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Scottish Junior FA West Region Superleague, Premier Division

POLLOK FC 2 (Hunter 41 Diack 89) Aitchison sent off (denying clear goalscoring opportunity) 6

LANARK UNITED 1 (McCluskey 71) McLaughlin missed penalty 6

Att 415

Entry £5

Programme £1 (they issue for every game)

Badge £3.50 but charged £3 due to lack of change

Meat Pie £1.20

Bovril 80p

In early 2011 I wasn’t in a good place. My marriage had ended, and I was sat alone in a house I knew I was destined to leave. Fortunately I am blessed to have a friend in Dumfries in Iain and I was both fortunate and grateful to get a phone call to say,

“Come up (to Dumfries) and visit, and since its you, I’ll let you pick the game.!

Well you shouldn’t ever turn down an opportunity like that, so I travelled up, collected Iain, and at lunch time we parked in the Morrison’s car park adjacent to the ground. Iain extracted a large wedge of cash from the supermarket ATM, and one of my memories of the day was that he found it pretty much impossible to spend it at Newlandsfield Park. Iain, my friend, this is the wonderful world of the Juniors, no rip-off prices here!

Its worth pointing out that at this point I’d never seen a Junior game, I’d picked this one because I’d heard good reports about the standard, and had even better ones about Pollok’s ground.

Dear reader, please don’t be confused by the title of Junior. The Scottish Junior FA has nothing to do with the age of the players. Its best explained as a separate FA to the SFA, although the top Junior teams now do enter the Scottish Cup, and the referee and linesmen for this game were all SFA appointees.

There is no national division in the Junior set-up, the teams being separated into Northern, Eastern, and Western regions; the only time a team will play a team from another region is in the Scottish Junior FA Cup. This game was in the top flight for the West Region, and the standard was far higher than Iain expected and a notch higher than I did. I’d put it at around Scottish Division 2 level.

Newlandsfield Park, is in the Pollokshields district of Southern Glasgow, just a stone’s throw from Hampden Park.The ground is adjacent to Pollokshields East Rail station which has had an impact on the history of the club.

I quote from the official club history,

 “Season 1944-45 will be said by many to be the most successful by the club, going through to the semi-final of the Scottish Cup, losing out by 0-1 to Burnbank Athletic at Shawfield before a crowd of 25,000, the gates being closed an hour before the kick-off.

 In the quarter-final at Newlandsfield, Pollok lost 1-2 to Fauldhouse United, but after a protest beat them 3-1 in the replay. It is claimed that 15,000 people were allowed into Newlandsfield for this match, but many had to leave the ground, unable to see. They made their way to the nearby Pollokshaws East Station, and for the price of a platform ticket had a grandstand view of the match. It is certain that the size of the crowd will not be repeated at the present Newlandsfield Park.”

That’s mainly because since then, a block of flats has been built between the station and the ground! The ground now holds 4,000 with 1500 covered terracing places. Significantly there are neither seats (unless you count a couple of park benches), nor floodlights. But then if you virtually never play a midweek fixture, why would you want them?

So with a wonderful ground, an excellent club shop, the line-ups pinned up on the noticeboard, and a cheap tea bar, I waited to be let down completely by the game!

But what a game it was, high quality and highly committed. The real controversy came as early as the 6th minute. Was it a penalty? Yes Aitchison handled in the box, but was it a sending off. Debatable, as I felt it wasn’t a clear goal scoring opportunity. Aichison trudged off, but McLaughlan’s penalty was weak, and was well saved by Zander Cowie, who I’d seen about 7 years earlier playing for Queen’s Park.

Nevertheless you fully expected United to take full advantage of the extra man, but Pollok fought for every ball, and at no point did it look that they were a man short. Such was their commitment that even neutral me cheered when Hunter slotted home just before half time.

Lanark’s purple patch was the first 30 minutes of the second half. Their equaliser saw winger Woods crossed clinically finished by McCluskey, for a goal that deserved a far bigger audiencer than the healthy 415 there.

You then expected Lanark to finish off their hosts, especially as Pollok were fielding a triallist at left back, (on the teamsheet as Triallist A, and a substitute as Triallist B!), but again Pollok dug deep and the place positively rocked when with a minute to go former Stenhousemuir forward Ian Diack scored the winner.

You can always tell when you’ve discovered a gem, you glance to your guest and he’s grinning. Then you glance in your rear-view-mirror and find yourself doing exactly the same thing yourself. It started something of a love affair between the Juniors and myself, and expect to see many more long trips north in the new season.