March 28, 2009 – Holm Park, Yoker
I’ve seen some terrific Junior matches this season and was expecting another cracker between two of the biggest clubs in the West Region.
Unfortunately the game didn’t meet my expectations after favourites Pollok scored two early goals to effectively kill the game as a contest before it got the chance to get going.
This was a West of Scotland Cup third round tie, a reasonably important fixture for both sides.
The West is probably the third most prestigious tournament entered by West Region clubs, beneath the Scottish Junior Cup and the Super League, both of which now carry the carrot of qualification for the senior Scottish Cup.
The significance of this particular game was perhaps lessened a little by the fact that the sides are due to meet again twice in the Junior Cup semi finals in a few weeks time.
There has been a lot of debate around the semi matches. The SJFA have decided to scrap their long standing format of one-off games played at senior grounds.
In the past these tended to be played on Friday nights and were well attended. I’ve seen a couple at Almondvale including a local derby between Bo’ness United and Linlithgow Rose which drew a very large crowd of over 7000.
Unfortunately the police put a stop to Friday night fixtures and the Saturday afternoon games which replaced them have struggled to attract sufficient numbers.
The SJFA’s answer is a home and away semi final with clubs hosting a game each. In a lot of ways it makes sense to do this, certainly from a financial perspective, although it will make it harder for underdogs to pull off a shock.
There’s also the question of ground standards and the ability of some venues to hold the 2000+ crowds a semi final would be expected to attract.
This factor brought some additional interest to my visit to Holm Park because it has been declared unfit to host Clydebank’s home game with Pollok – the only one of the four grounds involved not to have been given the thumbs up.
Clydebank’s ‘home’ leg will now be played further up the road in Alexandria, at Vale of Leven’s Millburn Park on April 25.
Reflecting on my Holm Park experience, I think the decision to move the game is the right one, albeit tough on Clydebank who have worked hard with landlords Yoker Athletic to improve the place.
The crowd today was respectable, but at least three times as many are expected at the semi final and it’s hard to see where they would be accommodated.
Holm Park is three sided, with one of those, the end nearest the entrance gates, being flat hard standing.
On one side there is a stretch of uncovered terracing and although it offers a good close up view of the pitch, it is in a state of some disrepair.
Directly opposite is the small covered enclosure flanked on one side by some brand new concrete terracing, a section of which has still to be completed.
There were also question marks for me over how a big crowd would get into the ground. The ground only seems to have two admission gates. Only one was used for this game and there was a lengthy queue in the run up to kick off, a real rarity in junior football!
I arrived at the ground about ten to two and only just got in to see the kick off. Plenty of other folk missed it, and there were still people outside when the first Pollok goal went in.
Despite the fact that it probably isn’t up to scratch for very big games, I liked Holm Park. Like many junior venues it is a bit ramshackle, but it has a slice of character that is sadly lacking at higher levels of the game.
The enclosure is very unusual and reminded me slightly of the one at Bathgate’s Creamery Park, while behind the goals there is a distinctive clubhouse building which contains the dressing rooms and a small social club.
In behind the clubhouse sat the Bankies club shop, cleverly built inside a container unit, where there was an impressive array of merchandise on sale.
One let down was the food which was served from a mobile catering unit. I thought the prices were a wee bit expensive for junior level, but they seemed to do good business all the same. Cheeseburgers came in at £2 and in my view the quality wasn’t fantastic.
But what about the game?
Well, it wasn’t helped by the pitch which was very heavy and was sanded in patches.
As mentioned previously, Pollok scored their first goal quite early on, after three minutes to be precise, a sclaffed John Sweeney effort from close range.
That was followed closely by a second from Calum Hardie after only eight minutes. It was a much cleaner strike, but like the first Clydebank will have seen it as avoidable.
The early goals were the worst thing that could have happened from a neutral’s point of view.
Bankies are in the division below Pollok and there was a discernable gulf in the sides. The current First Division table shows that Bankies don’t score many and after watching this game I can understand why because they struggled to create much.
They had a couple of free kick opportunities which went close, but I can’t recall the Pollok goalkeeper having a shot on target to deal with.
They did hold their own in terms of possession but Pollok always seemed in control. I got the feeling that had Clydebank pulled a goal back and put some pressure on, they may well have found another gear.
The win was never completed assured until about ten minutes from the end when one of the Bankies defenders was caught in possession about thirty yards out by Pollok’s bulky substitute striker David Turnbull, who took the ball through and produced a good finish for their third goal.
In his programme notes, the Clydebank manager Budgie McGhie commented that he wouldn’t be reading too much into the outcome of this game with the ‘Scottish’ semi final matches coming up next month.
That’s as maybe but he will know that to have any chance of getting to the final, his side will need to improve considerably.
Personally, I hope that they do. I have some pleasant memories of watching Meadowbank and Livingston play against Clydebank before they were shamefully taken over and removed from the senior game by Airdrie United in 2002.
It would be great to see their fans get some pay back for their hard work by playing in Junior football’s showpiece match.
Scoring – 0-1 Sweeney (3), 0-2 Hardie (8), Turnbull (80)
Attendance – 650 (est)
Admission – £5
Programme – £1
Ground – 7/10. Rough and ready but unique in its own way
Game – 4/10. Early goals took the sting out of it
Overall experience – 6/10. Still worth the journey
Match Report links
Clydebank FC official website – Pollok FC official website