Following Tuesday night’s disappointment, I decided to take another risk today. As it’s close to Christmas I hope to visit some of the grounds closer to home. That essentially means visiting grounds in Moray and Angus. Attending football in these parts of the country in winter means there’s always a risk of a call off.
It was no surprise then, when on the way to the station this morning I saw that a pitch inspection was planned at Brechin, the ground I was heading to. When it comes to Angus a call off isn’t usually fatal to a groundhoppers hopes. With four teams fairly close together, and usually at least two at home in any given week, there is always an alternative. I could easily have changed my plans and headed for Arbroath at the last minute.
Thankfully that wasn’t necessary. The freezing cold in Aberdeen was replicated in Brechin, but the pitch was deemed fit for play.
The morning pitch inspection is surely the low point of a Saturday for football fans. Refreshing web pages every couple of minutes, deciding whether to set off for the match or wait and see. Worse still, having set off, tuning in to the radio to hear that there has been an inspection arranged. Park the car and get a bacon roll or keep going? Have I wasted money on transport and tickets? The burning questions…
I remember, probably about eight years ago, trying to get to a Forfar v Stranraer Scottish Cup match. In those days where I rarely missed a match, the supporters bus was the preferred mode of transport. The game was scheduled in January, I believe, and at the first attempt to head for the game it was called off about half way through the journey. Back then the whole bus was waiting for one well connected person to receive a text or phone call. For what seems like a few consecutive weeks the same people turned up, boarded the bus and then got straight back off when the game was inevitably postponed following a pitch inspection. It can be frustrating, but it comes with the territory of travelling to matches in the winter months.
Today’s journey involved a mixture of trains and buses. A train to Montrose then a bus to Brechin and the same when heading home. It wasn’t a particularly long journey, but on the winding country roads between towns it didn’t fly by either.
The last few weeks haven’t been kind to Brechin City. Having topped the table early in the season, and looking capable of keeping the pace with Livingston, they have fallen away. A poor run of form, with three consecutive defeats and only one win in their last five league games, had seen them drop as low as fourth in the table.
Their last league win came against today’s opponent Stranraer. With the Blues third from bottom this looked like a good chance for Brechin to get back on track.
Despite recent form, Brechin have improved greatly since last season. Their relatively inexperienced manager Darren Dods deserves some credit, after building a team from scratch last year, he has managed to improve the squad this season. Even with such a poor run of recent results they are still in a playoff position which is testament to the work he has done. The board also deserve credit for sticking with him, even when they were precariously positioned at the bottom end of the table last season.
Glebe Park is an interesting ground. There is an almost curved stand behind one goal, with two bits of metal roof meeting in the middle and stretching out to make a ‘v’ shape. Then there is the main stand. It is a very small, but tall stand. It looks almost like a miniature model, and it holds the club officials and several fans. Strangely, the biggest stand at the ground is behind the goal. Then there is the terracing-like flat area that runs alongside the hedge. I may be exaggerating but I think most lower league fans would be able to identify Glebe Park from the hedge alone. It’s a great feature at a great ground.
After taking up my spot at the hedge side, I had time to look out over the pitch. It was a mess. It’s clear why the game was in doubt as it got cut up a lot during the 90 minutes. I’m sure that for most of the season the pitch is in great condition, but when winter hits clubs often struggle to keep their grass in good shape.
I started to notice the cold and decided to have a soup to warm me up. It was delicious and I could have no complaints for a pound. Next time you’re at Glebe Park, give it a try.
That cold only got worse as the game continued. My phone told me it was seven degrees, but I still don’t believe that. I spent a good part of half time in the small club shop just for warmth.
The temperature dropped further and made it so difficult to type that I gave up on updates fairly early, perhaps as soon as it was clear which team was going to win.
Brechin were the better team on the day. They showed no signs of the side that had struggled in recent weeks and they looked comfortable throughout the match. Stranraer’s main attacking threat came in the second half when it was clear that the game was probably already over.
The home side opened the scoring in 15 minutes. Some fine footwork from Ally Love allowed him to fire a long shot from outside the box. It swerved wickedly and beat the Stranraer goalkeeper, who appeared to get a hand it, but was unable to keep it out.
The second goal was similar, in that a Brechin player was given space to dribble outside the box. Connor McLennan, a loan signing finalised only yesterday, fired a low bouncing shot in to the bottom corner beyond the outstretched Cameron Belford. It was a quality goal made all the better by the fact it came on his debut.
After that both sides continued to press forward with no great chances created.
The game was beyond any doubt when’s Stranraer captain Steven Bell was shown a second yellow card, which came as no surprise to any of the fans standing near me.
Brechin deserved the win on the day, and their strong defensive performance was exactly what you might expect from a Darren Dods’ team. They have supplemented their defence with talented players going forward, and if today signals the end of their mini slump, they certainly look capable of pushing themselves higher in the league.
There were a lot of friendly people in the ground, from the pie stall to the club shop, and this can only create a good impression for first time visitors to the Glebe. At the smaller grounds, it’s the little things like that which just might tempt people to keep going back.
Brechin City 2 Stranraer 0