Sunday, 28 April 2013

Oxford United vs Morecambe (29/03/13)

Match 194

Ground #: 152

Ground: Kassam Stadium

Competition: English League 2

Kick Off: 3pm

Cost: £17.50 (concession)

Programme: £3

Attendance: 5,523

Oxford United 1

Potter 60’

Morecambe 1

Redshaw 90’

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Despite the hammering we received on my last Morecambe outing, I’m always keen to see the Shrimps at the various tinpot towns and cities that host League 2 clubs. With games running out for them in the south of the country this season, it was time to make an effort to the “middle-class university city” of Oxford. (I prefer Cambridge)

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Oxford is a city in central southern England and is the county town of Oxfordshire. Its industries include motor manufacturing, education, publishing and a large number of information technology and science-based businesses. Oxford was first settled in Saxon times, and was initially known as "Oxenaforda", meaning "Ford of the Oxen". In the 10th century Oxford became an important military frontier town between the kingdoms of Mercia and Wessex and was on several occasions raided by Danes. Oxford's prestige was enhanced by its charter granted by King Henry II, granting its citizens the same privileges and exemptions as those enjoyed by the capital of the kingdom; and various important religious houses were founded in or near the city. The University of Oxford is first mentioned in 12th-century records and the earliest colleges were University College, Balliol and Merton. During the English Civil War, Oxford housed the court of Charles I in 1642, after the king was expelled from London. In 1844, the Great Western Railway linked Oxford with London via Didcot and Reading and other rail routes soon followed. During WW2, Oxford was largely ignored by the Germans during the Blitz due to the lack of heavy industry that would have made it a target, although it was still affected by the rationing and influx of refugees fleeing London and other cities. It has been claimed that Adolf Hitler. gave instructions that Oxford should not be bombed as he was impressed by its architecture and had plans for it to be his capital should Germany win World War II. On 6 May 1954, Roger Bannister ran the first authenticated four-minute mile at the Iffley Road running track in Oxford.

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Oxford United was formed as Headington in 1893, adding the suffix United in 1911 after merging with Headington Quarry. Like many other clubs, a football team was a way for the cricketers of Headington Cricket Club to maintain their fitness during the winter break. Headington had no regular home until 1913, when they were able to purchase Wootten's Field on London Road, but this was redeveloped in 1920, forcing the club to move. A permanent home was found in 1925, when they purchased the Manor Ground site on London Road. In 1899, six years after their formation, Headington United joined the Oxfordshire District League Second Division, where they competed until the outbreak of WW1. In 1921 the club was admitted into the Oxon Senior League where they developed a rivalry existed with Cowley F.C. A move into professional football was first considered during 1948/49 and the club played its first season in the Southern League in 1949. In 1950, Headington United became the first professional club in Britain to install floodlights and used them on 18 December against Banbury Spencer. In 1960, Headington United was renamed Oxford United, to give the club a higher profile. Two years later, in 1962, the club won the Southern League title for the second successive season and was elected to the Football League Fourth Division, occupying the vacant place left by bankrupt Accrington Stanley.

Manor Ground 1(The Manor Ground – from Footy Grounds blog)

Two successive eighteenth-place finishes followed, before promotion to the Third Division was achieved in 1965. In 1982, as a Third Division side, Oxford United faced closure because of the club's inability to service the debts owed to Barclays Bank, but were rescued when businessman Robert Maxwell took over the club. In March 1983, Maxwell proposed merging United with neighbours Reading, to form a new club called the Thames Valley Royals, however both sets of fans protested against the decision. After successive promotions, Oxford played First Division football in 1985/86 and stayed up as well as winning the League Cup with a win in the final over QPR. The U’s were relegated in 1987/88 and haven’t returned to the top tier since and slumped further down in 1993/94 when the were relegated to the newly named Division 2. They did come back up in 1995/96, finishing 2nd behind rivals Swindon Town but started to slump under a series of mismanaged and behind the scenes mess. A new stadium was started, but then stopped after the construction company claimed they had not been paid, before Oxford United staff also went unpaid as the threat of administration came in. While Firoz Kassam came in, and started to settle the debt and the unfinished stadium, Oxford slumped more and were relegated down to Division 3 in 2001. Even though the new stadium was there, after opening in 2001, Oxford dropped out of the league altogether in 2006 when they lost a “kill or be killed” game against Leyton Orient who went up as a result. Life in the Blue Square is hard and Oxford found that out as it took them 4 years to come back up when they won the play-off final against York City. Since returning to the Football League, promotion has been expected but they have not been in the playoffs since their return.

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I’ll be honest with you from the start and say I did not enjoy the Kassam Stadium as a good place to watch football. The Football Ground Guide describes “Oxford railway station is over four miles from the ground and it is really not advisable to try to walk it.” I saw this as challenge accepted and so took the pleasant 4.6 mile walk through the city and down to the Kassam. Upon arrival this isn’t great. A plastic fantastic 3 sided ground with not an inch of personality or uniqueness around it. Having seen pictures of Oxford’s old Manor Ground, this could not be more different. A smallish stand behind the goal that holds the “hardcore” Oxford support it would seem with the long North Stand down one side and opposite the South Stand. The lack of 4th stand just adds to the misery although some of the Shrimps fans that came along occasionally broke out with “Car Park! Give us a wave!” Can’t imagine watching football here every 2 weeks. Awful.

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Both sides were lumping around in midtable on the cusp of either making a late playoff run or making themselves available for Tuesday night games on Premier Sports in the Blue Square Premier. Since that battering I saw against Barnet, Morecambe’s form had been stuttery and had seen us pick up two credible draws against Northampton and Gillingham before an awful away defeat to AFC Wimbledon. This left us in 13th, 10 points outside of the playoffs. Oxford on the other hand expect to be in the playoffs at the very minimum and were in real danger of missing out. Being 6 points away from that 7th place, meant the pressure was on boss Chris Wilder and his side as he would surely be punted if the O’s missed on. An interesting game was in store, backed by a decent Good Friday holiday crowd.

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That interest quickly disappeared after about 5 minutes as it was clear that this game was going to be gash. And really gash at that. Oxford did start the better side though as the midfield was overrun, again! (See Barnet, Wycombe, etc) Tom Craddock had the early chances for the home side as he first had a shot/cross that ended up neither as he put an aimless ball wide. Then he collected a long pass forward that had he shot first time would have caused Barry Roche problems as he was off his line. In the end Craddock, curled a shot just wide as Oxford were on top. The pattern of play however was dreadful as neither side was playing particularly well although Alfie Potter headed a chance wide midway through the half. Morecambe woke up though and nearly took a sensational lead on 38 minutes when Steward Drummond powered a header towards goal from a corner but Potter headed off the line. Apart from that this was a game that seemingly didn’t matter to either side and it showed.

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The 2nd half started off even slower, so much so, that I didn’t even bother to stand up for the start of the half. It really was a desperate half of football. Neither side had offered that much until petulant little shit Potter managed to give Oxford the lead. The ball was played into the area and Potter was given far too much space to allow to turn past Chris McCready with ease and fire a shot that Barry Roche could only palm into the net. Frustratingly you could see this coming and Oxford nearly made the game safe when Sean Rigg was put through on goal but Roche made an outstanding low save to keep the Shrimps in it. Morecambe did look more of a threat when Jack Redshaw came on later on as Kevin Ellison fired a curling shot just over the bar as it looked like Oxford would do enough to keep their playoff challenge going. Into injury time and a chorus of “stand up if you love the Shrimps” started so I stood as we won a late late corner. Chuckling to myself as Roche went up for it, he caused panic for the Oxford defence to allow an unmarked Redshaw to head home on 95 minutes and cause the c.150 Shrimps to go mental at the unexpected equaliser. FT came straight away and the Wilder out chants started again.

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After the game, I thought that neither side deserved to take anything from this game so a draw was probably a fair result. As I am writing this so long after the match (blame year end accounting for that!), both teams have finished their seasons now, unsurprisingly outside of the playoffs. Morecambe picked up impressive wins over Rotherham and Southend to finish on 58 points in 16th place. An improvement over last season and hopefully something to build on for 2013/14. Oxford were slightly higher 9th, only 4 points off the playoffs. While Wilder might have lost his job, a one year contract extension shows he has to get it right next season. I would love for Oxford fans to comment on the good points of the Kassam, as I find it a dreadful place and won’t be returning. If you want to see them all though…

Photos from Oxford United vs Morecambe

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Match Ratings:

- Match: 3/10 (bank holiday bore)

- Value for money: 4/10 (double check what league you are in Oxford!)

- Ground: 2/10 (modern football hell)

- Atmosphere: 3/10 (made by the away fans)

- Food: 7/10 (fairly decent burger)

- Programme: 8/10 (a quality production, good articles)

- Referee: Andy Davies – 7/10 – was fine

OU vs More prog

OU vs More stub

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Tunbridge Wells vs Shildon (23/03/13)

Match 193

Ground #: 151

Ground: Culverden Stadium

Competition: FA Vase Semi-Final 1st Leg

Kick Off: 3pm

Cost: £6

Programme: £1.50

Attendance: 1,754

Tunbridge Wells 2

Irvine 77’, Pilbeam (pen) 85’

Shildon 0

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544 teams had entered the FA Vase this season. Now, in the semi-final stage there were the final 4, just two games from Wembley and a day in the sun (lets tempt fate) on May 4th. My route through the rounds had been fairly kind to me with only a wasted journey to the Isle of Man being the longest. Amazingly, Shildon the team who had beaten Ascot Utd in the QFs were drawn at home against the only remaining Kent side left in the tournament. As it was a short train ride away, I was off to the royal town of Tunny for the 1st leg.

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As I know someone from the area, he kindly provided me with a history of Tunbridge Wells which is better than anything I could have written. So I hand you over to Mr Holdstock:

'Something in the water' A brief history of Tunbridge Wells (in my opinion)

Quite a young town, The Wells near Tunbridge were discovered by Dudley Lord North in 1606. The story is that Lord North, being a fashionable man about town in London (and a courtier to King James I, VI to you Scots) was sent down to Lord Nevill's estate (South of Tunbridge Wells) to recover from the 'excesses of court' well we all know what that means!  Anyway after a month he clearly got a bit bored and decided to venture back to London so he set off to join the London road at Tunbridge. On his way however, he noticed a brook that had red tinged edges and reminded him of a mineral rich spring he had seen abroad that had healthy giving properties. So he visited the nearest dwelling where a woman named Mrs Humphries lived and he asked her to dip the waters for him so that he could try it. Mrs Humphries then became the first 'dipper' and she actually lived till she was 102 years old!

Following that, Tunbridge Wells became a popular and fashionable spa resort as the water was recognised as mineral rich (from memory it's rich in Iron, giving it the reddish tinge, and magnesium and calcium). The water actually comes up from 300 metres below ground and is naturally chilled even in the summer. You should try it if the spring is open. So in Georgian times the Tunbridge Wells and Walks became a popular place for the wealthy to retreat for their health (drinking and gambling). The Pantiles area is so called because of the (now removed) tiles that were baked in a pan to pave the upper walk.  This was originally done because a young royal visited and her son tripped on the walks so she gave money to the town to pave the walk. When she revisited nothing had been done and the money had been spent! So she appointed someone to ensure it was completed and it was.
The name Tunbridge Wells is taken from its northern neighbour now called Tonbridge.  Tonbridge was called Tunbridge but this led to confusion when the railway was built and people would get off at the wrong stop so they changed the spelling of the name of the original but now smaller town to Tonbridge. It is however not pronounced any differently as some foreigners seem to think.  You just have to say Tunbridge Wells when you are referring to Tunbridge Wells rather than shortening it to Tunbridge. Also the town was granted royal status in 1909 so its actual title is Royal Tunbridge Wells. People seem to think that Tunbridge Wells is posh, but it's not.”

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Tunbridge Wells FC was originally formed in 1886 and played under several different names in their early years. They originally played friendlies as an amateur side until 1903 when they joined the Kent Football League, under the name of Tunbridge Wells Rangers. They stayed there for three seasons before joining the Southern Football League for the start of 1906/07. However after two seasons they rejoined the Kent Football league. In the 1911/12 under their present name they joined the Isthmian League for two seasons after which they played in the Spartan League. After WW1 they played in the Kent league, under the name of Tunbridge Wells Rangers again, and rejoined the Southern League as members of the Eastern Section, for 1931/32, after winning the Kent League in 1931. During this time, the club also competed in the Southern League Midweek Section, becoming champions of this competition in 1938/39 as well as reaching the 2nd Round of the FA Cup twice. After the war, the Wells briefly returned to the amateur leagues as Tunbridge Wells before re-joining the Kent League for 1950/51 as Tunbridge Wells United and then the Southern League for the 1959/60. During this period the club once again progressed to the 1st Round of the FA Cup but unfortunately endured a 5–0 defeat at the hands of Brighton. In 1961 they fared slightly better, edged out 3–1 by Aldershot – their last appearance to date in the Cup proper. In the early 1960s Rangers (a name they took in 1963) began to struggle in the Southern League and in 1967 the club folded. The supporters formed a new club, once again called simply Tunbridge Wells, and re-joined the Kent League where they have remained ever since. The Wells won the Kent League Championship in 1985 and have also won the Kent League Cup on 4 occasions since the reformation of the club. In August 2005, Tunbridge Wells made football history by winning the longest penalty shoot-out ever in a senior cup match. No less than 43 spot kicks were needed before Wells won the shootout 16–15 over Littlehampton Town in the FA Cup Preliminary Round. Recent seasons have seen them slowly move up the Kent League finishes with a decent 5th place (out of 16) last season.

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Culverden Stadium is on the north side of the town and is a fairly standard ground for Level 9. The main redeeming factor to the place is the large terracing steps that sit behind one of the goals on the clubhouse side. These steps come back quite a way and so a great view of the pitch can be seen from here. Down one side of the pitch is a covered terrace that also houses the changing rooms while the other two sides are normally just hard standing. However, to accommodate the expected increase in the crowd (average attendance of Wells this season in the Kent League is 159), they had built a small wooden standing terrace down the other side of the pitch which also provided a fairly decent view of the match as I watched the proceedings from here. One down side to the ground is the amount of grass and grass banking in use. Normally, not a problem and a positive tick in my book, however the weather for this game had been and was dreadful and so the mud on the grass was quite substantial. White shoes quickly became brown and designer clothing quickly became charity shop donations from the people in the crowd.

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Tunbridge Wells have had a fairly reasonable season and were coming into this game in midtable but with a huge backlog of rearranged games to come in the league still too. Their recent FA Vase run had also been impressive, meaning they entered this season at the 2nd Round stage and had so far seen off Wantage Town (2-0), Binfield (2-1), holders Dunston UTS (1-0), Larkhall Athletic (4-3) before beating Hadleigh United 2-0 in the QFs. While Kent League sides had made this stage many times before, they were up against it in making the final as history was not on their side. Especially when they were playing Northern League sides who had dominated the competition in recent seasons. Even last season, Kent League winners Herne Bay were dispatched in the SFs by eventual runners-up West Auckland Town. Shildon were probably the favourites going into this tie, not helped by having the 2nd leg at home as well but Tunbridge Wells could possibly build up a lead here down in Kent and hope to defend when they went up to County Durham the week after for the 2nd leg.

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Had this game been played between two teams who were not 289 miles away from each other, I am 100% sure it would had been called off. As it was, the game only took place after the Shildon manager had agreed to play the match on the surface. Backed by a healthy away support, the Northern League side started well as Michael Tate’s cross allowed Carl Jones to fire a header straight at the Wells goalie Chris Oladogba. Shildon looked also impressive on the counter attack and speedy striker Sam Garvie was causing the Wells back line all sorts of problems with his pace. Quickly however, the pitch began to win. The mudbath turned the game into a slog as sliding tackles came in and players began to lose the ball due to it getting stuck in the mud. The quality also started to diminish as both sets of players were struggling to play any decent football but the game was still an intriguing one. Tunny hadn’t offered much upfront but Jon Pilbeam should have done better when he was found in the area but the chance was cleared. Chance of the half however fell to Garvie as he raced away down the right but his shot was weak and Oladogba easily saved. The first 45 minutes were like It’s A Knockout but with a lot a stake, it was still an entertaining watch.

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The second half saw the temperatures drop and so the pitch get even stickier as the match became the Kent version of Stalingrad. Absolute stalemate as very few chances were created and a 0-0 finish seemed likely. Shildon were beginning to tire and when Oladogba saved another shot comfortably you began to wonder if Wells could create a chance, they could nick this game. The home players must have thought that too as they began to push forward and put the Shildon defence under pressure. The NE lads first real test was see Perry Spackman head wide after his marker went missing from a cross before another cross into the area caused panic as the Shildon defence just didn’t look up to it. That was confirmed on 73 minutes when the home side took the lead as you began to feel the tide was turning. Caught in possession, Shildon were hit on the break by Carl Cornell put Pilbeam clear down the right. His cross into an empty penalty area was found by Andy Irvine, who controlled the ball well and lofted it over Keith Finch to make it 1-0. The celebrations began! The wooden stand was bouncing (literally bouncing as the mud clearly affected the structure) and someone even let off a flare to get the party started. You did think however that Shildon would come back from 1 down, so Wells gave themselves an excellent opportunity to progress by scoring a 2nd on 84 minutes. Cornell got into the penalty area and was floored by a needless and tired Shildon challenge. Pilbeam coolly dispatched the penalty and while Shildon had some possession in the final few minutes of the game, Oladogba wasn’t troubled and they took a 2-0 lead up to County Durham.

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Shildon had asked the whole town to show up for the 2nd leg showdown and while I thought they would definitely score, they would also definitely concede too. As it turned out, I was right as Shildon raced into a 3 goal lead through goals from Chris McCabe, Jamie Lee Owens and Garvie, but Tunny took the game into extra time as Irvine scored another crucial goal in the tie before Spackman scored in the 116th minute to send the Wells to Wembley. Shildon did have a late goal ruled out for offside which “shouldn’t have been”, but these things happen.

TW vs Shil 2nd leg(Wembley time!)

In the aftermath of the game, I was disappointed with comments on Twitter from Shildon as while they had every right to be disappointed, they came across as quite sore losers. Starting a statement, “I’m not bitter but...” probably shows you are. Tunny defended well in the 1st leg where I saw them and took their chances well as they deserved something from a positive 2nd half at the Culverden Stadium so well done them. Their FA Vase final tickets are also selling well as at the time of writing, they have sold over 5,100 which means their fans alone will total more than the whole attendance of the 2012 Final. I’ll be there with them on May 4th and while they may start as underdogs against Northern League side Spennymoor Town, if they are backed by a big support then who knows what could happen. They’ll enjoy the day for sure I’m guessing.

Photos from Tunbridge Wells vs Shildon

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Match Ratings:

- Match: 7/10 (absorbing)

- Value for money: 7/10 (cheapest Vase semi-final ticket)

- Ground: 5/10 (decent in places)

- Atmosphere: 9/10 (chants, drums and flares – spot on)

- Food: 6/10 (reasonable burger)

- Programme: 4/10 (missing some basic information)

- Referee: Michael Bull – 6/10 (took the conditions into account)

TW vs Shil prog

TW vs Shil stub

ROAD TO WEMBLEY 2012/2013:

1ST QUALIFYING ROUND: Colliers Wood United 3-1 Badshot Lea (Wibbandune Sports Ground, Att: 37)

2ND QUALIFYING ROUND: Camberley Town 1-4 Colliers Wood United (Krooner Park, Att: 36)

1ST ROUND: Lingfield 1-2 Colliers Wood United (Godstone Road, Att: 50)

2ND ROUND: Colliers Wood United W/O – W/O Old Woodstock Town (N/A, Att: N/A)

3RD ROUND: Colliers Wood United 2-3 Ascot United (Wibbandune Sports Ground, Att: 70)

4TH ROUND: Borrowash Victoria 0-3 Ascot United (Watkinson Construction Bowl, Att: 157)

5TH ROUND: Newport IOW 2-2 Ascot United [After Extra Time] (The Racecourse, Att: 474)

5TH ROUND REPLAY: Ascot United 2-1 Newport IOW (The Racecourse, Att: 359)

QUARTER FINAL: Shildon 1-1 Ascot United [After Extra Time] (Dean Street, Att: 448)

QUARTER FINAL REPLAY: Ascot United 1-4 Shildon (The Racecourse, Att: 780)

SEMI FINAL 1ST LEG: Tunbridge Wells 2-0 Shildon (Culverden Stadium, Att: 1,754)

SEMI FINAL 2ND LEG: Shildon 3-2 Tunbridge Wells [After Extra Time] (Dean Street, Att: 900)

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

St Mirren vs Heart of Midlothian (17/03/13)

Match 192

Ground #: 15 (2nd visit)

Ground: Hampden Park

Competition: Scottish League Cup Final

Kick Off: 3pm

Cost: £20

Programme: £5

Attendance: 44,036

St Mirren 3

Goncalves 37’, Thompson 46’, Newton 66’

Hearts 2

Stevenson 10’, 86’

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Financial problems, playing essentially a youth team with some ringers and dreadful form amazingly hadn’t stopped Hearts reaching a cup final this season. Beating Inverness on penalties in the semi-final had got us here and while at first I had reservations about coming to the final (especially after sacking manager John McGlynn), a night at Tynie watching Hearts vs St Johnstone showed I needed to back the boys. And besides, I’d seen a St Mirren vs Hearts cup tie in this competition before, it was time to avenge that.

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A Hampden Park has actually hosted football since October 1873 where it housed the oldest club in Scotland, Queens Park. The club asked to move to larger ground and Henry Erskine Gordon agreed to sell 12 acres of land off Somerville Drive to Queen's Park in November 1899. James Miller designed twin grandstands along the south side of the ground with a pavilion wedged in between and the natural slopes were shaped to form banks of terracing, designed by the main man himself, Archibald Leitch. Hampden Park was the biggest stadium in the world when it opened in 1903 (surpassed by the MaracanĂ£ in 1950) and hosted it’s first match in October of that year when Queens Park beat Celtic 1-0. Scotland played England here in for the first time in 1906 and the stadium has since become the primary home of the national team. Queens Park made improvements in 1909 and in 1914 when a fire destroyed a pavilion and was replaced by a four story press box. Hampden hosted its first European Cup final in 1960 when Real Madrid famously beat Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3 and has since hosted the final twice more (in 1976 and 2002) as well two Cup Winner’s Cup Finals and the 2007 UEFA Cup Final. By the 1970’s Hampden was starting to show its age and was in desperate need of redevelopment, especially after the Ibrox Disaster of 1971. When funding was not made available by the UK Government and Glasgow District Council, a public appeal and minor repair work kept Hampden going, but it couldn’t last.

1286745_640x360(Hampden Park in 1980s – from SFA website)

The first phase of the redevelopment saw the demolition of the North Stand and concreting of all terraces to reduce the capacity to around 74,370. After more work to turn the West Terrace into all seating, the UK Government finally provided a grant to turn Hampden Park into an all seater stadium and it hosted its final match in its old state with the 1992 League Cup Final when Rangers beat Aberdeen 2-1. Hampden’s first match in its new state was the 1999 Scottish Cup Final when Rangers beat Celtic 1-0 through a Rod Wallace goal. The ground is now all seater with 4 identical stands that loop around the old Hampden bowl. Sadly, one feature of the old Hampden was the standing/seats that were right on the touchline and close to the action. That has now been removed due to the extended relief track that now goes around the ground meaning that if you are behind the goals you are miles away from the action. (We had the 2nd highest seating row in the ground – binoculars needed) The ground will be undergoing more (temporary) reconstruction for the 2014 Commonwealth Games as the athletics will be held at the National Stadium.

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Hearts had technically only won 1 game to get to the Final. A 3-1 win against a poor Livingston side put them through the 3rd Round before beating both Dundee United and Inverness CT on penalties to reach the Hampden showcase. As previously mentioned on the blog and frequent times on Twitter, this had been a poor season but we had bigger fights against us in the form of unpaid tax bills and financial meltdowns. Losing to St Mirren a few weeks before this game had also cost John McGlynn his job as we were 11th in the SPL. (Thank God for Dundee being a 1st Division side) The day before the match, caretaker boss Gary Locke was made first team manager until the end of 2013/14 – a decision which has gone down well with most of the fans. St Mirren had entered a round earlier in the tournament but had seen off Ayr United (5-1), Hamilton Accies (1-0), Aberdeen (on penalties) before their surprising (but fully deserved) 3-2 win over Celtic in the semi-finals. With both sides quite evenly matched and both in poor form – this had the makings of an extremely tight game.

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As the game started, Hearts were easily the better side as we looked really up for it and put the St Mirren defence under pressure from the off. The St Mirren defensive pair of Paul Dummett and McAusland were being forced to work hard to make a series of clearances as Hearts pushed forward. What we needed was an early goal and it arrived on 10 minutes. Saints captain Jim Goodwin flew into a tackle but only managed to allow the ball to break to Ryan Stevenson who was now one on one with Dummett. Stevenson kept his nerve and fired his shot off Dummett and past Craig Samson in the Saints goal. BEDLAM. A good 20,000+ fans in the Hearts end went mental as we had an early lead. St Mirren didn’t look particularly good at all, although they did have a danger man in the form of Gary Teale on the right wing. Teale was giving McHattie all sorts of problems and frequently had to rely on Danny Wilson to bail him out. That being said, it should have been 2-0 on 21 minutes. Jamie Walker darted away down the left and sent a brilliant cross into John Sutton who’s header came back off the post. St Mirren slowly came back into it but had Michael Ngoo managed to get on the end of Mehdi Taouil’s cross you might have thought that would be it for the Saints already. As it was they snatched a completely undeserved and needless equaliser before HT. A long punt forward found Gary Teale as McHattie tried to play a dreadful offside trap. Teale raced away and while could have fired a shot past Jamie MacDonald, he squared the ball to Esmael Goncalves who had an easy tap in. Not the best thing to go into HT with but having outplayed St Mirren for the majority of that half, it still looked ok.

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Therefore being 2-1 down within 2 minutes of the restart was a complete surprise. Hearts froze again as St Mirren pushed forward and Dummett’s low left wing cross was hammered in through Steven Thompson for a scoreline that looked impossible some 30 minutes earlier. We waited for a response, it never came. Only Taouil and Stevenson looked capable of producing something that would created an equaliser as Sutton and Ngoo upfront become more and more isolated. While Hearts got worse, St Mirren started to dominate and while it was welcoming to see Dylan McGowan block a Steven Thompson shot, the Buddies added a 3rd on 66 minutes. On loan Newcastle player Conor Newton, who had largely been anonymous up until that point, broke through the midfield and played a good 1-2 with Goncalves before smashing a shot past MacDonald to make the game safe it appeared. Locke tried mixing it up with Arvydas Novikovas and Jason Holt coming on as well as surprisingly taking off Taouil to get a goal back. That nearly came on 83 minutes when McHattie skipped past some weak Saints challenges and set up Stevenson in the box but he amazingly crashed his shot off the crossbar. He wouldn’t be denied a minute later however as he was again sent away down the left and fired a low shot past Samson and into the bottom corner. Hearts now pushed everyone forward and Stevenson nearly had his hattrick in the last minute when a powerful low shot was just turned behind by Samson. Four minutes of injury time came and went but the ball was mainly played in our half so it wasn’t a surprise to see us create no more chances and see the Buddies win their first ever Scottish League Cup.

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The thing about having seats so high up at Hampden and on the end of a row is that you can make a quick escape afterwards so you don’t have to watch another team pick up the trophy. On the long walk back to Glasgow’s city centre we could dissect where it all went wrong as for the first 30 minutes, there was only going to be one winner in this game. However, if you go missing for long periods in a cup final, you probably won’t win it. So credit to St Mirren for hanging in there and taking their chances and yet again we rue not having a player that can take these numerous chances we always seem to create. This confirmed it has been a dreadful season for us but hopefully a positive takeover in the summer and some more stability can see us back up towards the top of the SPL where we belong. Back in Edinburgh, we walked past some of the route that the victory parade would have gone past to see the barriers and signs up – a sad sight and “it could have been”. For the neutral, this would have been a great game to watch. To lose, you’ve just got to pick yourselves up and go again. Hopefully, we’ll have the opportunity to do that next season.

IMG_0568(The empty parade…)

Photos from Hearts vs St Mirren

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Match Ratings:

- Match: 7/10 (good game, tinged with disappointment)

- Value for money: 7.5/10 (decent value for a cup final)

- Ground: 4/10 (not a fan)

- Atmosphere: 9/10 (excellent from both sides)

- Food: N/A – Didn’t eat at ground

- Programme: 7/10 (fair amount of info for £5)

- Referee: Craig Thomson – 6/10 (normal performance)

LC Final 2013 prog

LC Final 2013 stub