Wednesday, July 22, 2009 – St Mark’s Park, Edinburgh
In the early 1990s, when I covered East of Scotland League games for the Pink News, Craigroyston used to groundshare at City Park with Spartans, a situation which didn’t help a pitch which was poor at the best of times.
Craigie managed to secure a let on St Mark’s Park a few years ago, establishing their own place, but curiously it has taken me until now to make it along for a first visit.
St Mark’s Park is situated just north (or downhill) from Edinburgh City Centre, a short distance over the Water of Leith from where Powderhall Stadium once stood.
Better known for its speedway and greyhound racing in latter years, Powderhall had a lengthy footballing history, being the big match venue of choice for local games in Victorian times.
Indeed, whole locality area has a rich heritage as far as the beautiful game goes. The site of St Bernards’ former home at Logie Green Road is also close by, famous for being the venue for the 1896 Scottish Cup final between Hibs and Hearts – the only one ever held outside Glasgow.
St Mark’s Park has a far more humble history, although there’s been a football park there for years. It was a venue for schools football when I was a lad.
It’s been developed since then, with a new looking metal rail round the pitch. Other than that there’s not much in the way of spectator facilities. It’s a ‘bring a brolly’ type of place, although some limited shelter can be had from some overhanging trees on one side of the park.
With crowd figures generally very low indeed for most East of Scotland League games the lack of cover isn’t a big issue. More important at this level is a decent set of dressing rooms and that seems to be covered.
The dressing room building also houses a refreshment kiosk, but it’s unusual in that it lies a short walk from the pitch, across the car park. Indeed, if you want to buy a pie after paying in, you need to go back out of the entrance gate.
Craigroyston are a fair to middling East of Scotland League side, so they faced a fairly steep challenge in this game, with a Hibs’ youth side in opposition.
Hibs won the League and Cup double at youth level last season, no mean feat, although it wasn’t clear whether their team had changed much over the summer.
With their full time training and preparation pitched against a plucky set of amateurs, I fully expected Hibs to win very convincingly – even at this early stage of the season – and the first half backed up my view.
Hibs no 10 Harry Monaghan opened the scoring after six minutes with a well hit shot, and by the midway stage of the half it was 2-0, when Craigie’s goalkeeper – possibly the shortest keeper I have ever encountered – erred, allowing Hibs no 11 John Wright to sweep the ball home from close range.
Whether frustrated or simply outplayed, Craigie met the early Hibs goals with brute force. Hibs players were fouled heavily and often, a pattern which continued right through until the end of the game.
The home side did have chances. An early shot from their no 9 Sean Martin hit the bar when the score was 1-0, and the Hibs’ keeper had a good save as half time approached.
In the second half the game tightened up, and while Craigroyston were well organised, it seemed apparent that Hibs were more or less happy with the two goal lead.
They were content to stroke the ball around while their opponents chased the game. There were more meaty challenges from the Craigie boys, but in fairness they also carved out the best second half chances with their no 14 forcing Hibs’ keeper into one particularly good save.
Alas, there was no more scoring and 2-0 it ended. As far as pre-season friendlies go it was pretty much as you might expect, especially from a Hibs side who looked like they were still in the very early stages of the preparations for the new season.
It was good to bag another new ground too, even if it was a bit overdue.
Scoring – 0-1 Monaghan (6), 0-2 Wright (15)
Attendance – 150 est
Admission – £4
Programme – free on admission, extras £1
Food – Pie £1
Match Rating: 6/10