May 11, 2009 – Recreation Park, Pumpherston
In contrast to Saturday’s downpours, the weather was glorious for this meeting of two of West Lothian’s lesser Junior clubs.
The venue for this end-of-season encounter was Recreation Park, which is tucked in amongst houses just off the main road through Pumpherston in West Lothian.
Pumpherston is a fairly unremarkable place. At one stage it was at the centre of the Scottish shale oil industry and it’s a fairly little known fact that the company we know today as BP can trace it’s history back to the giant refinery which once stood there.
These days ‘Pumphy’, like nearby Mid Calder has been virtually absorbed into the sprawling new town of Livingston but for the time being has just about managed to retain its identity as a distinct village.
It’s not an unpleasant place and there are certainly far dodgier spots on the Junior football map but it would be fair to say that it has very few distinguishing features. It’s former Co-op building is a bit of a landmark but is now an oversized Indian restaurant called Raj Poot.
For a small village it also has disproportionate number of takeaway food outlets, while it got a brief mention on national telly a couple of years back when wheelchair bound resident Kerry McGregor got to the latter stages of the X Factor.
The local population can’t be far into four figures and the interest in their resident football team is low.
The result is that Pumpherston Juniors, with a handful of followers and a small committee, tend to scratch out an existence in the lower reaches of the East Region structure.
Their visitors on this occasion, Stoneyburn have a similar demographic and there are parallels in history.
Pumpherston was without a Junior club between 1974 and 1990 when the current club was “re-established”. Stoneyburn had a lengthier spell in abeyence, disappearing in the late 1950s before re-emerging in 1983.
The current Pumpherston and Stoneyburn clubs haven’t enjoyed a great deal of success since re-entering the Junior ranks, although their more elderly fans might be able to recount their halcyon days.
Pumpherston’s peak was an unlikely appearance in the Scottish Junior Cup final in 1958, when they were defeated by Shotts Bon Accord at Hampden. Stoneyburn’s best days came just before the onset of the Second World War when they won the league and three other trophies in one spectacular season.
With money especially tight at this end of the Junior spectrum it was surprising that Pumpherston didn’t seem too bothered about charging admission for this game.
Recreation Park has three entrances although the one which backs onto the Cawburn Inn, the local pub, is rarely used these days.
Entry can be gained beside the pavilion which dominates the ground, but to get that far most spectators would need to pass the main gate which is situated off Drumshoreland Place.
When I approached no more than about ten minutes before kick off, the gate was closed with no one to be seen. It opened eventually, but not before most of the crowd had wandered into the ground free of charge.
With no raffle discernable and no food on sale, Pumpherston’s take from this game must have been minimal.
The ground itself is a basic affair although the aforementioned pavilion is fairly notable. With the dressing rooms at ground level and a clubroom situated above it’s two storeys tower over the pitch.
Behind it lies some car parking and a second pitch, which at the start of the game was being used for training by a boys’ team, while there seems to be some DIY work ongoing to create an all-weather floodlit fives pitch just alongside.
The ground’s only other permanent feature lies opposite, a thirty yard long cover which spans the halfway line. The area underneath isn’t terraced and there’s quite a bit of vegetation developing, its growth assisted by the fact that the roof has corroded away in places.
With a mere smattering of fans and a semi-rural location, Recreation Park should probably be quite a peaceful place to watch football but alas it’s right in the flightpath for Edinburgh Airport, and the shouts of the players are drowned out every couple of minutes by the roar of an incoming jet.
Less of an irritation but still audible during this game was the distant buzz of scramble bikes, presumably being ridden up and down the nearby shale bing by some fearless youngsters.
Stoneyburn were similarly gung-ho in their approach to the evening’s main event once it kicked off, and they could have been several goals ahead in an opening spell which was notable mainly for some dreadful defensive play by the home side.
They scored just once, an opportunist stab home from Baird inside the six yard box and were pegged back not long afterwards, Pumpherston’s McSkimming found the net with a long range strike which should have been easily dealt with by the Stoneyburn ‘keeper.
One player who caught my eye through the first half was the Pumpherston no 5, playing at centre-back. In all my years of watching football I can seldom remember seeing quite as poor a performance as this guy turned in.
He didn’t reappear after the interval, but by then he had played a supporting role in the second Stoneyburn goal of the evening, once again scored by Baird.
Pumpherston were spasmodic in the first half and by my reckoning were very fortunate to go in only one goal behind.
They were much improved in the second period – presumably after a few harsh words from their manager – but despite seeing a lot more of the ball they didn’t offer much to test the suspect Stoneyburn ‘keeper.
Instead the only scoring of the half came at the other end, with Baird finishing off a fine hat-trick with an unstoppable strike from the angle of the penalty area with about 14 minutes left. It was a cracking goal and would have been worth the admission money alone, had I paid any.
Although Pumphy possible edged the second half, Stoneyburn were deserved winners over what was a good, honest ninety minutes of football.
Scoring – 0-1 Baird, 1-1 McSkimming, 1-2 Baird, 1-3 Baird
Attendance – 47 (h/c)
Admission – £nil
Programme – none
Ground – 6/10 – Intimate but basic
Game – 7/10. Competitive tussle
Overall experience – 7/10. Pleasant evening in the sun
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