Saturday 30th March 2019 ko 14.15
East of Scotland League Conference C
INVERKEITHING HILLFIELD SWIFTS 2 (Cowie 71 Hamilton 75)
Miller sent off 60 (2nd booking)
Francis sent off 78 (Foul & Abusive)
Cowie sent off 82 (Foul & Abusive)
HERIOT WATT UNIVERSITY 4 (Muttitt 27 57 Huxford 31 Singh 82p)
The Scottish Hop’s move from the Lothians to the Kingdom of Fife was nothing if not spectacular. First the Kelpies, the steel horses wild but frozen but their energy an inspiration to motorists on the M9. With the Hop coach’s 61 seats more than sold out, I was driving in effect an overspill car, but the there was a silver lining as we could stop close to the three Forth Bridges to take some fairly spectacular photos!
Short of the Park & Ride bus station, Inverkeithing is virtually the first place you see on the Fife side of the Forth. Variously it’s where William Cromwell’s victory over the Scottish Covenanteers here in 1651 led to Scotland eventually falling under Parliamentary rule. More recently the town was famous for Thos W Ward’s shipbreaking yard, the second RMS Mauretania was scrapped here in 1965-1966, and that yard has a link to Inverkeithing Hill Swifts.
The clue is the name of the ground- Ballast Bank, this is land reclaimed using the ballast from the doomed ships, metal reclamation does still take place in Inverkeithing, you can see the piles of scrap in the background of a couple of the photos. It did seem odd to, potentially at least, to be standing on a piece of British naval history! The view of the tops of the Forth Bridges from the far side is spectacular!
Ballast Bank is best known for being the site of the annual Inverkeithing Highland Games; that means nothing can be built pitchside, and the changing rooms and clubhouse come courtesy of converted shipping containers some 100 metres away. That fact saw a few hoppers head elsewhere, and I wonder how many of their destinations we’ll end up visiting in the future?
The club was formed as Hillfield Swifts, Hillfield is an estate in Inverkeithing, in 1996, and moved into adult football for this season. As such they managed to be the only new club in the EoSL from a non-Junior background. It has been quite a transition for them, and doing it when so many larger well-etablished Junior clubs have simultaneously switched to the Seniors has been a tough education for them.
It hasn’t been easy for our friends at Heriot Watt either. I loved visiting the Oriam Indoors on last year’s hop, even if moving from the warm cafe from the cold arena sent a shudder down my spine, in fact thinking about it still does! Both clubs are destined for the EoSFL’s lower division for next season. With fewer clubs entering the league, I expect the division to be a lot more evenly matched.
I greatly enjoyed Swifts company, I was very aware that we were visiting a small club, new to the adult game, and who’d never seen a hop game before. They managed to make the most of a bumper crowd and do so with Scottish charm. When you’ve eaten a stovie, done nothing more official than count the crowd, then leave clutching a can of Irn Bru, the club has done a lot right! As organiser you spend most of your time inwardly asking “Has this been done?” and here every time I thought it, I looked round and it had!
That game was remarkable in that it saw 4 goals and 2 dismissals. This game managed to have 6 goals… on a 3 dismissals! For an hour this was a reasonably straightforward away win, Heriot Watt were 3-0 up with Euan Miller collected his second booking, then just 7 minutes later John Francis aimed a volley of verbals at referee Barry Reid and followed his teammate to the showers.
You’d have expected the floodgates to open, but amazingly Swifts scored two quick goals, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to wonder what was going to happen next? The answer was a twice-taken penalty, substitute Arron Singh managed to keep his cool to score. That was more than can be said for Ryan Cowie- another volley of expletives saw him become the third Swifts player to depart early. It may not have been a game for the purist, but you couldn’t keep your eyes off it!
It was I suspect, from a groundhopper’s perspective, the perfect club to visit in on a organised hop. Chris Powell summed it up well, “Would I spend 5 hours in a car for this place? Probably not, but would I as part of 4 in a day? Off course I would!”
And with all due respect to those hoppers who opted to go elsewhere, they missed a trick. It was lovely to see a club present themselves so well and while the game was something of a car crash, it was great fun to watch. But come to think of it, shouldn’t “Car crash” be read as “Shipwreck?”