With respect to Dumbarton, visits to the Bet Butler Stadium don’t tend to stand out in Livingston’s fixture list. A quirk of fate will ensure that this fairly unremarkable game will be remembered forever by at least one travelling supporter, however.
With it’s single modern stand, Dumbarton’s home ground is nothing to write home about. That said, this game was a bit of a bonus for me, given that it should have been played on January 25, when I took my trip to Coxhoe.
A waterlogged pitch stopped the game going ahead that day, and somewhat surprisingly it was quickly rearranged for last Wednesday, supporters getting barely four days’ notice of the new date.
It was surprising in as much as Dumbarton had a fairly important weekend date with Alloa in the Scottish Cup ahead and it seemed odd to schedule a league game just three days before hand, both in terms of preserving energy levels and preventing injuries.
This was my third visit of the campaign to Dumbarton. My season began there way back on June 29 when I saw Hibs toil to a pre-season friendly against the home side.
Ian Murray’s men have had a very good season and sit in the top half of the Scottish Championship before kick off – a great achievement for a part time club with a lower than average budget for the division.
Another back to back defeats, I was looking for my own side to stop the rot. Slovenian defender Nejc Mevlja was included for his debut while another recent signing Michal Habai advanced from the bench for his first start.
A meagre crowd of 562 assembled for the game, including barely 100 Livi fans, and throughout the first half the game was played in a funereal atmosphere, with every shout from the players clearly audible.
It wasn’t much of a first half at all and was summed up with a bad miss in front of goal by Andy Barrowman. Think Billy Bremner against Brazil in 1974.
Barrowman subsequently made up for it, but not before the night was written into folklore when referee Stevie O’Reilly went off injured.
With no fourth official on hand, the game was only able to proceed thanks to a tannoy appeal for a qualified ref to run the line, so that one of the assistants could step into the middle.
Hero of the hour, as far as getting the game finished was fellow Livi supporter Colin Brown, whose dad Bill is a regular traveller on our supporters’ bus.
I’d seen Colin referee before – one of my son’s games – and I suspect that getting involved in an SPFL game was a daunting experience for a guy more used to officiating amateur and kids matches.
The game was held up for a good ten minutes while he readied himself for his fifteen minutes of fame, and he got a well deserved cheer when he emerged with a flag to take up duty on the standside.
Thankfully, he was spared any controversy in his twenty-five minutes or so on the line, with only one tight offside call to give (he got it right).
The delay seemed to spark the game into life as far as goals were concerned, with Keaghan Jacobs and Andy Barrowman both putting Livi into the lead, only for Dumbarton to peg us back twice to claim a point.
The Sons were reduced to ten men by O’Reilly when he booked Garry Fleming for a second yellow card shortly before going off, and from that perspective I suspect that they were happier with the point than we were.
Predictably, there were post match grumbles about the lack of a fourth official at Championship matches from Dumbarton manager Ian Murray, who quite reasonably raised the point that the SPFL make an exception to the rule for Rangers in League One.
Given that referee injuries are rare, and Scottish football isn’t exactly awash with spare cash, I think we can continue to live with the basic requirement of three officials for now.
Though isn’t ironic that when referees are said to be in short supply, there always seems to be one kicking about in the stand when the need arises?!
Dumbarton: Grindlay, McGinn, Linton, Turner (Megginson 7), Graham, Miller, Fleming, Agnew (Gilhaney 68), Kane, Prunty (Nish 68), Kirkpatrick. Not used: Smith, McDougall, Thomson, Lumsden
Livingston: Walker, Mampuya, Talbot (Docherty 83), Habai (McNulty 67), Fordyce, Mensing, Ke Jacobs, O’Brien, Barrowman, Mevija, Scott (Burchill 90+11). Not used: Denholm, Wilkie, Sives, McCaldon
Ref: Stevie O’Reilly – replaced by Raymond Whyte
Scoring: 0-1 Jacobs, 1-1 Nish, 1-2 Barrowman, 2-2 Kane
Attendance: 562 (official)
Programme: £2 (original date with insert)
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