We were back at Ochilview again, to take in Stenhousemuir’s re-arranged midweek home game against newly crowned Division 2 champions, and Ramsdens Cup winners, Queen of the South.
This is a venue that was visited in November last year when East Stirling were playing Berwick Rangers, however, having seen the tenant, there was a compulsion to visit the landlord as well!
We went a slightly different way on the approach to the ground this time, not through choice you understand, the woman on my phone app guided us! With the road next to the ground quite busy, we ended up parking further away than the last time, but it was still a relatively short walk and we got there a good fifteen minutes before kick off.
After a quick bite to eat at the snack bar, there seemed to be more space over on the far side of the ground which is normally for the away fans, so we sat in there.
Stenhousemuir, ‘The Warriors’ are still in contention for a Play Off place, while Queens have won the league at a canter, but were wanting to keep their winning sequence going. The hosts Manager is former Motherwell and Kilmarnock defender, Martyn Corrigan. He has a good squad made up of young players and experienced pro’s in key positions like, Chris Smith in goals, David Rowson in midfield, Darren Smith and John Gemmill.
Unfortunately for Corrigan, he had to to do without the services of Brown Ferguson and Stuart Kean who were absent through injury.
We saw Queen of the South play in the Ramsdens Cup Semi Final last October and they just grew stronger as the season wore on. Their management duo of Allan Johnston and Sandy Clark have proved a very good combination, and they too have a fine blend of players for this Division or higher.
Lee Robinson is the regular goalkeeper, Chris Mitchell and Chris Higgins are two of the main men at the back, with Stephen McKenna and Danny Carmichael influencing the midfield. The goal threat would be from top scorer, and son of the Assistant Manager, Nicky Clark, who would be partnered by Derek Lyle in attack. The veteran defender, Ryan McGuffie was on the bench while former Aberdeen midfielder, Derek Young was not in the squad.
As the game got under way, both teams started purposefully and it was the visitors who had the first chance after five minutes. A ball played through for Derek Lyle to chase, saw Stenny ‘keeper, Chris Smith react quickest and he smothered the ball from the strikers feet.
Darren Smith had a half chance for Stenhousemuir a couple of minutes later, but his right foot shot went over the bar. Just before a quarter of an hour, it looked to be business as usual for Queens. Nicky Clark had the ball in the net with a header from a free kick, however the stand side Assistant had already flagged for offside.
Along with really bright sunshine on one side, there was also a strong wind which was affecting the players ability to pass the ball at times. The strange thing was that in spite of this, both teams continued to play long passes which was not pleasing either set of supporters.
The tactics by both teams saw them press high up the park meaning that when balls were played up to the forwards, there were quite a few offside decisions made. Nicky Clark then had a shot blocked, and Derek Lyle fired wide for Queens, while at the other end, Nicky Devlin was unlucky with a drive from twenty yards out after a good passing move.
Just before the half hour mark, Stenhousemuir opened the scoring and it came out of nothing. A ball was played through to Darren Smith at the edge of the box, and with his back to goal, he swivelled and fired a low left foot shot into the net past Lee Robinson.
Queen of the South were slow to respond, but ten minutes from the break, Nicky Clark collected the ball on the left and got a shot in that was deflected wide for a corner. Five minutes later, Stenhousemuir nearly doubled their lead when Jamie Reid’s right wing cross had Robinson scrambling but the ball dropped just over the bar.
Just before the break, Queen of the South created another chance when a good run by Lyle on the right saw him square the ball to Patrick Slattery, but his effort at goal was comfortable held by Smith.
It looked as though Stenhousemuir would be taking their lead into the half time interval, but they gave away a foul some twenty five yards out. Chris Mitchell calmly stepped up, and curled an unstoppable free kick into the top left hand corner to equalise, giving Chris Smith absolutely no chance. Over the balance of play, it was probably no more than they deserved.
During the break, my youngest turns to me, and out the blue, says that he would consider playing for Norwich City! Where it came from I have no idea, but he clearly has ideas well above his station!
Having lost that goal right on half time, it would have been as no surprise if it had affected the Stenhousemuir players. As it goes, the players came out as hungry as they had been in the first half and nearly took the lead again seconds after the restart. A ball was played through for John Gemmill but Robinson got there ahead of the striker to clear.
Just after that, Queen of the South had a good opportunity when Nicky Clark brushed off a defender and unselfishly squared a ball back for Derek Lyle, but he shot wide of the post. Similarly, Danny Carmichael for the visitors took the ball for a run and squared it when he really should have taken a shot himself.
Stenhousemuir’s only real notable chance came from Darren Smith, when he shot just over the bar from a David Rowson pass. Both teams were having spells of possession without really dominating. With just over twenty minutes left, Derek Lyle again had a chance for the visitors from close range, but shot just wide of the post from a tight angle.
As the game entered the last quarter of an hour, Stenhousemuir took the lead again. Having scored in the first half, Darren Smith then turned provider, when his right wing cross picked out Sean Dickson unmarked in the box. He showed great composure to bullet a header into the top corner past the helpless, Lee Robinson.
Minutes later, Stenny ‘keeper, Chris Smith twice came to the rescue when he saved from Nicky Clark in a one on one situation, and also blocked the follow up to maintain their lead.
The home defence were well marshalled, and reacted well to block a Chris Mitchell shot near the very end of the game, and deal with the subsequent corner. The ball was bouncing in and around the home penalty box but ‘keeper, Smith was equal to Lyle’s tame header.
Stenhousemuir saw out two minutes of stoppage time, and although Queen of the South had a couple more long throw ins and corners, their winning run came to an end, and the three points stayed at Ochilview.
Ochilview is quite an accessible venue and easy to find. As mentioned in the write up from the East Stirling game last year, there is not much detailed information to provide. There is really only one way into it, which is like a lane off a side road. Once there, the turnstiles are facing you, or you can walk past the Main Stand to the far side and enter at that end.
The Main Stand is small and does not run the full length of the pitch. A lot of the seats are marked ‘Reserved’ or with people’s names on them which can potentially limit your seating options. For games that draw small crowds, I am unsure if the club open the terracing behind the goals. There were 504 fans at this game, and it did not appear to be an option available to fans.
Opposite the Main Stand there are the dug outs and a high fence, with some car parking spaces and housing behind it. To the right, it is also fenced off with a five a side pitch adjacent. For a couple of televised games at Ochilview this season there have been some limited standing space in the above areas, meaning that the ground capacity of just over 5,200 has been fully maximised.
From both the games we have attended at Ochilview, both sets of supporters have mingled without any animosity. Once in the ground the toilets are on your right hand side, the club merchandise is sold from a small hut facing you and there is a programme seller situated next to it. The programme itself is basic, but informative and very reasonably priced at £1.50.
The food bar is situated on the left, and has a good selection on offer at very reasonable prices. If I had any criticism it would be the admission charges. I did contact the club in advance of the game, but unfortunately received an almost discourteous, unhelpful response. At £13 for adults and £8 concessions, I felt this was over priced, suffice to say it was not the best value we have had in Division 2 so far this season.