(Annbank United won 5-4 on penalties)
May 4, 2009 – Winton Park, Ardrossan
Another epic train trip tonight, this time to the North Ayrshire coast to see Ardrossan Winton Rovers and Annbank United battled it out for a place in the semi finals of the Ayrshire Weekly Press Cup.
Annbank are a league above Rovers but the home side more than matched their visitors to take the game to a shootout.
This was a first visit for me to Winton Park, like Tinto Park a cracking old ground that is unfortunately showing signs of decay and neglect.
Winton Park is about a 15 minute walk from Ardrossan South Beach station which has the best service of any of the three rail stations in the town.
Ardrossan Town is closer but the service to there seems to be quite infrequent, perhaps to tie in with the ferry sailings to Arran from the nearby Harbour.
Being the west coast of Scotland in May, the rain tipped it down for the duration of the walk to the ground, which can be found behind a few rows of Victorian tenements off the main drag.
While the South Beach area seemed pleasant enough, I didn’t see much during my stroll to commend Ardrossan to the visitor albeit I didn’t venture down to the Harbour which might have been more attractive.
Like other seaside towns it’s halcyon days are long gone and the same could be said for Winton Park because at one point it must have been one of the better grounds in the world of Scottish Junior football.
It is dominated by a seated stand, about twenty yards long which is sadly no longer fit for use. It’s a real shame because I can imagine at some point that it would have offered an excellent vantage point for the game.
These days it’s wooden bench seated interior is semi derelict, possibly due to vandalism, and the two staircases which provided access have been boarded up. It still houses the dressing rooms though.
Alongside the stand sits the only cover now on offer at Winton Park, a shallow shed which offered pretty good protection against the wet weather.
There is evidence of a larger and deeper enclosure running half the width of the field at one end of the ground but it has had it’s roof removed.
Other than that, much of the rest of the ground is shallow hard standing – much of which needs some weeding done.
Overall, like so many other Junior venues, Winton Park is desperately tatty and in urgent need of investment and/or attention.
As one of the lesser lights of the Ayrshire scene with a small committee, few fans and no money, the sad thing is that Winton are unlikely to be able to give the place the makeover and regular maintenance it needs.
Perhaps the answer would be for the local authority to step in and do something. Near home, Broxburn Athletic’s Albyn Park is getting a revamp, including the installation of a new 3G pitch which can be used by the local community. Blackburn United have plans for something similar.
In the absence of such schemes, it’s difficult to see Winton Park becoming anything other than more overgrown and falling into an even greater state of disrepair.
I’m glad I made the trip though, because if nothing else it’s a ground with a bit of character.
There were other positive elements. To my great surprise there was a programme on sale, and a decent one at that. Plus I managed a bite to eat at the usual low Junior football prices.
The game was engaging enough too, although the fact that it went down to penalties scuppered any hopes I had of getting my planned train back to Glasgow.
It started well for the black and white striped Rovers with their no 6 Billy Gilmour scoring early. For a lower ranking junior player I was impressed with Gilmour’s use of the ball throughout the game.
Annbank, wearing red, battled back as the rain fell and the wind blew and their no 9 Michael McCann grabbed an equaliser after a glaring defensive error by the Winton no 4.
Annbank could possibly have scored again before half time. They got down the wings well, especially on the right and the Rovers keeper had a couple of saves to keep the scores level at the break.
They kept up the momentum on the restart and went in front with Graham Carmichael, wearing the no 10 shirt producing a simple finish.
Rovers rallied, forcing a few corners. As far as goodscoring chances went they were largely restricted to long range shooting which was dealt with relatively comfortably by the visitors ‘keeper.
At the other end an Annbank sub missed an unbelievable chance to score his side’s third goal and put the tie beyond doubt.
They paid the price when Rovers got a late equaliser with the stocky Gallacher finishing off a magnificent three man move with a finish just inside the six yard box.
After a couple of subsequent ‘near misses’ at the Annbank end in the dying seconds, a penalty shootout followed to decide which of the sides would progress to the semi finals of the ‘Ayrshire Weekly Press’ Cup, no bad thing for a neutral like myself.
As it often the case in shoot-out deciders someone has to be the fall guy, and on this occasion it was Rovers’ no 3 Keir Milliken who had his shot stopped by the Annbank ‘keeper with the scores at 4-4 in sudden death.
Annbank’s no 4 converted the next kick and it was all over for Rovers, who were left with only the consolation of matching a higher ranked side in a good overall contest.
Scoring – 1-0 Gilmour (5), 1-1 McCann (20), 1-2 Carmichael (51), 2-2 Gallacher (84)
Attendance – 53 (h/c)
Admission – £4
Programme – £1
Ground – 5/10 – A sign of the times at the lower end of Junior football
Game – 7/10. Hard fought cup encounter
Overall experience – 6/10. Might have been better on a sunny night!
Match Report Links
Ardrossan Winton Rovers FC official website