42 Grounds: Ground 23: Central Park

Following last night’s brilliant game in the Championship, I was looking forward to another game today. This would be another two game weekend, with today’s destination quite different from last night.

Having gone from one of Scotland’s better grounds in terms of facilities, I decided to go to one which has a reputation at the opposite end of the scale. I’m sure Cowdenbeath fans don’t care what other fans think, but Central Park is generally viewed negatively by other fans. I had no idea where this comes from and whether it is fair, so I kept that thought in mind as a travelled to the game.

The day started on a packed train bound for Edinburgh. I changed in Dundee to get on another train heading for the capital, which stopped at Inverkeithing. At Inverkeithing I swapped and got on the train to Cowdenbeath.

The verdict wasn’t great early on in the journey. The person I sat next to asked where I was heading, in an effort to make small talk. When I told him, he said “oh”, spent a few seconds trying to think of something interesting to say, before deciding on “why would you go there?”

Despite the strangely negative sentiments I’ve picked up towards the town, I’m grateful that this journey will take me to some of the lesser known corners of the country. Perhaps next time when someone tells me they’re heading to Cowdenbeath I can rave about it, I told myself.

On that subject, the regional banter in football is a brilliant thing. Fans relentlessly mock each other based on where their team plays. On Pie and Bovril, for example one user said he was happy to head to Cowdenbeath to experience the 19th century.

Wherever a team is based, there will be a complaint or a jibe that can be levelled towards them. It’s all in good humour of course and the spirit of taking back what you give out is an important part of this.

The Blue Brazil have had a hard time in the last few seasons. Having done brilliantly to win promotion to the Championship, the club have suffered consecutive relegations in the last two seasons. They have struggled to arrest that slide in performance and at the beginning of play today they were just two points ahead of an improving Edinburgh City side that started the day at the bottom of the league.

Their opponents Clyde, on the other hand, are at the opposite end of the table. They were second at the beginning of the day and only their mixed form has prevented them from closing the gap on Forfar to this point. They have a decent team on paper and each time I’ve seen them play this season they have played some good football.

The ground is very close to the station. It takes no more than five minutes to walk there. In fact, with clear signposts it is probably the easiest ground to find out of the 23 I have been to so far.

The stadium is another one full of character. Hosting stock car racing, there is a track running round the pitch which separates the fans from the action by quite a distance. The large fence, put up for safety (presumably more from potential racing incidents than stray footballs) puts more of a distance between the fans and the action. Behind the goals the large curved stands are filled with crush barriers, and presumably people stand there for well attended cup games. The dugout side has two stands next to each other, a new stand and an old stand. It’s easy to spot which is which. Opposite that there is a large area of terracing.

It’s a strange place to watch football. There’s something very different about Central Park. There is nowhere in the SPFL quite like it for watching football, although Berwick comes close. It might not be a ground at the top of everyone’s list to visit, but it’s so different that it’s worth being on that list.

Perhaps it’s a Marmite ground that people either like or don’t like.

Before the match began Barry Ferguson, the Clyde manager came in to the stand to take a seat. Fans around me presumed he must have been banned from a touchline. “What a shock” muttered someone sitting near me.

Before the match a minutes silence was held (as was the case last night) in memory of those killed in the plane crash involving the travelling party of Brazilian football team Chapecoense.

The first half was dull. Cowdenbeath certainly had more of the play, but they struggled to cause any real problems for the Clyde defence.

Both teams were very limited in their chances, and shots which curled wide or were hit well over the bar made up most of the few chances in the first half.

The Blue Brazil did have the ball in the net once, but the referee had given a free kick for offside long before the ball was kicked towards the goal in anger.

Surprisingly, considering their respective league positions, there was very little to separate the sides in terms of quality.

The second half was only slightly better, with a few more chances created.

Shortly after the restart Clyde were awarded a corner, which was headed just over the bar.

The home side then went up the pitch and came even closer to scoring. A long range shot from Kyle Miller was tipped just over the bar by John Gibson. It was a dipping effort which could easily have opened the scoring.

The perils of the racing track became clear to Clyde after the break when one of their player (I didn’t catch a number) set foot on it while running to get the ball and slipped on the damp surface. The noise could be heard clearly even from the opposite end of the pitch, but the home fans had little sympathy. This was definitely something they’ve seen before.

With news coming through that Edinburgh  City had taken the lead away to Arbroath, the fans around me starting doing the maths to work out how that would affect them. Would they drop to ninth? What was the Montrose score? Could they even finish the day at the bottom of the league?

As it was, they removed any doubts themselves with a late winner. A long kick from the goalkeeper wasn’t dealt with by the Bully Wee defence, and it bounced at the feet of a Cowden player in on goal. He was taken out for what would surely have been a penalty, but the referee played on, leaving Kris Renton with the easiest of tap ins. The home fans were delighted, and the roar that followed showed that this was a set of fans that believed their side needed the points.

This one was far from a classic, and I doubt many in attendance will remember the game with too much fondness. However The Blue Brazil will be delighted to have taken an important three points, and they won’t care how they got them.

Central Park gets a hard time, but from today’s evidence that seems harsh. It’s a ground with character, and certainly something different from any of the other grounds in Scottish football.

Cowdenbeath 1 Clyde 0

Attendance: 309

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