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Saturday 28th July 2012 ko 3.00pm

South of Scotland League

DALBEATTIE STAR 3 (MacBeth 31 Milligan 45p 74)

NEWTON STEWART 2 (Taylor 37 Sutherland 79)

Att 61 (h/c)

Entry £3

No Programme (old copy FREE)

Scotch Pie £1

Tea 50p

The original plan was to watch Hamilton Academical versus Airdrie United, but when the M6 decided to misbehave, Chris and I decided to divert to Dumfries and Galloway. That meant a new league as well as a new ground, and a town neither of us had visited either.

Dalbeattie is named after the gaellic for “Valley of the Birch Trees,” and it certainly is a leafy, well-heeled town. That belies its past as a centre for granite mining, but these days a major employer is souvenir factory Thistle Products which distributes Scottish souvenirs across Scotland and beyond, most famously the “See You Jimmy Hat” and more recently the “Instakilt Beach Towel”. So, when you see these products and wince, at least you know where they’re from!

Islecroft Stadium, is enclosed at one corner of Colliston Park. There’s a bandstand, looking roughly the same as it did when opened in 1908. The really unusual feature is the toilet block which looks as if it services the football ground but in fact is part of the Islecroft caravan and camping site next door. I note that the site’s website makes no mention of the football ground next door!

Dalbeattie have spent a high proportion of their history playing in the East Of Scotland League, reckoned to be far stronger than the more geographically suitable South of Scotland League. The ground reflects this, fully enclosed with its 300 seat stand, and 3500 capacity. When the money ran out in 2009 the club simply took their reserves place in the weaker league, and at a stroke became a big fish in a small pond. They are the current champions and cup holders.

There was of course far more to enjoy that just the bare statistics. Islecroft has atmosphere and character in abundance, so much so that one of my photographic heroes, Stuart Roy Clarke immortalised the graffiti at the back of the stand in his book, “Football in our time.” If you love football grounds you’ll love his book. The club were more than willing to show off Clarke’s picture, and were happy to show me round the clubhouse at the back of the stand. In fact, I’d have trouble remembering a friendlier club.

For a side expected to dominate again, Star struggled to gain the ascendancy. We were treated to that most Scottish of traditions, the triallist named on the teamsheet as just “Triallist,” with no clue given as to his identity. Mind you we think we worked out his identity! They too until the 31st minute to open the scoring, player-manager John MacBeth combining well with Scott Milligan before firing home from inside the box.

They say you’re at your most vunerable when you’ve just scored, and so it proved. Dalbeattie fell asleep at the back, and Stewart Taylor reacted fastest to a ball in, and fired home low, past Graham Wright. Its didn’t matter much as in first half stoppage time MacBeth’s surging run into the box was rudely ended by Jason Gallacher, and Milligan stroked the penalty home with the minimum of fuss.

It took until the 74th minute for Star to make the game safe, the visitors failed to defend a short corner properly and there was Milligan to fire home from 10 yards. It proved to be crucial as the visitors scored again Michael Sutherland heading home a free kick whipped in from the right. It wasn’t a nervous last few minutes as Star finished well on top. I just wonder when they’ll feel confident enough for another tilt at the East of Scotland League.