April 22, 2009 – Murrayfield Park, Blackburn
After a very enjoyable visit to Murrayfield Park when Blackburn United took on Harthill Royal a few weeks ago, I’ve kept an eye on the fixture releases for another ‘Burnie’ home game.
This one looked like an attractive match being another West Lothian derby of sorts, and with visitors Armadale Thistle needing a victory to maintain their push towards the South Division championship.Murrayfield Park is easily walkable from where I live too – a bonus following a couple of nights of travelling by train and bus to Irvine and Edinburgh.
On the way I passed by the Happy Valley Hotel whose karaoke night is apparently frequented by Britain’s Got Talent sensation Susan Boyle, Blackburn’s very own new and unlikely worldwide superstar.
In comparison to the last visit, this game drew a fairly large crowd, certainly well into three figures. Whether this caught the home side on the hop is unclear, but copies of the excellent ‘Burnie Banter’ programme were exhausted before kick off.
Not before the programme seller offered his last copy for sale – tongue firmly in cheek – for £20 though!
At the outset I expected Armadale to dominate proceedings.
Blackburn’s current team is possibly the youngest junior side I have ever seen. There are one or two experienced players but most look as though they have just graduated out of juvenile football.
The ‘Dale had a squad full of older guys on show and going by the light hearted pen pics in the programme, most of them have a decent amount of experience at this grade.
It appears that a few of them are ex-Harthill Royal, from whom the ‘Dale manager Jim Henderson arrived at the start of the season.
At the tail end of last season I saw Harthill scupper Haddington Athletic’s hopes of promotion and on that occasion Henderson was, well, a little less than graceful in victory.
He appears very much to be from the old school of junior football management: there’s lots of shouting, gesticulating, industrial language and general abuse.
He has turned Armadale into table toppers, so in fairness his ‘methods’ seem to work.
His charges certainly seemed to have been well fired up for the start of this game because barely twenty minutes in they were three goals to the good.
I found out afterwards that Blackburn were forced to field a trialist goalkeeper and perhaps this had an unsettling effect. Either way, Armadale could hardly have hoped for a better start.
Their first goal was a tap-in after the goalie made a decent enough save, number two was an excellent header and the third came from the spot after what the referee made what I felt was an extremely soft penalty award.
I feared for United’s young side at this stage. Armadale looked as though they might go on to run up a cricket score.
However, the home side dug in and got a goal back to make the scoreline a little more respectable at the halfway stage.
After the obligatory pie and bovril (£1.50 in total), Blackburn’s revival continued after half time – good news for a neutral like myself. They got a second goal back and in a frantic spell of pressure came agonisingly close to levelling the scores.
They had a decent penalty appeal which was turned down, while their right winger blew a great chance when he fired the ball high and wide.
Armadale were never totally out of it and there was always the chance that they could hit on the break.
That’s exactly what happened, when Ryan Johnstone, who earlier scored their penalty, found the net with a 25-yard free kick that I felt the Burnie ‘keeper should probably have got down to.
Blackburn perhaps deserved a share of the points after battling back to make a contest of the game, but the win keeps Armadale top of the South Division, three points clear of Broxburn Athletic.
Scoring – 0-1 Feeney (13), 0-2 (Mauchline 18), 0-3 Johnstone (24 pen), 1-3 Peebles (39), 2-3 (Brown 58), 2-4 Johnstone (77)
Attendance – 120 est
Admission – £4
Programme – £1
Ground – 5/10. Humble junior arena
Game – 7/10. Entertaining derby that ebbed and flowed
Overall experience – 6/10. Another good Junior outing
Match Report Links
Blackburn United FC official website –