A blog with a difference this week. Sunday was the Final of the Scottish Junior Cup between Beith Juniors and Pollok FC, at Rugby Park, Kilmarnock. I headed down for this with Jamie McQueen and the M77 was busy with carloads of Pollok fans making the short journey from the South side. For the Ayrshire supporters it was an even shorter trip.
My first Junior Cup Final was in 1970 as a 14 year old, when Penicuik met Blantyre Vics. Over the years, with hindsight I should have gone to many more. This is the showpiece of the Juniors season and traditionally a family day out.
Sadly, another tradition is that the final is seldom a classic and so it proved. The players were obviously drained on the huge artificial surface on a hot day and for the first time, the match went straight to a penalty shoot-out after 90 minutes, in front of a crowd announced as 4877, although it appeared to be significantly more.
Playing at Newlandsfield on the south side of Glasgow, Pollok are one of the biggest non-League clubs in Scotland and have a proud history since their formation in 1908. They had just returned to the top flight this season so it was an added bonus getting to the final. However it is a cup they have won 3 times: In 1980–81, 1984–85, and 1996–97. Beith had never won the cup in their 78 year history and they were hoping to rewrite history today.
I wanted to sit amongst the fans of the underdogs Beith. Whitehill had entertained Beith in a friendly away back in July and they were sound guys, so much so that they have invited us down to Beith this year for a return match. However Jamie’s pals from Gateshead were already inside guzzling the pies and were in the Main Stand amongst the Pollok fans so that’s where we went. It turned out to be a decent decision as my napper got some shelter from the hot sun, and I got some decent shots of the Beith fans celebrating.
As for Pollok, this was the fifth time I had seen them play this season, the highlights being a Carlo Monti-inspired 5-0 demolition of Bonnyrigg Rose and a David Winters hat-trick as they won 5-1 at Petershill.
Finally we got seats right on the halfway line and waited for the teams to appear as Jamie demolished his Killie Pie, Bounty and Bovril. I hadn’t been in the Rugby Park main stand for many years and I had forgotten how little legroom there was for a big fella like me. The game was scheduled for 4.05 as it was live on BBC Alba. Strangely it was about 7 minutes late in starting.
After a scrappy first half mainly dominated by Pollok, Darren Christie latched onto a long ball, made a bit of space for himself and dispatched a left-footer across the Pollok keeper to put Beith one up, just on the hour mark, and then Andy Reid missed a great chance to make it 2-0.
After looking imperious up till then, Pollok were up against it and with 20 minutes left they brought on 41-year old Robbie Winters, a move which paid off after only a minute when brother David hit the post, and Robbie equalised, amidst Beith protests of offside and obstructing the goalkeeper.
David Winters was to take the sponsors’ Man of the Match award, a prize which he took to his obvious embarrassment as the decision was obviously made before his missed penalty…
So after late scares at both ends the match ended 1-1 and went to a shoot-out. It looked bleak for the Ayrshiremen when Pollok’s Jordan Longmuir saved a very weak spot kick from Kenny McLean, but Beith goalie Stephen Grindlay saved from Allan Mackenzie and David Winters. With Thomas Collins, Kevin MacDonald and Jamie Wilson all scoring, this left Richie Burke with the task of sending Langmuir the wrong way and winning the cup for Beith.