Saturday, 23 May 2015

Auchinleck Talbot 2 v Hurlford United 1 - SJFA West of Scotland Super League, Premier Division

Saturday 23rd May 2015
SJFA West of Scotland Super League, Premier Division
Auchinleck Talbot (2) 2
David Gormley 8, Bryan Young 34
Hurlford United (0) 1
Martyn Brown 90+
Admission £5, Programme £1.50, Attendance 1200+
Auchinleck Talbot:
Leishman, Latta, Pope, McGoldrick, Campbell, Boyd, Young, Hyslop, Milliken, Gormley, Wilson
Subs - Shankland, White, Spence, Cochrane, Park
Hurlford United:
A Brown, Cameron, M Brown, Mitchell, C Robertson, McLune, McKenzie, Chisholm, Kean, Donnelly, Watt
Subs - R Robertson, Byrne, Wilson, Masterton, Murchie (GK)
I am indebted to 'Sheff Geoff', a Colchester United and Stocksbridge Park Steels supporter, currently resident of Wharncliffe Side, for taking on the driving responsibilities for the long haul to East Ayrshire. It is always good to have somebody witty and knowledgeable beside you, to share the expense on these kind of adventures into the unknown.
Like myself, Geoff doesn't believe in leaving things until the last minute, so we were in Auchinleck in plenty of time before the game, via a coffee stop at Gretna Green.
At which juncture I had to ponder over at which point in the evolution of mankind, did having a cup of coffee stop being something that revolved around that jar of Nescafe you kept in the kitchen cupboard in case your Gran came round and become a complicated science, with a myriad of complex choices and a price range to scare half of Wall Street to death?
"Y'know, just an ordinary cup of coffee, no fuss, like you used to be able to buy in every single cafe and motorway service station in the known universe!"
"That'll be a flat white then sir"
"Err... just make it strong please ... What!? How much!"
Somebody obviously abbreviated the sign above the door from COSTAARMANDALEG, to make it sound more catchy... the western world has been well and truly hoodwinked if you ask me.
Upon arriving in Auchinleck, we were met by a sea of black and gold, as the majority of the local community had gone to the trouble of adorning their dwellings, public houses and business premises in bunting and the colours of 'The Bot', their favourite Junior football club, which made for an impressive sight in the resplendent sunlight that was beating down on the West of Scotland.
By way of explanation as to the meaning of the wording contained in that previous sentence: 'Junior football', in Scotland, is a term that refers to what the English call 'Non League football', it is not about juniors, youth development sides and kids teams.
Some might say that it is odd to call grown up football 'Junior'.
Others could counter that is even dafter to call the English equivalent 'Non League', when it is based around a structure that encompasses hundreds of leagues.
Discuss this pressing matter among yourselves, because I'm running out of steam here.
We parked up directly opposite Beechwood Park and ventured across the road in search of some liquid refreshment.
"Hi guys... Are you English?"
Err... well it was fairly obvious we weren't locals, because the majority of people around us (and two pet dogs) were decked out in the home clubs colours... and we weren't!
Auchinleck must have a very active merchandising wing, because I have never seen so many replica club shirts anywhere before outside of Glasgow and Newcastle (the respective bri-nylon capitals of Scotland and England).
And our accents also kind of indicated that we had travelled far this braw day, forra wee swally and some fitba, ye ken.
"Well, you better come in and have a look around if you have gone to the trouble to travel all of that way to watch us" said a club official.
An impromptu tour of the ground, the dressing rooms and boardroom  and an extremely warm and generous welcome was afforded to us.
Wow! I'm going to have to march boldly into every Scottish pub I ever enter in future and loudly proclaim to the assembled drinkers that 'I am an Englander'.
And I will report back in due course with a list of all of the positive responses I get.
We were joined in the Supporters Club bar by John, an Auchinleck fanatic and 'sandal wearing druid', with an healthy passion for Wales, Grimsby Town a trade unionism, which made for some healthy and friendly banter and discussion, while he did a brisk trade in badges that he's had made for Talbot's forthcoming Dyslexia Scotland Junior up Final against Musselburgh Athletic at Kilmarnock.
Later in the evening he mentioned us on the 'Tony Kempster Forum' (not it's real name but that is what I and a  good number of other contributors will always call it) about spending a pleasant hour in the bar with two groundhoppers called Rob and Geoff.
Wooah there!
Who are you calling a bleedin' groundhopper!?
I'll have you know young fella my lad, that in no way, shape or form am I a groundh... Oh bugger it, who am I kidding?
I'm not even convincing myself anymore with all of this living in denial stuff.
Groundhoppers Anonymous, here I come... My  name is Rob and I know what I am.
The scene was set, if Auchinleck Talbot won or drew on the day, they retained their league title crown and the champions flag would be fluttering above the Supporters Club for at least another season. If they lost and Hurlford United could win their final two games by high enough scores to make up the goal difference margin, then they would be champions instead.
Upon the lush, green and immaculate pitch that would put many to shame at the start of the season, let alone at the end of May, it was game on!
Both sides had their fate in their own hands and knew precisely what was required of them.
Truth be told, this afternoon's scoreline flattered Hurlford somewhat as 'Bot comprehensively put their second placed visitors to the sword, to chalk up a third consecutive league championship.
Hurlford's extra time consolation goal gave the result an appearance of respectability for them, that did not reflect the balance of play at Beechwood Park by any stretch of the imagination.
But Auchinleck shrugged off some profligate finishing and saw their league season out on a high anyway, with some thoroughly entertaining and attack minded football ... and they created more than enough chances to be able to squander a few along the way.
Hurlford, or so I was reliably informed in the bar, have a bit of a reputation for going to ground far too easily under the most innocuous of challenges.
While I must say I didn't really see any evidence of them being "a bunch of bloody divers", it was amusing to see 'Bot supporters up in the back of their main stand holding up cards rating the execution of any purported 'gamesmanship' every time a 'Ford player hit the deck.
Another thing the home sides one man club club publicist, badge seller, fund raiser and programme writer had given us the heads up about, was the 'unique' quality mince and onion pies one can purchase at the ground for a small financial consideration.
I hereby pass on the food recommendation.
Culinary excellence at just £1.20 a go.
Allan McLuckie, Talbot's assistant manager must be a programme editor's dream; his lengthy, in depth and well written programme notes took me all of the half time break to read. And that had nothing to do with me forgetting my reading glasses and enjoying a couple of pints of Tennents before the game.
It is frowned upon by many in the football travelling community to consume anything other than hand pump real ale bitter. And though I have become quite an authority on a whole myriad of such ales, I am still quite partial, when the urge takes hold, to getting laid into a Tennents session.
But I digress... there was more useful information about the West of Scotland Super League in McLuckie's write up than on their own Wikipedia entry. Good work that man.
The 'Bot steadied any pre match nerves that might have crept in given the magnitude of the task ahead of them, coupled with the fact that they hadn't been able to break down eighth placed Kilbirnie the previous week in spite of them being 28 points behind Auchinleck in the table, with a cracking goal on eight minutes, when Dave Gormley hooked the ball into the roof of the net as it dropped over his right shoulder and into his line of fire.
'Druid John' likened it to a goal scored by Marco van Basten against England.
No mate, you got that all wrong, van Basten's goal was a bleedin' fluke ;-) Gormley's strike was a sublime effort ... sheer class.
Talbot's second goal was less clear cut. On 34 minutes Bryan Young headed the ball across the face of the Hurlford goal and as both teams played on and neither of them made any sort of appeal, the linesman signalled that the ball had in fact crossed the line and a goal was rewarded.
At half time some Hurlford fans were moaning that the second goal shouldn't have stood and claimed that Auchinleck were lucky.
Hmm, I'm a great believer in the old adage 'the harder you work the luckier you get'... And the home side and laid siege to United's penalty area for most of the first half and deserved at least a two goal cushion for their efforts. Whatever the dubious goals committee thought about Young's 11th goal of the season (he also scored in the previous meeting between these two sides when Talbot won 2-1 in April), the match officials gave it and that's that.
Maybe Dave Gormley's 20 goals thus far this season have all been quality finishesto match his opener today and he doesn't score ordinary goals. I am only saying this because in the second half he missed several absolute sitters that would have out the game well beyond Hurlford's reach long before they chipped in with an injury time goal, when Martyn Brown smacked home a peach of a goal with an unstoppable left foot drive.
But it was only a consolation strike and United had turned up to the party far too late. The mood and atmosphere had been fantastic all afternoon and now it was time to break out the champagne.
Well played and congratulations Auchinleck Talbot... and thanks to those of you who made us so welcome on our day trip to the West of Scotland.
It is a shame that commitments elsewhere mean I won't be able to get up to any of the cup games in June. I will endeavour to organise my schedule better in 2016, so I can cram in more cross border raids next time around