42 Grounds: Ground 18: The Rock

This morning began with a double check of the fixtures. I doubted myself. Do Championship games get played during an international break? Had I accidentally planned to go to a Challenge Cup game, which I would rather avoid?

Thankfully today’s game was going ahead, and it was a league match.

At least for those that support a team in the lower leagues, the matches provided a welcome distraction from last night, and a chance to (hopefully) enjoy a game  of football.

Due to work on the railway, the journey was an interesting one. We skipped the usual stops to go via Inverkeithing and the Forth Rail Bridge. The journey was longer but the variety was welcome.

After that it was down to the underground levels at Glasgow Queen Street and on to Dumbarton East.

Dumbarton are a side that we can pick out, even as early as November, as a team that will probably be involved in the relegation battle. They have had a tremendous run in the last few seasons and they have, without question, been Scotland’s best part time team for a good few seasons. Other clubs look at Dumbarton’s example as something to emulate.

Their manager, Stevie Aitken worked wonders with Stranraer, and it was no surprise when Dumbarton hired him at the beginning of last season. Things haven’t been easy for the Sons this season, and even though part time teams are often expected to struggle in what is generally a full time league, fans have been frustrated with performances and results.

Nonetheless, in a crucial match against bottom of the league St Mirren last week the Sons managed to win. It was their first away win in over a year and will have done a lot to raise spirits.

At the start of play today they were in eighth, six points ahead of the Buddies that they defeated last week.

Morton were promoted from League One two seasons ago, and under Jim Duffy’s management they have put together an impressive run of form in recent weeks. I had seen Morton play on two occasions earlier in the season, and they had always impressed. The last time, a 5-0 win over Queen of the South, was particularly fun to watch.

Dumbarton East is a very handy stop for the ground, which is barely a five minute walk away.

The backdrop to the stadium is incredible. Dumbarton Rock towers over the stadium and is undoubtedly a photographer’s dream. It makes the ground, otherwise fairly plain, stand out. I have spoken to people before about the best Scottish football stadium in terms of appearance, and my answer was Dumbarton – from the right angle, looking across towards the main stand.

It is fairly modern, in the same almost standardised style that is seen at a few Scottish football grounds. There are no other stands, and you can see a good distance in all directions. To an outsider at least, it seems like a good spot for a football stadium.

As I took my seat I realised that I had no idea what the stadium’s original name was. For as long as I have been following Scottish football it has been renamed for  sponsorship reasons. Fans refer to it as The Rock, and I was happy to go along with that.

The stand was busy. The attendance of over 1000, albeit with a decent number of away fans, suggests a club that has grown over the years. When I was last at the ground in 2007, the attendance was less than 500.

The stunning rock – sadly behind the main stand, but still impressive.
The view along the main stand well before kickoff.
The view across the pitch.

The first half was fairly even. Both sides created half chances, but neither particularly deserved to be in the lead. It was hard not to notice Dumbarton’s defensive style. Garry Fleming was isolated in attack, with Robert Thomson and Andrew Stirling unable to push up and provide him with crosses for him to win.

The best chance of the half fell to the on loan Sam Stanton, but his shot from the edge of the box flew high over the crossbar.

Fan frustration seemed to grow. The complaints from near me suggest a fan base that is unhappy with the football on display.

The second half was an improvement in terms of excitement, for a neutral at least.

Dumbarton’s best chance came in the second half when Stirling rose to win a high cross, but ultimately his header was wide of the post.

After that, Morton took the lead. Mark Russell hit a low left footed shot from the edge of the box which swerved past the outstretched Alan Martin.

If the Sons faithful were frustrated before, they were angry now.

Despite going behind, their team still offered almost no threat going forward.

The game was finished when comical defending and a good save from Martin left Kudus Oyenuga with a simple tap in to make it 2-0.

It was hard to see too many positives for Dumbarton in today’s performance. They have earned their place in the league, but their defensive performance was strange given they matched Morton for most of the game.

Stevie Aitken’s Stranraer side played fast, attacking football – even against better opposition in the Cups, and it worked. There was no evidence of that in this Sons side. If they perform like today on too many occasions this season, they will struggle to stay up.

No matter what happens on the pitch, looking in from the outside at least, it seems that the club are well run. They have grown themselves over the last few seasons and their name doesn’t look out of place in a league alongside some of Scotland’s better teams.

Dumbarton 0 Morton 2

BBC Match Report

Attendance: 1147

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