The good weather on the road continued as we visited South Lanarakshire for Hamilton Accies hosting of Livingston at New Douglas Park in the First Division. Everything had gone to plan up until the last part of our journey there, for although we could see the floodlights we were going round the town centre in circles on the one way system for about ten minutes trying to find decent street parking away from the retail areas surrounding the ground!
Before setting off for the game i’d given my daughter money to go out with her friends, however on arriving I realised that in doing so i’d actually left myself short of money to get into the game! I went to the main office to see about buying tickets from there and possibly switching the payment, but they no longer had this facility, so it meant a long and unfortunate walk round to the Morrison’s cash machine!
As it goes, the inconvenient detour worked out in our favour as while we went to enter the ground I was talking to a steward and the turnstile operator, when a guy behind shouted on me to ask if I was paying my son in. Confused, I said I was intending to, and before I could say anything else, he shook his head and said “don’t, here, use this and give it back to us once yer in”. It was a concession season ticket which wasn’t being used for this game and which saved me £8 so I was well chuffed! I offered to buy him and the young girl with him a programme or something from the food kiosk as a gesture but he politely declined saying he only wanted to save us some money. Even in a time when people normally only think of themselves, mainly through the current economic strife and austerity it was reassuring almost to know there are still decent people in society. It was a genuinely thoughtful gesture and very much appreciated having recently had the very opposite experience at Falkirk FC.
We sat in the right hand corner of the main stand and got a section of seating pretty much to ourselves. If you weren’t in early enough for this one you risked missing one or all of the goals as they were all scored in the first ten minutes of the game!
Both sides have had a mixed start to the season and have been predominantly depending on youth having sold or released the higher earners within their respective playing staff over the last few years. There are of course pro’s and cons to this, on the one hand you are giving promising young players an opportunity in the first team, and Hamilton have had a lot of success with this, then on the other the team tends to have a lack of consistency due to not having experience or leaders on the pitch. Still, each side did have a couple of players who I recognised and who had played in the SPL in recent seasons.
Seconds into the game, Accies on loan striker Stevie May found himself out on the left hand side. With little support around him and with Livi looking like they had adequate cover defensively, May cut inside a couple of players and got to the byline, before squeezing the ball from a very tight angle under the keeper Andy McNeill into the far corner of the net.
Minutes later Livingston were level and it was completely avoidable. Accies keeper, Kevin Cuthbert rolled the ball out to the edge of the box, full back Grant Gillespie tried to then play a short pass across ‘the D’ to Alex Neill which was intercepted by Stefan Scougall and from 18 yards he curled a shot into the bottom right hand corner of the net to equalise.
Again, merely five minutes after that catastrophic defending, Accies were at it again when they lost possession near the half way line. A couple of passes later the ball found it’s way through to Marc McNulty and from a relatively tight angle, calmly lifted the ball over Cuthbert to put the visitors ahead.
The home crowd were beginning to get on the backs of the players and their Manager, Billy Reid. Livingston had a couple of good chances to extend their lead but maybe over passed the ball when the better option was to get shots away. It wasn’t all one way traffic though as Accies forced Andy McNeill into a couple of saves before the break.
Whatever was said at the break by the home Manager it seemed to work as Hamilton Accies looked the hungrier side in the early stages of the second half. For all their endeavour they couldn’t break down Livingston’s defence and despite hitting the side netting and making two positive substitutions on the hour mark it just looked like it wasn’t going to be their day. What they didn’t need was to lose Alex Neill to a straight red card with twenty minutes left following a full blooded challenge on the Spaniard, Garcia Tena. From our position it looked like a 50/50 challenge but judging by the reaction of the players it was clearly more than that!
Livingston lost their extra man advantage only minutes later when full back Kevin McCann received a second yellow for a cynical tackle on the half way line. The visitors then survived a penalty claim very near the end when Stevie May appeared to be caught by the defender but the referee waved play on. Again from our position it looked like a penalty and the home players and fans were rightly aggrieved at the decision. In the end Livingston held on to claim all three points in what was a very open and attacking game of football.
New Douglas Park is quite smart and the staff we spoke to we’re helpful and friendly. It composes the main stand which contains all the home fans and a stand behind one of the goals which houses the away support. Behind the other goal is a small fence and an astro 5 a side pitch with a warm up area which the substitutes can use. Opposite the main stand there is a very small seated enclosure with a television gantry which is dwarfed by the back of the local Morrison’s food store and is only used on occasion though not likely to be used regularly in the First Division.
We left the ground right on the final whistle and headed up the road to get the car thinking that was a decent game and venture out when I ended up in the wrong lane and was forced to go south heading for Carlisle! I don’t think there were many negative things of note, though would suggest the club look at considering a parent an child gate. If i had taken both my boys it would have set me back £32 and don’t think that represents value for money. Without linking the crowd with the prices, todays attendance of just under 1,000 was disappointing for what I would consider two of the better sides in this league.