Friday 25th February 2022 7:45pm – The Lowland League – Recreation Park, Alloa
Who wouldn’t want to spend their Friday night’s in the heart of Clackmannanshire in the middle of a yellow weather warning for snow? That’s obviously a rhetorical question as the answer would be everyone if they had the chance. And here I was, with that chance.
Work done for the day I headed east from Glasgow to the home of John Jameson, founder of Jameson’s Irish Whiskey. I’d expected a bit of a crowd on the train – Rangers fans are passionate about their club and after the superb two-legged victory over Borussia Dortmund last night they would surely be out to gloat but a solitary fan disembarked at Alloa and trudged towards Recreation Park, home of Alloa Athletic and Lowland League tenants Broomhill.
The rights and wrongs of Celtic and Rangers’ B/U23/Development sides being allowed to compete in this season’s Lowland League has been debated long into the night – in theory it’s a season long experiment before any more structural changes are introduced in the Scottish game that will allow them to play within the professional game. For this season though they can’t be promoted or relegated and have paid a “bounty”, shared equally among the other Lowland clubs for the pleasure.
Scottish grounds fall into two camps in my experience. The ones that go for the same food and drink (Scotch Pie and a Bovril as the Football Happy Meal) and those that go so far off menu it’s a crime not to tuck in. The signs, quite literally, weren’t good to start here with the headline act appearing to be “Pie on a roll”. But brush that aside and you could have enjoyed a freshly made Black Pudding, Bacon and potato scone roll (Heinz Beans optional), thick Lentil soup that you could stand a spoon up in or sausages wrapped in bacon, inside a sausage.
Three days worth of calories consumed in one bread roll It was time for some football. The recent snow had been swept aside, leaving huge piles of the stuff on the touchlines, absolutely ripe for a player to dive in. The specks of rubber crumb embedded in the snow highlighted one of the main issues with 3G pitches – when the snow arrives you either have to wait for it to melt or risk losing the little bits of rubber that keeps the fibres in shape if you brush it off. A costly option if it happens too often.
Around two hundred fans, most sitting high up in the warmth of the main stand welcomed the two teams, who emerged from different directions to meet the officials who were located in a portakabin on the far side and we were off.
The visitors took the lead against the run of play in the 10th minute with Arron Lyall dancing through the defence and slotting home, but within a minute Broomhill were almost level as Gray hit the post with a shot more in hope than anything else. Ten minutes before the break and Smith almost lobs the Rangers keeper from the half-way line.
Half-time. Cup of tea and a Tunnock’s wafer.
The second half could have gone either way with both sides creating chances. Broomhill finished last season in 4th place in the league, based on PPG but second on points earned. With only one side qualifying for the promotion playoffs it’s always going to be a tough job to finish top and this season they sit down in 13th spot. But they showed enough fight to match the full-timers from Rangers. But it was the away side who came away with all three points after Ritchie-Hosler headed home a second with 20 minutes left to play.
The return train had a bit more life on it although the majority of the passengers weren’t football fans but youngsters who were off for a night on the bright lights of West George Street and had all seemed to forgotten anything that would be considered to be warm clothing. Oh to be young again….but perhaps not shoe-horned into a B team set up where the future doesn’t necessarily look bright.
I will leave the final words of a night in Alloa to the Tweeter from Broomhill.
“A really committed, organised performance but sometimes you just come up against very good players. Goodnight