Date: Wednesday, July 16, 2014 – 7.45pm
Venue: Gayfield Park, Arbroath
Last year, the Livingston pre-season featured a training camp with games against Romanian opposition in the north of England, followed by an attractive couple of home games and a two match tour of the far north of Scotland.
It was always going to be a hard act to follow, and it’s fair to say that this year’s programme isn’t anything like as varied or interesting.
It’s not without it’s highlights though, with twin trips to Angus to face Forfar Athletic and Arbroath.
Last week’s draw with Forfar was played in glorious weather and despite some changeable conditions during the day, the sun shone on Gayfield for the evening game against League Two side Arbroath.
Gayfield isn’t a ground I’ve visited too often, mainly on account of the fact that Arbroath and Livingston have been dodging each other in the Scottish Leagues since 1995 – remarkable given the ups and downs of my own club in particular.
My last Gayfield game was a similar pre-season friendly in 2000; a Monday night game which rounded off a four-day, four-game tour which also included friendlies with Cove Rangers, Montrose and Keith.
With it’s famously close proximity to the North Sea – it’s literally yards from the water – a relatively warm July night is probably the best possible time to take in a game here.
I’ve had the dubious pleasure of visiting on a Tuesday night in November (for a Meadowbank Thistle reserve game no less!) and it can get extremely unpleasant, especially if it’s windy.
No problem for this trip though, on which I was joined by Gordon and Peter, with Gordon behind the wheel. Indeed, the weather was fair enough for us to enjoy a fish supper sitting outside the Bell Rock chippy, just a couple of hundred yards along the road from the ground.
I resisted the temptation to have an Arbroath Smokie supper in favour of it’s non smoked cousin and like last week’s takeaway in Forfar, it was first class. Lovely and fresh.
We parked up at the ground well ahead of kick off, exchanging the reasonable sum of £8 for admission. I was disappointed though not surprised at the lack of a programme, though teamsheets were on sale from the club shop at 25p a go.
What became clear almost immediately is that Gayfield has changed very little in the fourteen years or so since I last visited.
A low, seated stand runs the length of the pitch on one side and has had new plastic seats installed. The last time I was here, the original wooden bench seating was still ethere, with cushions available to add a much needed layer of comfort.
A continuous sweeping terrace forms a horseshoe shape around the rest of the ground and unusually there is substantial cover on all three sides – no bad thing given the grim weather here in winter.
Like Forfar, Arbroath keep their ground very well maintained. The whole place is spick and span, all terracing is safe and secure and there are plenty of freshly painted crush barriers to lean on.
Not that there was any crush tonight of course.
Exact crowd figures are rarely given for pre-season friendlies but we were informed in the second half that the attendance was 272, of which a few dozen at most had journeyed up from Livingston.
Those that made the effort were rewarded with a Livi performance that was an improvement on the previous three friendly outings.
The first goal came in the tenth minute after Kyle Jacobs caught Arbroath defender Erhard in possession 25 yards from goal before find the net with a fine early strike.
Danny Mullen netted the second just eight minutes later. It was another precision strike – a lob from 30 yards – but the home defence didn’t cover itself in glory in the lead up to the goal.
In fairness to them, Arbroath carried a threat, though their best chance of the contest came just before Mullen’s second goal when Buchan’s shot from outside the box was headed off the line by Sives.
Arbroath looked a bit better in the second half, but they really lacked a cutting edge and it was a fairly comfortable night for Livi keeper Darren Jamieson and his defence.
Livi sealed the win with another lovely goal in the 65th minute, Mullen surging forward before feeding Moffat whose cross found the wonderfully named Myles Hippolyte in the box to head home.
I stood throughout the game near the centre of the long terrace opposite the stand – the one that sits parallel with the sea. A fenced off TV camera position sits right at the mid point of this terrace, which is a pity because it does hinder the sightlines somewhat.
That said, there was plenty of scope to move around, which was well illustrated at half time when a number of Arbroath fans indulged in the age old and almost forgotten practice of changing ends.
That massed migration during the break – which was bizarrely filled by some funereal ‘music’ and chat from a bloke with a strong West Country accent – summed up Gayfield nicely.
It’s a ground that is very traditional in appearance and character, but is modern and well enough looked after to be more than sufficient for Arbroath’s needs.
I’m hoping that I don’t need to wait another fourteen years before going back, but I’ll bet if I do, it won’t have changed much. And that’s a good thing.
Scoring: 0-1 Kyle Jacobs (11), 0-2 Danny Mullen (18), 0-3 Myles Hippolyte (65)
Attendance: 272 (official)
Programme: none, teamsheets available for 25p
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