Friday 13th August 2021 ko 20:00
CLACHNACUDDIN 4 (Morrison 52 Logan 70 Taylor 80 90)
STRATHSPEY THISTLE 1 (Duncan 14)
Entry £10 (plus £1 stand transfer)
On one level it would have been rude not to, our holiday accommodation was only a 10 minute walk from Grant Street Park. Yes, we’d based ourselves in the Inverness district of Merkinch, and through no planning at all we’d found ourselves in a place steeped in local football history.
Our flat was more or less opposite the site of the Telford Street home of Caledonian FC, one of the two sides (the other being Inverness Thistle) that merged in 1994 to form today’s Inverness Caledonian Thistle. The merged club played their first two seasons at Telford Street before moving to the newly built Caledonian Stadium in 1996. The ground was demolished and now is a retail park. But a trip to Clach did involve a certain amount of sentiment, as I’d visited back in October 2007, ironically for another Friday night fixture.
I was a little surprised to see the game pulled forward due to Strathspey’s Annual Charity Gold Day the next day, and thanks to all kinds of people for pointing out to this to Robyn and I. The raised eyebrow was tongue-in-cheek, due to the when GroundhopUK tried to get a Highland League hop running. One of the reasons we were turned down was clubs’ desire to play only on a Saturday afternoon, and we’d visited 3 Highland League clubs on 3 different days over the week we’d been there. That is a long way from the the level of compromise needed for a 7 game weekend, and with the idea long since put to bed I allowed myself a wry smile.
We didn’t lack options for a new ground for the both of us this evening. One that did spring out was Longside in the North Region Juniors, but that involved a two hour drive and with a game so close by, well as I said earlier it would have been rude not to! And Clachnacuddin is well worth a second visit anyway. Here’s my photos from October 2007 from their game against Brora- yes our paths do seem to cross quite a bit!
But I’m sure you’re wondering where the unusual name comes from? Its derived from the Scots Gaelic Clach na Cùdainn or “Stone of the tubs” a reference to the ceremonial stone that marks Inverness’s city status, and it is still in situ in the city centre. They are one of the mainstays of the Highland League, having won the title 18 times, a feat only matched by the defunct Caledonian FC. You could say Merkinch is rather good at the Highland League!
Clach have played at Grant Street Park since 1886 and there is very much the sense of the club playing in the centre of its community even down to the trains heading north to the likes of Brora and Wick. I may have had devil’s own job getting a shot of a train trundling by, but it didn’t make those trains any less evocative. The ground has changed since that visit 14 years ago, the new dugouts seem to be aimed at future SPFL licensing, and while part of me does regret the loss of that wonderful cover behind the far goal the fact is, it did need replacing, and at least there is still cover now.
An oddity was being told there was no way of printing off the teamlines due to Covid restrictions. They’re been no problem at either Fraserburgh, or Brora, or indeed at Elgin the next day where the teamsheet was free with a the purchase of a raffle ticket. I wonder what the correct interpretation of the rules was? Perhaps I caught the bloke at the club shop at the wrong time, but it could easily be the club were too. They certainly made a nightmare start to the game.
Within 10 minutes, they’d lost their goalkeeper to injury and conceded a goal. Clach looked understandably shellshocked and they both needed and took time to find their way into the game. Gradually they increased the pressure on a visiting Strathspey team that were only able to name a short substitutes bench including a number of trialists. It took time to force home the advantage, but one that first goal came, the floodgates opened and Clach won deservedly.
We were home in quite ridiculously quick time, and with the packing done there was time to contemplate one more game, and that had the potential to be memorable….