March 3, 2009 – Riccarton Campus
I’d imagine that there will be some people who question the sanity of someone who strives to watch 100 matches in one football season, especially when many of them are at relatively minor levels of the game.
Last night I even began to wonder myself, as I stood watching Heriot-Watt University and Edinburgh City battle it out for three precious East of Scotland League points.
This was my 69th match of the season and unquestionably the toughest to watch – a real endurance event.
The rain began around kick off time; a few spots at first, developing quickly into a fine precipitus mist. By half time it was what the wee camp weatherman on STV might call ‘heavy and persistent’.
And after that it just seemed to get more heavy and more persistent.
Normally I don’t mind wet weather all that much but the pitch at Riccarton Campus, part of the Hearts Football Academy, has no cover other than a couple of pokey perspex dugouts into which umpteen subs and coaching staff had shoehorned themselves.
To add insult to injury, I turned up without an umbrella, thus committing the most short-trousered of schoolboy errors. One small mercy was that I had a hat on, even if it was a woolly one.
Standing in the rain isn’t my favourite pastime, or anyone else’s I would imagine, but having travelled a fair distance there was no alternative but to stick it out and watch the game.
That’s not to say that I didn’t consider departing home early, because I did. Roughly every two seconds.
Especially during a first half which was eagerly contested by both sides, but which wasn’t very high on entertainment value.
There were a few nice touches from the Heriot Watt forwards, especially their No 10, a rare black player at this level of Scottish football.
Nicknamed ‘Beege’, No 10’s control was excellent, his link play good and his willingless to drive with the ball to feet refreshing.
There was the odd question mark over his workrate, especially later in the game, but he struck me as a player who could possibly cut it at a higher level.
By comparison Edinburgh City seemed a more workmanlike outfit, perhaps lacking a little in cutting edge. They seemed to miss top scorer Robbie Ross, now an Arbroath player, who was watching his former team-mates from the sidelines.
They also seemed to have a bit of chip on their shoulder about the referee, fuelled partly by their manager, who rarely missed an opportunity to criticise the man in the middle.
Dissent annoys me at the best of times, and the City manager’s high pitched falsetto whining was a constant source of irritation.
At the halfway stage the game looked like a 0-0 draw all the way, but as the rain intensified, things start to perk up.
City drew first blood with a well worked move which ended with a good Jordan Caddow finish from close range. Given that Watt had created more up to that stage, it could be considered as against the run of play.
The student side fought back and equalised with a terrific goal which was worth the admission money on its own. The scorer, No 11 Gilbert Patterson, was another who impressed during the evening and his sidestep and strike from 20 yards was one of the best goals I’ve seen for a while.
Both sides could have gone onto win the game, the pace of which never seemed to slacken off. As the pitch got wetter the odd mistake crept in and City and Heriot-Watt both had chances.
Patterson forced a notable save from City’s Duncan Monteith while the Uni ‘keeper Murray Scott also had a couple of important blocks to earn his side a point.
As much as the second half was an improvement on the first, it probably goes without saying that I was delighted to hear the shrill of full time whistle, mercifully without too much injury time being played.
The draw was probably a fair result in the end, but most of the enjoyment I might have taken out of the game was well and truly washed out by the rain.
For as good as the playing facilties are at Riccarton – the pitch stood up remarkably well to the weather – the place just isn’t geared up for spectating at all.
No cover is one of those things I suppose, but there wasn’t any hot food or drinks on sale, either of which might have helped make the experience that little more bearable.
Maybe there’s a lack of demand, but when a wee junior club like Blackburn United are prepared to cater for similar numbers you need to question why Heriot-Watt University won’t.
There were a couple of vending machines in the Hearts Academy building, adjacent to the pitch, but the selection was geared more towards the athlete than a chubby football obsessive.
Drink options were Powerade (of various bright colours) or mineral water. In the food department things were just as grim: baked crisps, Monster Munch and about ten varieties of Nutrigrain bars.
I think you get the picture by now – this wasn’t one of my better trips – roll on those balmy Spring nights you get after the clocks go forward…
Scoring – 0-1, 1-1
Attendance – 28 (h/c)
Admission – £3
Programme – £1
Ground – 2/10. Good pitch, but somewhat lacking in spectator comfort
Game – 6/10. Second half was an improvement on the first.
Overall experience – 4/10. Not fantastic.
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