A quick scan of the fixture list, a check on the train timetables, a text to Andy Pickwell and a prompt departure from work meant this Tuesday night match, my second in Scotland, was a goer and, more importantly, very little effort.
Andy - whom you already know as the genius behind Ravings of a Boston Boy - happens to live and work in Glasgow at the moment, though his passion for football seemed to be on the wane and he hadn’t attended a match since January or even watched Match of the Day.
In fact, he’d planned to spend this particular evening stargazing in a local park until the typically cloudy Scottish weather put paid to the Astronomy Society’s plans. But it was fine, since the lure of New Douglas Park, Hamilton is obviously much stronger than the majesty of Orion’s Belt or that plough thing.
Hamilton’s home since 2001, the ground couldn’t have been better located - a five minute walk down a back alley from Hamilton West station, an easy 20 minute ride from the city centre. It has handsome, permanent stands on two sides and a small, temporary stand on another, though the ground didn’t feel like it was lacking anything by not being fully enclosed. Behind the goal to our right was a small astroturf training pitch which was pretty smart but mysteriously bushy in appearance - not sure how that works with an artificial surface!
Admission was £16, which I’m guessing is fairly par for Irn-Bru Scottish League Division One football. It’s certainly reasonable when compared with the equivalent league - the Championship - in England. One great joy of living here is that Irn-Bru practically flows from the taps. It was my soft beverage of choice even in England, so now I’m in tangy, orangey, girder-y heaven.
Naturally I parted with £2.50 for the programme but was somewhat bemused that the team line-ups (which also included Saturday’s fixture with Queen of the South) had no shirt numbers and there wasn’t a single page devoted to the visitors for either game! The editorial content includes two pages on ticketing arrangements for the Scottish Challenge Cup final against Falkirk, which is being played at Livingston’s ground next weekend. The rest was just advertising, including ones for Alcoholics Anonymous and Gamblers Anonymous to add to the massive suicide hotline sponsorship board I saw at Motherwell.
I can only assume that sides in Scotland play each other so regularly across the season that all the supporters have memorised their opponent’s squad, meaning pen pics aren’t necessary! It’s a neutral’s nightmare, however.
Both sides have played in the SPL in the not-too-distant past but this was a low key affair, despite being entertaining enough to restore Andy’s faith in football. Dundee brought about 200 supporters, including a few kids who tried to generate an atmosphere and marked kick-off by doing the Poznan for some reason, but they looked very lost in the big away stand.
Dundee started at a pedestrian pace but, as so often happens, found themselves in the lead against the run of play. There was a warning salvo when Ryan Conroy struck the upright with a whipped free-kick, but it would be another set-piece from which they took the lead. Striker Conroy sprinted on to a Jake Hyde flick but the ball ran away from him after a sloppy first touch. Accies goalkeeper David Hutton gathered on the floor as Conroy slid studs-first into him. A certain free-kick. Nope, not according to the referee, who bizarrely awarded a penalty. After a prolonged protest, Conroy dusted himself off to score. So that’s two absolutely baffling decisions I’ve seen in two games in Scotland.
But unlike at Motherwell, it didn’t prove costly. Accies equalised six minutes later when ‘keeper Rab Douglas spilt a corner and Mark McLaughlin poked in the equaliser. Justice had been served but it didn’t stop the majority of the crowd howling with derision at the officials at half-time. The linesman on our side, who looked as though he would struggle to pass any kind of fitness test, had also made some dodgy offside decisions.
The second-half belonged to the home team, who gained a moderate amount of revenge for their 6-1 thumping in the last meeting here between the sides. From another corner, the ball was worked across goal and Jon McShane popped up at the back post to head in on 50 minutes. Mark Stewart then scorched through to make it 3-1 with a composed finish. A very worthwhile night under the lights.
Next Match: St Mirren v Hearts in a Scottish Cup sixth round replay.