March 17, 2009 – Creamery Park, Bathgate
Reserve team football doesn’t get a good press. Quite often games between ‘the stiffs’ are tame affairs lacking a competitive edge.
What a surprise then, to see Motherwell and Inverness Caley Thistle’s respective second strings serve up a cracking match at Bathgate this afternoon.
Many of the SPL reserve league games are played on midweek afternoons, not ideal for full time employees such as myself. However, a day of annual leave opened up the opportunity to make the short journey to Creamery Park for the second time in a month.
The last time I saw Bathgate Thistle beat Musselburgh Athletic in a floodlight friendly on a wet evening. This time the conditions were much more agreeable, with lovely Spring sunshine the order of the day.
Underfoot the pitch was less than ideal, with recent rain making it a little squelchy. Before the game the surface looked decent, but it quickly began to cut up, making things difficult for the players, particularly in central areas.
Thankfully the state of the pitch didn’t detract from the game, which was very keenly contested indeed.
Perhaps the presence of a good number of recognised ‘senior players’ in the sides helped to provide this edge, with many of those on show perhaps having a point to prove to their coaching staff.
Inverness included Michael Fraser, Roy McBain, Andy Barrowman and the French duo of Thierry Gathuessi and Filipe Morais, recently loaned from Hibernian. In the Motherwell camp, ex Rangers midfielder Bob Malcolm started, as did Marc Fitzpatrick, Steven McGarry and Darren Smith.
It was the Invernessians who enjoyed the upper hand in the first half, their brand of quick passing football proving troublesome for the ‘home’ side.
Had they been a little bit more composed, then they could have scored a few goals. As it transpired, they only managed one, a cracking strike from the edge of the penalty area by Andy Barrowman which ended up right in the ‘postage stamp’.
Motherwell were hindered by having to replace their goalkeeper early with what looked like a muscle pull. But they had their moments in an attacking sense, with Darren Smith, their right winger, catching the eye.
The second half was more of the same, with Inverness coming close to a second goal on several occasions. Both Morais and Barrowman had one on ones with the ‘Well ‘keeper but were unable to find the net.
At the other end the Caley Thistle defence was really well marshalled by Michael Fraser, who used his SPL experience to take the pressure off with some excellent positioning and handling.
In the end, I felt it was a deserved three points for Inverness, but kudos to Motherwell for helping make the game into a decent spectacle.
As reserve matches go it was excellent, although it remains to be seen for how long this type of fixture will be around in Scotland. Reserve football is currently under review by the Scottish Premier League, while it has already largely disappeared at SFL level.
Money talks, and in these difficult financial times, there’s every chance the SPL clubs will choose to cut their losses and trim their squads, relying more heavily on youth players in future.
There were a number of footballing personalities amongst the small crowd, as tends to be the case at these types of matches. Scottish national youth team coach Billy Stark watched intently from the back of the Creamery Park shed, while I also spotted former Motherwell boss Maurice Malpas, ex-Irish internationalist Alan Kernaghan and current Livingston assistant boss Graeme Robertson.
Whether they took anything of professional interest away from the match is unclear, but for me the game was an entertaining and inexpensive way to spend the early afternoon.
Scoring – 0-1 Barrowman (39)
Attendance – 43 (h/c)
Admission – £NIL
Programme – none
Ground – 6/10. Decent junior set-up
Game – 8/10. Surprisingly entertaining
Overall experience – 7/10. Good afternoon of football
Match Report Links
Motherwell FC official website
Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC official website