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Saturday 26th January 2013 k 15.00

Scottish League Division 2

ARBROATH 3 (Sibanda 8 Bayne 17 56)

FORFAR ATHLETIC 1 (Campbell 72p) Robertson sent off (dangerous play) 79

Att 843

Entry £12

Programme £2

Badge £2

Teamsheet FREE

Steak Pie £2

Sometimes its wonderful how coincidence works to push you towards visiting somewhere new. I’d passed through the Angus town of Arbroath on my way through towards a holiday in St Cyrus, just north of Montrose about a decade ago. I’d spotted the ground, and mentally filed it as one to visit. I’d made no effort to visit, until I wrote about Irvine Meadow, on the west coast, and one of my readers, Kate suggested I go. Then fellow hopper Lee, suggested pairing it up with Aberdeen, and then it was simply a question of the planning.

We were joined by “Fast” Eddie McGeown, the avuncular retired headmaster whose blog is well worth a read.  www.footballhopper.com  Eddie always provides a laconic, educated view of the hobby, with his liking for a crossword, Sudoku, and a glass of a red to wash it all down with. The fourth seat in the car was taken by another educationalist, but in a completely different continent. Peter Grant is an Aussie who teaches English in Osaka, and his tales of the “Gaijin” who follows Cerezo Osaka kept us amused on the 6 hour journey through the last of the snow.

The small fishing town has a rich and varied history despite its size. It was the location of the Battle of Arbroath in 1446. A series of disagreements between the Chief Justiciary of Arbroath, Alexander Lindsay, third Earl of Crawford, and Bishop James Kennedy of St Andrews resulted in Lindsay sacking the bishop’s lands and burning his properties. Lindsay was excommunicated for his troubles and it was felt that this was incompatible with his role as Chief Justiciary. The monks of Arbroath Abbey selected Alexander Ogilvy of Inverquharity as his replacement and the insult led to a pitched battle in the town, leaving 500 dead, including Lindsay and Ogilvy.

In 1320 the Scottish Parliament met at Arbroath Abbey and addressed to the Pope the Declaration of Arbroath, drafted by the Abbot of the time, Bernard. This document detailed the services which their “Lord and Sovereign” Robert the Bruce had rendered to Scotland, and affirmed in eloquent terms the independence of the Scots nation.

However the town is best known for the Arbroath smokie, a form of smoked Haddock, and apparently the method was discovered by accident! The story goes that a barrel of salted haddock was destroyed in a shop fire, but when the locals tried the contents, the result was rather tasty!

A native of Arbroath doesn’t tend to be called an Arbroathian, rather a Red Lichtie, after the distinctive flame that burned in the local lighthouse, due to the oil used as fuel.

The local football team has woven itself into the historical tapestry too. They’re famous for the biggest ever win, 36-0, in senior football, a feat achieved in 1885 in a Scottish Cup fixture against Aberdeen based Bon Accord. The story is even more remarkable when you consider than Bon Accord were in fact a cricket team, called Orion, and were invited into the competition by mistake, the cup committee had meant to ask Orion FC, also based in Aberdeen!

In an even stranger coincidence on the same day, Dundee Harp were also playing in the Scottish Cup against Aberdeen Rovers, but the score finished a mere 35–0. The referee noted 37 goals, but Harp’s secretary suggested a miscount must have occurred as he had recorded only 35. The match official, acknowledging it was difficult for him to keep accurate details during such a deluge of goals, accepted the lower tally and wired the official score of 35–0 to SFA headquarters!

Gayfield Park has the claim to fame as being the closest league ground to the sea, just a promenade separating the “Pop” side terrace from the sea wall. The sea has been known to splash up and over the wall, soaking the unsuspecting patrons behind!

With the wind whistling off the North Sea, the main stand with its low roof appears to hunker down, to avoid being blown away. Elsewhere the terrace forms an amphitheatre, with much-needed cover on all sides. It’s a wonderful example of a traditional lower-league football ground. It actually appears to shelter the “Pleasureland” Amusement arcade next door!

The club made their visitors welcome, particularly Peter, who was presented with a free programme, and both he and I enjoyed buying the club badge in the club shop. The club proof-read the design so were rather perturbed when the badges arrived with the word “Lichties” spelled “Lichteis!” The view was taken that they made for a good talking point so on sale they went!

The game was a local derby, Forfar is in Angus too, but without the bitterness of the derby against Montrose. A good attendance saw Arbroath look far too strong for the Loons, with player-manager Paul Sheerin bossing matters both on, and off the pitch. Sheerin is the man that scored a goal for Inverness Caledonian Thistle, that spawned the headline “Super Caley go ballistic, Celtic are atrocious!”

Lee Sibanda opened the scoring, converting Graham Bayne’s clever headed knockdown, and it was soon Bayne’s turn, as he prodded home at close range. Steven Doris set up Bayne for the third, the forward firing home from the six-yard box. Forfar were given a lifeline when Colin Hamilton brought down Willie Robertson in the box and Iain Campbell depatched the penalty expertly. It was a short-lived hope as Robertson received a straight red card for a dreadful challenge on Hamilton and the full-back’s departure saw the end of the game as a spectacle, and there was little more than thank this friendly club for their hospitality, and make our way north for an overnight stay in Aberdeen.