself a better view of the action.
Without realising, I found myself sitting next to the tannoy announcer.
He shared anecdotes about the songs and, communicating with a walkie talkie, he timed entrance music to perfection as the players walked out of the tunnel.
He seemed to know everyone sitting near me, one of those characters that adds to the lower league experience.
It’s easy to see why Annan were chosen eight years ago, their facilities are as good as any other in the league.
One thing that we have to accept in Scotland is that it rains. A lot.
With around ten minutes until kickoff a downpour started.
As the players warmed up, the fans around me made a dash for any remaining seat at the back of the stand.
Like many clubs in Scotland, Annan have embraced the plastic pitch revolution.
Their 3G pitch is slippy as the game kicks off.
I am completely in favour of these pitches which not only allow the community to hire the pitch during the week but also reduce the risk of call offs later in the season
However it is easy to understand why many are less enthusiastic, particularly those that have to play on it.
They slipped, slid and fell in situations where on grass they probably wouldn’t have.
This isn’t Annan’s fault as the pitch is well maintained, but it is clear that artificial pitches still aren’t perfect.
Both Annan and Clyde will be hoping to challenge in the top half of the league and the sides cancelled each other out in the early stages.
Clyde looked the more likely to score, but Annan took the lead on 40 minutes with striker David McKenna sending a left-footed volley past the Clyde goalkeeper.
A fairly boring first half with the most positive comment I heard in the stands “I’ve seen worse games” summing it up fairly well.
As the rain stopped and the sun came out, the second half provided much more entertainment.
The visitors, probably with their managers words at half time ringing in their ears levelled ten minutes in to the second half.
The vastly experienced Peter MacDonald dispatched a deft finish past the Annan goalkeeper after a sublime through ball from a teammate.
Suddenly it was game on and the jubilant scenes from the Bully Wee players and fans behind the goal suggested they were confident they could push on for a win.
The game became frantic and fantastic.
Two brilliant goals followed in as exciting an order as they could have come.
A long range rasping shot, 2-1 Annan.
A cleverly whipped free kick, 2-2 Clyde.
Both sides pushed for a winner, cheered on by ever more feverish supporters.
It was left to the Galabankies pacy number nine Rabin Omar to clinch all three points for his side.
Sometimes people say that lower league football doesn’t matter.
As I looked around me at the celebrations it was clear that this one meant a lot.
The announcer thanked the 421 fans for supporting their local team at full time as the team in yellow were applauded down the tunnel.
This was an enthralling match between two fairly even sides and in the end Annan had the grit required to get themselves over the line.
Heading home (via Carlisle) I had plenty of time to think.
I have seen one game from each league now and while the top league obviously features better quality players, that has absolutely no bearing on how exciting a match will be.
This one was a cracker.
Annan Athletic 3 Clyde 2