February 28, 2009 – Murrayfield Park, Blackburn
Time constraints meant that my original plan to take in Newtongrange Star’s home game with Dundee North End had to be scrapped in favour of a more local fixture.
Thankfully it turned out well in the end with Blackburn United and Harthill Royal serving up an entertaining game at Murrayfield Park.
The game burst into life after just five minutes when the home side got their noses in front with a goal which had more than a whiff of offside.
Their lead didn’t last, with Harthill countering within two minutes, a good strike which went a long way to settling them into the game after a poor start.
The remainder of the first half was pretty even. Harthill had a couple of good chances while one of the Blackburn forwards passed up a great chance to score when he rounded the keeper but dithered, allowing a defender to get back and clear the danger.
On the stroke of half time Harthill got their noses in front with a fine header, creating a 2-1 scoreline which was perhaps a wee bit harsh on the hosts.
After the interval neither side gave an inch in a match which, despite being a run-of-the-mill league game, was contested in true ‘cup-tie’ fashion.
For me, Blackburn were the better side in the second half and possibly could have won the game. Ultimately, they had to settle for a point instead, scoring a superb equaliser when the strong running No 10 got to the bye line before teeing a team-mate up for a tap in.
One of the features of the game was the refereeing, although I had more than a little sympathy for the man-in-the-middle.
In keeping with all the games I’ve seen at the third level of junior football, he was the only official, with club representatives manning the lines.
In this scenario mistakes are inevitable, especially as far as offsides go. Considering that top level specialist assistant referees struggle to apply the rule consistently and get it right, a guy on his own has absolutely no chance. Today’s ref more or less made an educated guess, getting as many wrong as he did right.
Predictably, the players and management for both sides weren’t impressed. Most amusing, though was the sight of the Blackburn ‘linesman’ – a very substantial gent – giving the ref pelters!
Overall it was a good, honest ninety minutes of football, physical in nature. The commitment of both sides was really impressive and the tackling was ferocious. It’s an element of the game I enjoy watching, especially when executed well, and the ref deserved credit for letting the game bubble along.
Had this been top level football there would have been cards galore, of both colours, because some of the meaty challenges put in by both sides just wouldn’t be tolerated by the Roborefs who handle the higher profile games.
The match fitted well with it’s surroundings. Murrayfield Park is a basic, no-nonsense junior ground in a rough and ready wee town.
Blackburn, for the unacquainted, sits a few miles west of Livingston, just south of Bathgate.
It’s an unremarkable place, the type of small town that provides junior football with its bedrock up and down Scotland. High unemployment and social deprivation come with the territory.
Where once there was a local pit and British Leyland’s epic car plant to provide employment nearby, opoortunities for Blackburn’s townsfolk are now a bit thinner on the ground.
What is not in short supply, as far as Blackburn United go is endeavour. Murrayfield Park has seen better days but the pitch is decent for this level. The committee seem to work hard to attract sponsorship and there is a very fine programme produced.
A warm welcome comes as standard, although a group of local neds were given short shrift by a very brave committee member when they climbed over a fence to try and avoid the admission fee.
Three sides of the ground are featureless, with the exception of the rail which circles the pitch perimeter.
The north end is overlooked by a road from which the whole pitch can be seen unhindered. The aforementioned local youths watched the closing stages from this lofty viewpoint. The south end used to be a bit bigger but recent house building has reduced it in size.
There is a good sized shed on one side which could accommodate a couple of hundred – far more than usually turn up to watch Blackburn. It’s set back a little from the pitch but offered welcome refuge when the rain started to tip down in the first half.
Adjacent to this is the pavilion containing dressing rooms, from the rear of which (molten) hot pies and hot drinks are served at half time.
It’s a venue which I have visited on a good few occasions now. Blackburn are probably my most local side and with my self-imposed boycott of Livingston home games ongoing, I expect to return at least once before the end of the season.
For as long as Livi lurch from one disaster to another, led by a crackpot Italian chairman, I’d much rather give industrious and deserving clubs like Blackburn United my money. Today’s experience was good value.
Scoring – 1-0 Williamson (6), 1-1 Logan (9), 1-2 Fleming (43), 2-2 Gillespie (60)
Attendance – 36 (h/c)
Admission – £4
Programme – £1
Ground – 5/10. Basic but fine for this level
Game – 8/10. Entertaining ding dong battle
Overall experience – 7/10. Decent Saturday afternoon
Match Report Links
Blackburn United FC official website