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Saturday 2nd October 2021 ko 11:15

East of Scotland League Conference A

DALKEITH THISTLE 8 (Weston 32 61 McTernon 50 Leslie 58p Callaghan 66 Dixon 70og McFadden 76 Burrows 90)

TWEEDMOUTH RANGERS 2 (Robinson 6 35)

Robinson sent off 46 (Violent Conduct)

Att 309

Entry £7

Programme £2

Pie Steak

Saturday dawned and I began to feel that normality was returning. Part of that was Robyn flying in to join us the previous evening and another was the completely full coach, to the extent there was no room for Robyn, Craig Dabbs and I. I didn’t half clock up the miles that weekend. With a 4 game day lined up mainly in Mid-Lothian I’d made a mental note to conserve my energy, 4 grounds with seating at a premium was going to be tiring, and I hadn’t completed that many games in a day in over 2 years. Moreover, the Scottish footballing pyramid had changed since GroundhopUK’s last visit.

In the Lowland League’s footprint of everything south of the Tay, once you get below non-league’s top tier the system has now split. There’s the West of Scotland League that’s made up of the former West Region Juniors and the East of Scotland League massively expanded mainly through the East Region Juniors moving across. These days the EoSL has a Premier Division but below that there are still 3 Division Ones, styled Conferences with each of equal status, the pandemic meant the league hasn’t been fully completed for 2 years. There’s Conferences A and B made up of existing clubs, and Conference X (extra) made up of former Junior clubs who moved across late, and former Amateur clubs. The idea is that these divisions will form divisions 1, 2 and 3 for next season.

The day started with a visit to Kings Park, which rather like Clarence Park in St Albans is more than just than just the football ground. The football gets one corner, but there’s a rugby pitch and ornamental gardens too, in fact the only issue was where to put the car. The postcode suggested Croft Street South, but it proved to be a lot easier to use a supermarket car park and walk past the rugby ground. 

I enjoyed Dalkeith’s hosting in the sense that as organisers we had to do very little on the day other than hand out programme packs and count the crowd. I don’t expect the miracles that tiny clubs like Sherborne Harriers achieved, but then the likes of Dalkeith like all the clubs on this hop are well used to dealing with a crowd. The trick is knowing when to let them just get on with it, and this was one of those occasions. I remember Robyn asking how on earth I could have a pie for breakfast? My only response was that I was reattuning myself to Scottish footballing culture!

What was remarkable was the game itself. Many will have remember Tweedmouth from the 2018 hop game at Kelty Hearts. There they took one of the biggest hidings in groundhop history but it was obvious that it was more of an indication of where Kelty were heading than anything else. Chris Berezai and I met Colin Pike and the Tweedmouth committee during pre-season and watched them win, they ran 10 past  Berwick Colts. So what happened here was certainly a surprise and it all happened after half time. 

Because at that time Tweedmouth led 2 -1 courtesy of two Michael Robinson goals. But seconds after the re-start Robinson tangled with Dalkeith’s Jack Burrows and was dismissed for a stray elbow. But that can’t completely explain 7 second half goals; Robinson was a forward after all so the plan must/should have been to play 4-4-1 and play out time as best as they could. What happened was as complete a collapse as I’ve ever seen on a football pitch. Dalkeith celebrated as just about everyone else wondered what on earth we’d witnessed?

It’s a maxim that groundhoppers love goals, and Tweedmouth have now played in 2 hop games with 3 goals scored and 19 conceded. I know how much Colin and his colleagues want to host us; how can we possibly turn them down?