GAME 15 – GLASGOW UNIVERSITY 1-9 COVE RANGERS
Date: Saturday, August 16, 2014 – 3.00pm
Venue: Garscube Sports Complex, Glasgow
‘Focussing on the league’ at the expense of cup competitions is a modern phenomenon, but I’m an old skool supporter in most ways and as such I love the cut and thrust of knockout football, especially in the Scottish Cup.
As a supporter of a middle ranking Scottish club, the chance of a ‘romantic’ cup tie is fairly slim; most of the so-called minnows have been weeded out long before Livingston enter the competition in the third or fourth round.
In the last decade or so, we have had away ties against Spartans and junior side Irvine Meadow. Both were enjoyable and unique occasions and thankfully both ended in thumping Livi wins, thereby avoiding a giant killing.
This season I’ve decided to make a conscious effort to see more of the Scottish Cup, it’s Junior and Amateur counterparts, and, if the chance arises, the FA Cup and FA Vase south of the border.
Howls of ‘part timer’ have already thrown my way by Livi-supporting pals – a fair enough accusation given that missing Livi games to go elsewhere, but the bottom line is that right now I fancy a bit more variety in terms of the football I’m watching.
Saturday saw the Scottish Cup kick off with a ‘Preliminary Round’, a device that’s only rarely been needed in the past to whittle numbers down.
This year’s competition has a number of new participants, including newly licensed clubs Linlithgow Rose and Banks o’ Dee from the junior ranks, so eight preliminary ties were drawn with six clubs receiving a bye.
I’m no fan of the SFA Club Licensing system on the grounds that it can prioritise the number of boxes ticked on an arbitrary assessment form above on-field prowess – for me the only thing that really matters.
Alas, the Hampden beaks disagree and part of their drive to force clubs to get ‘licensed’ – often by spending money they don’t have on things that don’t really matter – involved herding all the unlicensed club entries into the preliminary round draw.
I weighed up a few options before selecting Glasgow University’s home tie with Cove Rangers as my chosen preliminary game, deciding it had just enough potential ‘romance’ to beat off Lothian Thistle v Burntisland Shipyard and Hurlford United v Edinburgh University.
Glasgow University enter the cup annually thanks to having maintained their historic membership of the SFA. These days they compete in the Caledonian Amateur League, where they are unique in taking part in THE Scottish Cup as well as the Scottish Amateur Cup.
I saw Caledonian League games at Rothesay and Viewfield Rovers late last season and the standard wasn’t too bad. I’ve certainly seen worse sides in the lower reaches of junior football.
That said, Uni only finished third last season and Cove Rangers were amongst the top two or three sides they could have drawn at this stage.
They finished seventh in the strong Highland League last season but are one of only two unlicensed clubs in that competition, I assume down to the deficiencies in their Allan Park home ground which has a very small pitch. Fort William are the other in case you’re interested.
As far as playing pedigree was concerned, I expected nothing other than a thumping Cove Rangers win. Indeed, I was surprised that they weren’t priced much shorter than the 1/4 odds offered by competition sponsors William Hill.
There was a suggestion that Glasgow University would be playing cup ties at Firhill, but perhaps guided by the draw, this game was staged at Garscube Sports Complex, a mile or two up Maryhill Road from the venerable home of Partick Thistle.
My journey involved two trains – the first one from Bathgate to Glasgow Queen Street Low Level before changing to the high level train to Anniesland, which stops at Maryhill. It’s a tour of some of northern Glasgow’s less salubrious neighbourhoods, including the nice-sounding-but-grim-in-reality Possilpark & Parkhouse.
The complex, part of the Kelvin Campus of the West of Scotland Science Park was about ten minutes walk further on from the train station, heading in the general direction of Bearsden and Milngavie – leafy East Dunbartonshire satellites of the big city.
Garscube, whilst very pleasant, is probably the most basic venue that will host Scottish Cup football this season. A table served as the entrance point where £5 admission was handed over and programmes purchased for £1.
Another one formed a kind of tuck shop on one side of the pitch, which was enclosed by the kind of temporary plastic mesh fence you sometimes see on a building site.
There was no cover for paying spectators or club officials, who together made up an attendance of around 100 for a traditional 3pm kick off.
It was, however, the Scottish Cup and in spite of the spartan facilities, I felt a wee buzz around the game. This was the game of the season for the Uni players after all, and may prove to be the final Scottish Cup tie ever to be played on this venue.
If the whole set-up around about it was a bit ‘makeshift’, the pitch itself was in absolutely first class condition – almost bowling green like. While I stood watching the warm-ups I thought that might not be a good thing for the Uni side if Cove were a decent footballing side.
Conditions were what can only be described as autumnal – chilly, a bit breezy and generally overcast though the sun put in an occasional appearance throughout the afternoon.
I watched the first half on the side nearest the dressing rooms, sandwiched between two members of the Fourth Estate: well known Sun hack Bill Leckie and a female with a notebook who looked slightly less familiar with the beautiful game.
I switched to the opposite side for the second half where there was much less shelter from the wind and only a handful of hardy spectators, most of whom looked like groundhoppers.
We were all treated to a game which was one sided in the extreme.
Glasgow University’s players deserve all the praise going for the way that they approached the game, always attempting to play decent football and never letting their heads go down. This was especially true of their dogged left back Stevie Learmont who put more last ditch challenges than I could count.
Nevertheless, they were hopelessly out of their depth against a Cove Rangers side that racked up three first half goals to put the game beyond doubt at the halfway stage.
All three were scored by their number ten Jamie Watt, with the third, a deft flick at the near post, the pick of the goals.
Over and above picking the ball out of his net three times, the Uni keeper was kept busy, making a couple of really good saves.
When the second half kicked off it was already a damage limitation exercise for Uni, but two goals in the first few minutes after the break looked ominous for the honest lads in gold and black.
I was convinced that Cove would hit double figures and they would have done quite easily had they been a bit more clinical in front of goal. They did go on to score another four, but there were numerous efforts on goal that went over and wide, while the Uni keeper stopped a few more.
The ease by which Cove crushed the Uni hopes was the antithesis of Cup romance, but there was at least one home goal to applaud, and predictably it got the biggest cheer of the afternoon.
Given that it was 6-0 Cove at the time, there was a slightly patronising tone to the acclaim afforded to Sean Dunion’s consolation goal, a lovely finish from the left hand side of the penalty area after the Cove defence went AWOL momentarily.
The final 9-1 scoreline was the biggest of the day and may very well prove to be the biggest of this season’s tournament.
Victorious Cove can look forward to a home tie against Newton Stewart or Hawick Royal Albert in the first round; Glasgow Uni’s plucky students have the consolation of a stab at the Scottish Amateur Cup which gets underway next month.
Scoring: 0-1 Watt (20), 0-2 Watt (25), 0-3 Watt (40), 0-4 Yule (47), 0-5 Scully (49), 0-6 J Smith (55), 1-6 Dunion (65), 1-7 Lennox (70), 1-8 Lennox (73), 1-9 Selfridge (90)
Attendance: 100 (approx)
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