Glenafton Athletic 0 Petershill 0

Saturday 4th June 2011
Glenafton Athletic 0 Petershill 0
Stagecoach West of Scotland League Super Premier Division Promotion/Relegation Playoff First Leg
At: Loch Park, New Cumnock
Kick-off: 2-00 pm
Admission: £5; Programme: £1
Attendance: 350 (headcount)
Weather: warm, sunny spells, windy
Duration: first-half: 46:33; second-half: 48:52

After last Saturday’s trip to South Sefton Borough, I wrote that ‘... decided to end my 2010/11 winter football season venturing into unfamiliar territories …’, thinking that the next game of so-called winter football would probably be a friendly at say Rocester around mid-July. Well, with the family away in London at a wedding, temptation got the better of me I decided to make a rare football trip to north of the border. And, like last Saturday, it again proved to be a good idea.

The game, the first of a two-legged match, was one of those which neither side wanted to lose and so ended goalless.

With the English winter season had reached its conclusion – I know England played Switzerland at teatime – there was still the odd issue to be resolved in Scottish Junior football with the promotion/relegation play-off between Glenafton and Petershill being one of them – Glenafton (third in Super League First Division with 43 points from their 26 games) were bidding for promotion into the Premier Division while Petershill (third from bottom in 10th with 25 points from their 22 games) were looking to stay there

Peterhill’s website provides a good definition of "Junior" Football, a term unique to Scotland, which is sometimes confused with Youth or Juvenile Football. In fact it is a level of Semi Professional Football which fits in between the Amateur and Senior Levels of the game.

Originally these two legs were originally scheduled for today at Petershill and next Saturday at Glenafton. However, due to the wedding next Saturday of Glenafton’s Robbie Henderson, the first leg today at Loch Park with the second leg on Wednesday at Petershill.

Glenafton, based in the Ayrshire town of New Cumnock, were founded in 1930 with one of their finest hours coming in 1993 when they lifted the Scottish Junior Cup for the first and so far only time. Loch Park, their home for the past 50 years, was a few hundred yards from New Cumnock Station on the Carlisle to Glasgow via Dumfries line, and also on the A76.

Petershill have also tasted Junior Cup success as well, winning the famous competition five times, the last success back in 1956 though they did reach the final twice during the 1980s. Their home ground – New Petershill Park – is located to the north of Glasgow city centre close to both Barnhill and Springburn railway stations.

As a leaflet I picked up stated: ‘New Cumnock Burns’ “sweet” Afton Water joins the Nith alongside the station but the village itself has yet to wholly shake off its mining past. Charming little open air swimming pool and characterful Loch Park ground of Glenafton Athletic Football Club.’ While there were a few places boarded-up – name a town that doesn’t these days – I did spot several statues and memorials as well as a cottage where Robert Burns once stayed.

The dominant feature of the ground (orientated roughly east-west and running lengthways from the entrance) was the stand on halfway down the left-hand side. Painted in red it featured six rows of what bench seating/standing. It is named after Mick Morran who provided 35 years of service to the club, and either side were several rows of terrace steps. Also down the left-hand side was Glen’s CafĂ© and separate tea bar. Behind the far goal and down the right-hand side were shallow terraced slopes, which looked as if they have been in situ for many years though that is not a comment to detract from the character of them. Finally behind the near goal was a modern two story building with changing rooms, offices and a second-floor ‘boardroom’. Loch Park doesn’t have floodlights.

Programmes were printed and stapled during the hour preceding kick-off and sold near to the turnstile. One comment I liked in the programme regarded the programme itself, describing it ‘as a tradition worth preserving’ despite all the hard work needed to produce each issue. Team line-ups were announced over the tannoy.

Glenafton Athletic (wearing all red) got the game underway defending the changing rooms end in the first half. The early goalmouth action was at the far end… but merely involved re-attaching loose netting to the crossbar.

The home side demanded a penalty in the 16th minute. Gareth Armstrong’s well struck shot inside a crowded area bear Petershill keeper Scott Black and hit defender Davie Barr positioned on the line. The referee waived away appeals and gave a corner instead. I’m not sure what size of crowd Glenafton normally attract but today a group of youthful fans stood at the back of the stand provided good vocal support.

Petershill (in a change kit of all blue) perhaps came closest to breaking the deadlock during the first half in the 36th minute. From the right side of the area, Steven McLaughlin fired an angled shot across the face of goal which rebounded off the far post. Strike partner Paul McGladrigan got to loose ball, got in a shot which Athletic keeper Ally Semple superbly blocked.

In first half stoppage time, Black did well to turn over a shot from Jim Wilson to keep his side on level terms. The keeper thwarted Armstrong from the resulting corner.

Now in warm sunshine, Semple was called into action early in the second half, getting down to hold a shot from McGladrigan. The visitors continued to create chances with Semple well positioned to hold efforts from Ryan McArdle and Alan Lindsay.

Things boiled over a little just after the hour mark with a flare-up near the Petershill dugout which the referee dealt with without resorting to a red card or two. It became clear during the last half hour that neither side really wanted to lose and that was the way the game finished. In stoppage time, Black leapt up to push away a rising shot from substitute Aaron Scoular who made one last attempt to gain a first-leg lead for Glenafton.

In the end both sides got their wish. So on Wednesday, there is everything to play for – it should be a good game!

While there was a bit of ‘hanging around’ in New Cumnock, the 11:15 departure the Nith Valley Line from Carlisle to Glasgow Central meant a stress-free afternoon and could be used to visit other grounds close to the line. Each one of the stations from Carlisle to Kilmarnock has at least one ground close by: Gretna Green (Raydale Park home of the reformed Gretna FC 2008), Annan (Annan Athletic), Dunfries (Queen of the South and several South of Scotland League clubs), Sanquhar (Nithsdale Wanderers of the South of Scotland League), Kirkconnel (Junior side Kello Rovers), New Cumnock (Glenafton Rovers), Auchinleck (Junior side Auchinleck Talbot and a few miles away Cumnock Juniors) and Kilmarnock (Kilmarnock FC).