42 Grounds: Ground 13: Somerset Park

Football is a remarkable game.

It can cause a tremendous range of emotions in those that choose to invest themselves in it.

From the joy of scoring a late winner in a big game – that elbows flailing, falling over seats kind of joy – to the utter deflation that a relegation can bring – tears that TV cameramen are so capable at capturing to ensure they can never be forgotten.

Every football fan has a story to tell about their favourite goal, and the celebration which followed. James McFadden in Paris comes to mind, a goal which even ten years later needs no explanation, those that saw it live invariably have a tale to tell.

Most football fans probably have a low to share. The crushing defeat from a neighbour, a Cup final defeat or being relegated by fierce rivals.

My last trip to Somerset Park was undoubtedly my footballing low.

At the end of last season Stranraer played Ayr in the playoff final which would decide which side would be promoted to the Championship. Despite all of Stranraer’s efforts they would lose on penalties. They were so close to promotion (after two consecutive near misses) and yet in the end they fell just short.

The Ayr team performed when it mattered and their fans were jubilant. They absolutely deserve their place in the Championship. They earned it in a bruising encounter.

If the experience made me realise one thing, it’s that I’m slightly grateful for supporting a team that has struggled more often than not over the last decade. Coming close but falling short is worse than simply falling short.

I was initially planning to go elsewhere today but Ayr’s football for a fiver initiative advertised online was too good to turn down.

This came about in sad circumstances following the death of a former Ayr United chairman, but the plan to raise money and awareness for Alzheimers Scotland was a fitting tribute and will hopefully allow the charity to help others suffering from the disease.

The Honest Men have the history and fan base of a club that belongs in the Championship, despite recent years seeing  third tier football more common at Somerset.

They have spent many years in the top flight, they have had successful cup runs and they sustained full time football for many years.

More recently the club have reverted to part time status. This makes the already challenging task of survival in the second tier even more difficult.

The addition of players like Gary Harkins and Conrad Balatoni to the best of last season’s squad will give them some hope, and despite a slow start to the season recent weeks have seen a big improvement in form.

Somerset Park is ‘traditional.’ It is the kind of ground that a football fan will either love or loathe. It has character and from almost every angle you can catch a glimpse of an old style football ground.

For me, it’s a great ground. The old turnstiles are at once unwelcoming and appealing. They grab your attention and draw you in.

The main stand looks rather plain from outside. However from the inside it is impressive. The elevated seats sit high above the dugouts, providing a view of everything obstructed only by a few poles.

Every area in the ground lends itself to a photograph. From the large steps to ascend upon entry to the great patches of terracing which cover three sides of the ground. The old crush barriers remain and large fences are in place to separate the home and away fans.

As kickoff approached the crowd began to swell both in the home and away end, and it was no surprise when it was announced that the start had been put back by five minutes.

Despite the extra wait, this was an announcement welcomed by most. People often complain about low attendances in Scottish football, so it would seem strange to complain about high attendances.

Somerset Park is one of those great grounds where the home fans are free to travel between terracing.

When the home side are shooting towards the home fans there is a significant movement of people to stand behind the goal to encourage their team and (they hope) to get a better view of any goals scored.

As the teams come out the home fans begin to move in to position, before observing a minutes silence.

img_1434
The old home turnstiles, quiet well before kickoff.
img_1444
The view towards the away end.
img_1448
The crowd moved behind the goal that Ayr were playing towards.

 

The game with Dunfermline was a clash between the two sides that were promoted from League 1 last season.

Both will feel they belong in the Championship but as with any newly promoted sides there is a good chance that they will find themselves in the bottom half of the table at the end of the season.

As the game kicked off in the blazing sun, there was little to separate the sides.

These two teams are keen to get the ball down and pass it. At times Ayr would play three or four passes before spraying a low pass across the field to change the angle of the attack. When Dunfermline managed to win the ball back they would respond in kind, although with more of an impetus on going forward.

It was because of this that the Pars created the best chances early in the game. Greg Fleming was an important figure in goal as he denied them on at least two occasions.

Ayr did create chances of their own. Brian Gilmore produced a moment of magic with a volley from long range just about pushed over by the Pars keeper.

Ultimately, both sides lacked an out and out striker to take advantage of the chances they had created.

The second half continued in much the same way, with both sides creating a limited number of chances.

Very little of note happened, with Dunfermline’s Farid El Alagui perhaps having the best chance of the half as he fired over with his left foot from 10 yards.

If those in charge of the Honest Men couldn’t have asked for more in terms of weather, they would perhaps have been disappointed with the game that was served up.

While it wasn’t necessarily a bad game, it wasn’t particularly exciting.

Hopefully, though, some of the extra fans that took advantage of the reduced entry price will have seen enough to head back to Somerset this season.

There is something endearing about the old ground and the busier it is the better it becomes.

Ayr United 0 Dunfermline 0

BBC Match Report

Attendance: 2883

 

One thought on “42 Grounds: Ground 13: Somerset Park

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *