May 6, 2009 – Olivebank Park, Musselburgh
This really was a superb advert for Junior football.
A draw would have all but assured already-promoted Musselburgh of the East Premier League championship, while Star needed a similar result to join them in next year’s Super League.
Both teams went at it full pelt in a game which was contested more as a cup-tie than a league match and in the end ten-man Star clinched their promotion and kept the title race going. They are now on 42 points from 19 games while Burgh have stacked up 48 from 21 outings.
I felt this was always likely to be a tight affair but I was tempted to revisit my prediction of a draw after a first half which Star dominated almost from start to finish.
They got in front when Ian Thomson weaved past a couple of Musselburgh defenders before hitting a good strike from the edge of the penalty area.
They almost doubled their lead around ten minutes before the break but some alert defending denied Thomson whose shot looked so likely to find the net he had already began his goal celebration before it was booted clear!
The second goal did come on the stroke of half time – a peach from Stuart Roseburgh from the angle of the box which gave the Musselburgh goalie no chance at his near post.
Having seen Star struggle to get goals against Kinnoull and Camelon, I finally had an indication of why they were having such a good season as some of their football was excellent at times.
In contrast Burgh disappointed me greatly in the first half, but it didn’t take long for them to put that right when Chris King converted a clever knockdown from his strike partner.
I remember King from a few years ago when he was part of the Livingston youth team. He didn’t get a chance at first team level at Almondvale, but even allowing for a substantial weight gain since his younger days he certainly has enough in his locker to perform well at junior level.
Burgh were fired up at the start of the second half and the King goal gave them a real chance, but Newtongrange snuffed out their hopes with a set-piece goal in which the Athletic defence was posted missing.
Athletic later set up a tense finish with their second goal a Scott Gibson header which was well executed but would have been seen as an absolute giveaway from a Newtongrange point of view.
In the closing stages the pace of the game was relentless, with both sides approaching it with a terrific attacking attitude. I’m reluctant to roll out the cliches but the game was played out like a cup-tie, with no quarter given.
In the modern era it is rare to see drop balls contested but there were a couple to see here. One of them provided a comedy moment when a Newtongrange player crumpled after an opponent missed the ball entirely and made a thumping contact with his leg instead.
The commitment shown throughout was what fundamentally made this such a good game to watch but there was skill on show too and I fancy both Musselburgh and Newtongrange to put in a good showing when they take to the field in the Super League next season.
While the play was a pleasant surprise, so too was Olivebank, a ground I had not visited for a very long time before this game.
Back in the day, I used to be an annual visitor to watch the five-a-side tournament which is organised as part of the Honest Toun gala week every July. Meadowbank were regular contestants and even won it a couple of times.
Livingston have taken part in more recent times, but the appearance of an Under 19 team has usually co-incided with a first team friendly elsewhere and I’ve not made it.
Since I last dropped in, probably in the early 1990s, Olivebank has been improved substantially. As far as I remember there was no cover at that time, something which has been remedied with a small enclosure built on one side.
My guess is that it is quite new given that it includes special provision for wheelchair supporters, something which is extremely unusual in junior football.
The remainder of the place is quite spartan. The dressing rooms are at one end with the facilities for the respective teams and the officials set apart from each other in an unorthodox way.
At this end there is also a refreshment stand, selling decent enough pies and the usual range of beverages.
The opposite end is grass banking, albeit cut short, something which cannot be said for the Olivebank of old when the growth was waist high.
The remaining side, closest to the entrance gates is uncovered and partly terraced. It includes a couple of quirky features, not least a small kids playpark in the corner, which must be unique, while the far end narrows to a steep path which leads to what at some time must have been a second entrance to the ground.
As far as East Region grounds go it’s pretty average, but unlike most it is in better shape than it was a couple of decades ago, and seems to be well maintained.
With Burgh stepping up a league, Olivebank and its quirks should see a few more punters next season. If the home side keep up the level of entertainment seen against Newtongrange on this occasion they will be in for a treat.
Scoring – 0-1 Thomson (18), 0-2 Roseburgh (44), 1-2 King (54), 1-3 Roseburgh (63), 2-3 Gibson (75)
Attendance – 200 (est)
Admission – £5
Programme – none
Ground – 6/10 – Much improved since my last visit
Game – 9/10. Excellent entertainment
Overall experience – 7/10. Only real downside was the Scottish weather
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