Brechin City v Stranraer 23rd April 2012

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So we finally made it to Glebe Park, Brechin, for the midweek Division 2 fixture between Brechin City and Stranraer. This is one of many recent re-arranged fixtures for the home side, following drainage problems with the pitch which have led to a raft of postponements and a fixture headache.

We have made plans to visit here on three previous occasions in the last couple of months, but each time the game has been called off due to the aforementioned drainage issue. In fact, the situation has been that bad that Brechin had to play a match recently at Station Park, which is the home of local rivals, Forfar Athletic.

Again, this was a meticulously planned journey, with an early finish from work to ensure some progress was made through the rush hour traffic. As it goes, it went so well we were parked on the main road just along from the ground at 7pm, giving us ample time for a look around.

It was a lovely, bright night, ideal for watching or playing football. Having strolled round a couple of the local shops in town, we then decided to go into the ground early, taking a couple of pictures outside the main entrance beforehand.

Outside the turnstiles it states the admission prices, with parent and child listed as £12. However, the young guy tried to charge us £18 before I highlighted what the sign, which is fastened to the wall outside said! Another young guy then came up and said the price was £15. I am not sure if they were at it, but we ended up paying it just to get in!

From there, we walked through on the right hand side to the Main Stand and crossed the tunnel area, surprisingly unchallenged by the stewards. This leads you out to the club shop on the far right hand corner. It is a small but adequate sized out house, that caters for the average Brechin City fans’ needs.

It is wall to wall with replica shirts, jackets, old programmes and various other bits of club memorabilia. I was very impressed and in my element! It was at this point I asked about a match programme for this game, only to be informed that they do not do one anymore as it is not cost effective for the club. This is a real shame, but the club still provide a decent free colour team sheet none the less.

I then got talking to Fergus, who works in the shop and he regaled some of his own football memories. He is something of a grounds enthusiast as well, so it was good to speak with someone with a similar interest.

It was approaching kick off so we went to leave, but before we left, Fergus gave my lad some Brechin City stationery which was very much appreciated. I can confirm that I have since blagged the pen and been using it at work!

As the game was now under way, we watched on from behind the goal at the home end and gradually made our way along the hedge side touch line. Brechin are under the stewardship of former Dundee United and Nottingham Forest midfielder, Ray McKinnon, having replaced Jim Weir in the post last October. After a difficult start to the season, Brechin went on a fine winning run that has put them into third place and almost guaranteeing them a Play Off place.

We saw Brechin play at East Fife in January, when both sides fought out a competitive 2-2 draw. For this game, veteran goalkeeper, Craig Nelson was between the sticks and the main men in defence being Gerry McLaughlan and Ewan Moyes. The midfield had the industrious pair of Gary Fusco and Johnny Stewart, with the responsibility of scoring goals resting on Andy Jackson and Alan Trouten.

Brechin were also fortunate to have some experience they could utilise on their substitutes bench, with David McKenna and Garry Brady.

Back in February we were down at Stair Park, Stranraer, when they were also up against East Fife! They were on form that day, comfortably winning 4-1, though they currently find themselves battling at the bottom end of the table.

Stranraer has been home to the current Manager, Stephen Aitken for some time. He actually lived quite near me years ago, when he was starting out in the game and is in his second spell at the club in all capacities. Having been a player at the club for six years in the early millennium, he was appointed Assistant Manager to Keith Knox in 2009, Aitken then replaced Knox at the helm in October last year

The Stranraer goalkeeper is David Mitchell and even after this game, I am still none the wiser as to what it is he shouts at his defence! In front of him are Lloyd Kinnaird and Michael Dunlop, the main men in defence, along with the boss’ brother, Chris Aitken who plays a holding midfield role. The side has some pace on the wing through Sean Winter and good attacking options also, with players like Craig Malcolm and Robert Love.

When we saw them nearly three months ago, Darren Gribben had just returned to the club and he scored two of Stranraer’s four goals, but he was on the bench for this game. Joining him was crowd favourite, Michael Moore, meaning there was a place up front for the far travelled, Armand One. The big Frenchman has played in the lower leagues of both Scotland and England for what seems like years. Now thirty years old, he is a man mountain and although he was a figure of fun at times for some of the home fans, the Brechin defenders struggled to cope with him while he was on the field.

The game took a while to get going, with neither side really stamping their authority on it. The first time a goalkeeper was called into action was after a quarter of an hour, when Nelson comfortably held a shot on the left from Stranraer’s, Mark Staunton.

A couple of minutes later, Andy Jackson collected the ball from a Brechin throw in and his left foot drive, from just outside the area, was turned away by Mitchell for a corner. On twenty two minutes Brechin were on the attack again, this time it was Ryan Ferguson with an effort at goal, following good play down the right, by Ryan Stewart, but Mitchell was equal to it.

Even though the pitch was not the greatest, both teams did try and play short passes, instead of lumping it up field, though there were quite a few stray passes at times. Brechin were playing high up the field and Stranraer were thwarted by their offside trap a couple of times.

Ten minutes before the break, the hosts had a great opportunity to open the scoring from a Ryan Stewart corner on the right. It was met by the head of Ewan Moyes, who rose highest, but the ball went just over the bar.

Five minutes after that, Stranraer created a similar opportunity when Sean Winter’s right wing corner found Michael Dunlop, whose shot was saved by Nelson. The visitors were applying pressure to the Brechin back line and Grant Gallagher was unlucky when his shot from distance just cleared the bar.

Then, three minutes from the break, Armand One whose hold up play and lay offs had been impressive, managed to get a shot in from the edge of the box that had plenty of swerve, but was saved by Nelson.

As we entered into the last minute of the first half, the Stranraer pressure paid off. Sean Winter’s cross on the left found Armand One in the box and with his back to goal, he controlled the ball before turning to hook a powerful shot high past Nelson’s left hand post to make it 1-0.

It was maybe harsh on Brechin who deserved to be at least level going into the half time break. We had stood at the half way line, next to the famous Glebe Park hedge, to watch the game during the first half. We went over to the food bar next to the big stand, which is behind the home goal and opted to sit in there for the second half. Just before the game resumed, one of the Stranraer substitutes fired a shot that hit a seat along from us and it smashed into about forty pieces. I very much doubt he could have achieved this had he tried it again!

The light wind that had been prevalent earlier, died down, which would hopefully help the players too. Brechin made a switch at the break with David McKenna replacing Gary Fusco, but it was Stranraer who asserted the early pressure. Craig Malcolm found himself in a great position to score when he was charging through on Craig Nelson five minutes after the restart. His shot was blocked by the ‘keeper and the rebound from Lloyd Kinnaird looked goal bound, but was cleared to safety by Moyes.

Armand One nearly grabbed his and Stranraer’s second goal on fifty five minutes, when his header dropped just over the bar from a Chris Aitken cross on the right wing. The visitors would rue their missed opportunities as Brechin equalised just before the hour mark. A good run and cross by Jonathan Brown on the left was picked up by Andy Jackson whose low right foot shot beat Mitchell at his right hand post to make it 1-1.

Mitchell then turned a Trouten shot away for a corner and a Moyes header went wide of the post, as Brechin pressed for more goals. At the other end, Stranraer had their claims for a penalty waved away by referee Stephen Finnie, after an alleged hand ball in the box from an Aitken cross.

As we entered the last quarter of the game, Stranraer made two attacking substitutions a few minutes apart, with Darren Gribben replacing Sean Winter and Michael Moore on for Armand One.

Both sides forced a couple of set pieces but did not trouble either defence. With fifteen minutes left, Jackson’s twenty yard shot was comfortably dealt with by Mitchell in the Stranraer goal. Brechin then made their second change of the evening when Garry Brady replaced Jonathan Stewart, before taking the lead two minutes after that.

A cross on the right was headed against the bar by Andy Jackson. The ball spun up high in the air and Alan Trouten reacted quickest to head in from a yard out and put Brechin into the lead. With the goal coming so late in the game and Brechin looking relatively comfortable, it looked as though they would close the game out. However, there was to be a sting in the tail and it came from a lack of concentration and maybe a bit of complacency in the home defence.

Kinnaird’s throw on the right near the Brechin eighteen yard box was not dealt with and the tenacious Craig Malcolm managed to get the break of the ball and bury a shot past Nelson from a very narrow angle to equalise five minutes from the end. It meant the home side’s lead lasted only three minutes and it was a moment savored by the handful of travelling fans.

In the second minute of stoppage time, Stranraer again had the ball in the box, but as Craig Malcolm shaped to shoot, the whistle had already gone for a foul. This incident upset the Stranraer bench and it required referee Finnie to go over and calm things down.

With no further action, both teams had to settle for a point. Brechin had all but guaranteed their place in the Play Offs beforehand, so the draw cemented this and a third place finish in the table. For Stranraer, it was a vital away point, in their battle to avoid the drop into Division 3.

This was a long, almost overdue ground visit, but it was certainly worth the wait. It is an intriguing venue which offers a good view of the pitch no matter where you choose to stand or sit. As you enter through the turnstiles on Trinity Road, it takes you to the back of the newest Stand which is all seated with a 1,000 capacity. It has bright coloured seats in yellow, red and blue with BCFC printed on them.

The Main Stand is on the right hand side of this. It is small in size and is almost like a cricket pavilion in appearance. To the right of that is the players tunnel and changing rooms, along with both dug out areas. The club shop is in the right hand corner and there is a covered terrace behind the opposite goal, known as the cemetery end as there is a cemetery located directly behind it.

Across from the Main Stand is the famous hedge, which runs the length of the pitch and provides adequate standing room to watch the game. On the half way line there is a small television gantry for showing Live matches or highlights.

This was an enjoyable experience and not as rushed as some other midweek fixtures we have attended so far. The staff and people we met were welcoming and friendly, the food was decent and well priced, as was the admission cost. Along with a good game of football, Glebe Park ticks all the boxes with regards to affordability and entertainment and goes down as one of the favourite grounds visited to date.

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