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Saturday 5th October 2013 ko 15.00

Scottish Championship

FALKIRK 2 (Loy 33p 84)

QUEEN OF THE SOUTH 1 (Russell 84)

Att 3,189

Entry £18

Programme £2

Badge £3

Macaroni Pie £1.80

This is another in the occasional series “Travels with Iain,” the last being the trip to Irvine Meadow last year http://wp.me/p1PehW-1lY. For Iain and I a ten month gap from seeing each other is pretty good for us! His son Ross loves his football too and I enjoyed seeing him return from football training with his Månkarbo shirt on, and I’m not sure his teammates will have seen a Swedish Division 5 shirt before! So Ross, here’s what the place is like! http://wp.me/p1PehW-1KD

We’d decided to watch Iain’s local team Queen of the South’s away game at Falkirk. It’s around a 90 minute drive up the M74 and M73 from Dumfries to the Falkirk Stadium, but let’s be honest here, a 3-sided stadium in an out-of-town location isn’t what I’d normally choose to visit as I get enough of that following Oxford United! So you have to work just that little bit harder to make it interesting. Fortunately Falkirk allows you to do that with just a little research.

Falkirk lies almost equidistant between Glasgow and Edinburgh in Scotland’s central belt. The town lies at the junction of the Forth and Clyde Canal and the Union Canal, a location which proved key to the growth of Falkirk as a centre of heavy industry during the Industrial Revolution. And it’s that junction which is the reason for the town’s greatest landmark, the Falkirk Wheel.

The wheel is a rotating boat lift, designed by Tony Kettle and built in 2002 . The two canals it serves were previously connected by a series of 11 locks but by the 1930s these had fallen into disuse. The wheel moves narrowboats 35 metres vertically from the Union Canal to the Forth and Clyde canal below. It works on Archimedes’ principle, that floating objects displace their own weight in water, so when a boat enters, the amount of water leaving the caisson weighs exactly the same as the boat keeping the wheel balanced. Despite its enormous weight, it consumes just 1.5 kilowatt-hours of electricity in four minutes, roughly the same as boiling eight kettles of water.

From there it wasn’t far to the Falkirk Stadium, situated in Grangemouth, just outside of town. That is the minor tragedy of football in the town, neither of the town’s clubs actually now play in Falkirk, as East Stirlingshire left Firs Park in favour of a groundshare at Stenhousmuir in 2008.

Falkirk vacated their old ground, Brockville Stadium in 2003, and groundshared at Stenhousemuir for the 2003-4 season whilst the new ground was built. Originally this consisted of just the one stand, the 4,200 all-seater West Stand, the near identical 2,000-seat North and South stands weren’t opened until 2005 and 2009 respectively. With an artificial pitch, and the eastern side open, the ground feels sterile, even if the view out to the Grangemouth oil refinery does add some interest.

The issue for me was that I felt that I’d seen nearly everything there before. The West Stand reminded me of the Cardiff City Stadium’s main stand, and so many new-builds use 2000-seat sized stands behind the goals, in fact just the curved roofs add interest. For all of that the ground does exactly what the Bairns need it to, and the stewarding was friendly and unobtrusive, even though I was using an away end for the first time in years!

Regular readers of this blog will know of my ability to jinx the side I’m following, and Queen of the South are clearly my latest victims! What made this more depressing was that this was a game they could, and possibly should have got something from.

The opening Falkirk goal was controversial in its creation. There was no doubt that Derek Lyle deserved his booking for chopping down Craig Sibbald on the edge of the Doonhamers’ box, but Phil Roberts’ free-kick hit the arm of Ian McShane in the Queens wall. For me it was ball-to-hand, but referee John Beaton thoughtly differently and Rory Loy made no mistake from the penalty spot, sending Calum Antell the wrong way. What made it worse for the Doonhamers’ fans is that Loy despite being born in Dumfries, was actually brought up in Stranraer, Queens’ bitter rivals!

Also galling was that Queens looked sluggish, but when for a 20-minute spell in the second half the tempo was raised, the visitors found their way back into the game. A period of continuous pressure was rewarded when Lyle’s ball from the left found Iain Russell on the right-hand side of the box. His shot flew past Michael McGovern in the Bairns goal, for the goal of the game.

The tragedy for the fans from the south was that they failed to build on it. Queen of the South allowed their tempo to drop, Falkirk found their way back into the game and when Kevin Dzierzawski gave the ball away in the centre circle, Rakish Bingham dribbled into the Queens box before finding Loy who stroked past Antell. A win that when I called into the club offices after the game, the officials were describing as “Hard fought,” which I suspect the glum away fans climbing aboard the coach back to Dumfries would have taken issue with!

Iain, Ross, and I didn’t follow them immediately, preferring to divert to the local Morrison’s. That wasn’t just for a can of pop for the journey home, but the supermarket lies on the site of the old Brockville Stadium, and there’s a few nods to its former use. I liked the windows and the pictures of former players such as Simon Stainrod, but the seated area with the old turnstile is lovely place for former fans to pause for a moment and reminisce.