Annan Agricultural made their first ever competitive visit to the MFI Forthbank Flatpack stadium to face the Binos and after 38 minutes of the new Third Division season, they probably wished they hadn’t bothered. In a curtain-raising performance that could charitably be described as “atrocious”, Harry Cairney’s dismal cloggers found themselves four down and a man light following the red carding of Graeme Ramage. At least they managed to draw the second half, as they ended up on the wrong side of a 5-1 demolition, the Agricultural consolation coming from a sensational fumble by Sam “Poly” Filler in the home goal.
It looks like another painful see-saw season down Links Park way. The Gable Endies, fresh from back-to-back cup wins, couldn’t have asked for a better opening tie than against Duff Jimmy’s Bully Wee; the Cumbernauld Roundabouts had shipped over 20 goals in five previous appearances in Montrose. After 25 minutes, it seemed like all was going to be rosy in Stuart’s Garden as Lloyd Young and Paul Watson had the Gable Endies two to the good.
Something changed at half time; either the Mo forgot to take their medication for their chronic bi-polar disorder, or Chic Charnley had threatened to use his favourite circular saw on his team unless there was a remarkable improvement. And, with the hulking blond colossus Charnley menacingly pouring petrol into the tank,and pulling the rip cord a few times on the touchline, the Bully Wee snatched the game away in a remarkable second half showing. Stuart McColm netted a winner with nine minutes to go, as the Gable Endies collapsed miserably. The 2-0 up/3-2 down pattern has re-emerged nastily from 2009-10, when Steven Tweed’s Bottom Endies notoriously blew a 4-2 lead over the Stena Sealink Works XI, losing 5-4 in nightmarish slow motion. Yesterday’s result is an awful blow to the Mo’s self-esteem, painfully low at the best of times.
Lawrie Shankland lumbered off the Spiders bench to net a late-ish brace and consign John Coughlin’s Shire to yet another defeat at Ochilview. Meanwhile, down at Shielfield, an early red card for Hellgin Academy Sixth Form’s Daniel Moore couldn’t enliven an otherwise scoreless afternoon of Kieslowskian bleakness.
The Govan circus rolled up in Buchan yesterday. The town was bedecked in red, white and blue; a “Welcome to the Third Division” banner was prominent, and halved scarves were selling like crystal meths in Detroit. Short of a Tupac-style CGI hologram of the late Pastor Jack Glass discussing the gospel being projected onto the away end, it’s difficult to see what more that the Fishy Jailers could have done to make new-entrant diddies Sevco 5088 welcome to their new surroundings.
The game unfolded much like the Ramsdens Cup tie at Hedge Park two weeks previously. Sevco netted in the first half, but a decisive oration in broad Glaswegian from Jim McInally during the interval – “ah says tae thum thit wuh hud tae participayt” – fired up his Buchan charges for the second half. Sevco’s thousands of pounds per week back line were absolutely appalling throughout.
Bad, bad mistakes provided opportunities for Rory “The Deadly Plumber” McAllister to score a quite brilliant equaliser from the edge of the area, and then Scott McLaughlin, deliriously, with an almost as fine strike to fire the Fishy Jailers into a lead with just nine minutes to go. In virtually the last touch of the game, a scumbled header and a dink off Andy Little’s inner thigh gave the plucky Sevco a point that had seemed on the point of slipping away from them.
Of course, all the papers today concentrate on I Can’t Believe It’s Not Rangers many limitations, and how close they had come to being embarrassed. James Traynor was almost sobbing with rage after the final whistle on Radio Scotland. Even a manager as demonstrably limited as “Coisty” won’t take long to work out that there are better Third Division defenders available for less than £100 per week (plus expenses) than the hapless and hopeless Doran Goian and Kirk Broadfoot, who clearly don’t want to be playing for their club at this level.
After a week where the lowest SFL tier was dismissed by various media “experts” as “glorified juniors”, “awful” and “lower league dross”, the whole league should take a great deal of pride in the Fishy Jailers performance. Not only have the Piscatorial Incarcerators really laid down a compelling foundation to their own hoped-for league challenge this season, they have also – yet again – exposed the redtop hacks’ utter ignorance and cliché-ridden disrespect towards a level of football they know nothing about, and embarrassed them severely.
Hurrah for that.