After last night’s exciting game, I was looking forward to another festive day at the football today. That meant a late arrival and an especially early departure this morning, as the game kicked off early.
When people ask “what time is kick off?” in relation to a game which isn’t likely to be televised, I often sarcastically reply “when do you think?” Games of football kick off at 3pm, in my head at least. There is no obvious reason why a game like Alloa Athletic v Brechin City would have to be moved.
Yet today, that would be wrong. In fact, surely for the first time in a long time, despite the relatively full fixture card, none of the games in Scotland kicked off at 3pm. If I remember correctly, the games were scheduled for three, but were moved by the clubs.
This was a common sense decision, at a time when people are likely travelling to visit family and friends, football can provide an unnecessary distraction. The two hour advantage of an earlier kickoff means people can take their time as they travel, and hopefully arrive earlier. It means that fans don’t really have to choose between going to the game or travelling.
I’ve said this before, but the football so close to Christmas also provides an opportunity to get away from the crowds which will inevitably fill the streets across the country today. It was bad enough two or three weeks ago, but I can only assume the day before Christmas is even worse.
While the shops might be off limits, the festive period is a great time for football fans. Several games are played over the course of a few days. A Christmas Eve match might not really be required as the day itself is already fairly enjoyable, but on Boxing Day it’s great. With the shops packed with bargain hunters waving gift cards and barging people aside to grab that must have slow-cooker, and the endless supply of leftovers from dinner the day before, the chance to escape is welcomed.
While from a fan’s perspective it is a great time if the year – because after all, we don’t have to be in peak physical condition to eat a pie and sit down for 90 minutes – the footballers themselves might not be as happy.
For players in the top flight, a busy December will be followed by a winter break. The lower league clubs will have no such luxury, with no respite from the freezing winter, other than a potential call off.
There were no concerns over the prospect of that today, as Alloa, like a growing number of clubs outwith the Premiership, play on an artificial grass pitch. These things aren’t absolutely safe from the elements, as there have been postponements on the surfaces before, but they are less common than on grass.
The stadium is only a ten minute walk from the train station, almost entirely in a straight line. The ground looks to be in great condition, and I can’t remember what it looked like last time, but it feels like it has been done up. The yellow paint is bright and the plaques displaying club badges around the stadium look almost new.
These are minor things, but they make a big difference in presenting the ground as the home of a professional football club. For someone who lives in the area, it would be more appealing to go to the ground in such good condition, than if the signs were covered in dust for example.
Inside the ground things again look clean and modern. The advertising hoardings are up to date, which is definitely another small positive. There are three stands, the main stand is elevated and was busy during today’s game. I didn’t get very close, but from a distance it appeared to have bucket seats. Opposite that there is a small stand which holds the away fans. Behind the goal there is a roof over the middle part of the terracing, and when the rain came people crowded inside to take shelter.
The variety of food on offer at Recreation Park was impressive as well. From bacon rolls through to black pudding rolls, homemade stories and a pie in a roll. Again, this is unlikely to be any more of a draw to a fan that intended to go anyway, but the range of choices could help to improve the experience of a first time visitor and potential supporter.
The best was saved for last. It was only when I took up my spot behind the goal, underneath the roof, that I noticed the view. The hills behind the goal at the far end are unobstructed by any part of the stadium. On a clear day like today, you could see right to the top of the snow capped hills. I struggle to think of a better view in Scottish football.
The game was, on the whole, pretty good. Two teams that are capable of getting the ball down and passing it tried to break the other down. It was also a physical encounter which threatened to boil over on one or two occasions some hard tackles.
The breakthrough came for Brechin, when a penalty was awarded following a clumsy challenge from Neil Parry. It highlights how difficult a job the referee has, when from my angle it looked like the correct decision, yet to almost everyone else around me it was a ridiculous from the referee. Those of an Alloa persuasion were incensed that it had been given, and the strength of the protests made me wonder if it was the right decision.
Either way, Alan Trouten sent the keeper the wrong way to make it 1-0 before half time.
The Wasps levelled shortly after the break, with Jordan Kirkpatrick scoring his 8th league goal of the season.
Just as it looked like Alloa had brought themselves back in to the game, a defensive mixup saw the ball fall at the feet of Ally Love with an open goal to aim for. He scored with ease, and the home side’s hard work to bring themselves level had been wasted.
Both teams continued to press, but neither was able to add to the scoring. It finished 2-1, which disappointed those Alloa fans who had seen their team start the season so brightly.
Recreation Park is certainly one of my favourite grounds from the 28 so far. People have clearly worked hard to keep it presentable, and the view is second to none. The only negative was the freezing wind which blew across the park, but that comes with the territory in December.
On the pitch, the Wasps look too far behind leaders Livingston to mount a serious title challenge, which is unfortunate considering their early season form. The teams below are beginning to catch up, and in a tight league they now look to have a fight on their hands to finish in the playoff spots.
Alloa Athletic 1 Brechin City 2