SCOTLAND slumbered deeply through the opening of the Confederation of Dunces league season on Saturday as Ra Shellic did just enough to grind out a limited, entertainment-free and gritted-teeth single-goal win over Aibrrrrrrdeen thanks to a Kris Commons miskick and an inexcusable fumble from Jamie “Clangers” Langfield. In the papers, some unemployed layabout called Gordon Strachan bemoaned the fact that Sevco were banished to the bottom tier because of the “wee clubs”, who apparently should have left such matters to their “superiors” instead of listening to “keyboard hardmen”. Little has changed it seems, even with the all the changes. Fortunately, the SFL sides were on hand to actually provide some enjoyment for the paying spectators, who were (with a few exceptions) rewarded with an interesting opening to the competition.
For reasons best known to the organisers, the Fishy Jailers kicked off against Jute City at Balmoor in midweek. After a scoreless encounter that even the most fertile imagination would struggle to craft a solitary sentence about, the First Division runners-up won on penalties.
With the silent cacophony of midweek yawns from Buchan uprooting trees further south and sending wind turbines into overdrive, three upsets in particular were able to wipe the Balmoor boredom from the memory banks.
Most striking, perhaps, was the extra-time rumbling of the Fake Diamonds by the Spiders. Nathan Blockley actually gave the Broomfield Fugazis the lead and they were grimly holding on for a 2-1 win, until the Spiders’ Lawrence Shankland equalized with two minutes left on the clock. Into extra time, and the Fugazis suddenly found they couldn’t be arsed any more. Jamie Brough netted a winner in the first half of added time, provoking a rumbustious amateur celebration – bowler hats being tossed in the air, a rumbling medley of “Hear Hears” at the full time whistle, and a run on port and lemon at all nearby gentleman’s clubs. Having bundled out the Hamilton Comicals in the Ramsdens last week, the Fake Diamonds are left to contemplate the yin and yang of the average football season, today being mostly yang.
What on earth happened down at Palmerston Park? The Doonhamers, newly relegated, looked like they would almost be stung to death by the Wasps. Midway through the second half, the visitors were leading 2-1, but a thoroughly miserable collapse from the Clackmannanshire insects saw them trapped under an upturned jam jar and then crushed mercilessly in the last ten minutes as the Doonhamers rifled home three late goals to give the scoreline a flattering gloss. Paul Hartley’s side won the Third Division impressively last season, but they also had spectacular off days – a 5-0 mid-air disintegration at Borough Briggs springs to mind – and it looks like this season will be no different.
The third “shock” came at none other than Links Park where the little-fancied Gable Endies, tipped by many to finish at the wrong end of the Third Division this season, took on “Mickey” Cameron’s Miners. The travelling support from Central Fife must have expected a good day, as Montrose tend to start season with the same aplomb that a rear-engined Skoda starts on a cold winter morning. Alas! A pisspoor and slipshod showing from “Mickey’s” Miners saw them fall behind to goals from Paul Watson and the still-not-yet-gone Martin Boyle before half time. A feeble second half “fightback” from Cowden’s reserves and fringe players failed to yield much, other than a late scrambled consolation from the SFL’s most hyperactive little squirrel on the wing, Marc McKenzie. A 2-1 win is a remarkable success for the Gable Endies, and I can’t remember the last time when Montrose hadn’t been peremptorily dismissed from both cups before the end of August.
Twelve miles down the A92, there was – nearly – a fourth shock. The ghastly Red Schichties kicked off against the rather anonymous Binos at Castle Greyskull, presumably expecting a straightforward win against the kind of Third Division opposition they chewed up two seasons ago. However, the nuggety, never-say-die Binos took the lead through a Mark Ferry penalty just before half time, and then held firm as Captain “Peanut” Sheerin desperately tried to steer the rusting maroon sloop away from the humiliating rocks of an early season cup disaster. Just as the Maroon Malevolence seemed destined to be broken apart on said rocks, Paul Currie unfortunately equalized seven minutes from the end of normal time. Unfortunately, the Binos lost their penalty touch in the shoot-out and were forced through the “exit” door by the sweating, hugely relieved Schichties, 3-2 on penalties.
In a match keenly anticipated by almost no-one, Hamilton Comicals “entertained” Annan Agricultural at New Douglas Park. The game struggled to live up to a complete absence of pre-match hype, and was stuck at 0-0 going into the final quarter. The Comicals had begun to run out of ideas, and manager Billy Reid was on the point of ordering a Rourke’s Drift-style full frontal charge by his troops against the serried ranks of Harry Cairney’s parked buses. The breakthough finally came, and a second goal was netted not long after by Darian MacKinnon to seal the struggling-to-raise-a-laugh Comicals progress. MacKinnon is one to watch, a former hero for the re-formed Bankies in the Juniors and a man with a remarkable shaved-sides “Gazza” haircut. He looks like someone who went to Ayr’s notorious Hanger 13 for a night out, c. 1990, and who has only just come back 22 years later after a chemically induced rupture in the space-time continuum.
An afternoon of topsy-turvy chaos at Starks Park, as Turnbull Hutton’s Shock Troops took the field against the Borderers. The first half gave little indication of the entertainment to come later, the only incident of note being the punter with the correct “eight minutes” ticket in the “Guess the minute Laurie Ellis will be yellow-carded” sweepy getting excited as he came up trumps. Lee Currie and Brian Graham traded blows but such was the lacklustre nature of the home side’s showing, the Reverend Grant Murray was obliged to step into the pulpit of the home dressing room at half-time and deliver the first fire-and-brimstone sermon of his new charge. The terrified Raith players took to the pitch for the second half, convinced an eternity in hell was just 45 minutes away after the minister’s graphic address.
Eternal damnation seemed assured when the visitors’ Philip Addison made it 2-1 on 50 minutes, and when Currie completed a brace on 65 minutes to make it 3-2. But deliverance was at hand. The roof came in for “Yano” Little’s tiring cloggers in the last ten minutes, largely thanks to their complete inability to defend set pieces. Miraculous strikes from Graham and Pat Clarke saw the Kirkcaldy faithful saved – for another week, at least. In both games so far against Third Division and Highland opposition, the Pratt Street Boys defence has looked about as stable as a unicycle in a strong crosswind on the Forth Road Bridge. This alarming rear-end leakage will have been duly noted by other First Division sides ahead of the season starting next week.
Elsewhere, meritorious gubbings were administered that require a brief mention. Stenny, at the soulless plum plastic pustule of Ochilview, faced a slightly jaded Hedge Trimmers, still coming down from last weekend’s live TV clash with Sevco. The Commemorative Mugs were duly thrashed 4-0, and Gerry “The Human Cue Ball” McLauchlan was red carded into the bargain. Hopes that Jim Weir would have banished City’s embarrassing maverick tendencies seem ill-founded thus far, and he needs to get his side off to a good start in Division Two. Weir ended last season under severe pressure from the chaffed-off two dozen diehards in the Cemetery End, and although he still enjoys the support of chairman Ken Ferguson, yesterday’s result will have gone down like the proverbial lift in a shaft.
The Franchise cancelled all of the Stena Sealink Works XI ferries to the tune of 8-0 at Stair Park, having spent last week with their collective heads being flushed down the Almondvale khazi by a raging “Yogi” Hughes in the wake of a pisspoor performance at Galabank. The other red faces from last week, The Honest Men, fed Duff Jimmy’s Bully Wee through an industrial shredder to the tune of 6-1. And the Shire returned to form with embarrassing ease at Ochilview yesterday, as they were slowly collapsed like one of Fred Dibnah’s industrial chimneys by a cackling Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory XI, the game ending 5-1 in favour of the men from Greenock.
The final Tuesday night bookend to the first round of this cup is provided when Third Division diddies Sevco 5088 face a tough tie at home against Gordon Durie’s Methilated Spirits. Sevco will be confident after their backs-to-the-wall win against the Hedge Trimmers last Sunday, but it remains to be seen if they can repeat the trick against “Jukebox”’s unpredictable side. Either fate for the Govan Jakeys – consuming Durie’s noxious brew without any side effects, or being arrested by a kindly police sergeant at five in the morning for having an incoherent argument with a fire hydrant – “thon bastart put us oot the cup” remains entirely possible.