Saturday, 18 July 2009

Brazilian Magic

East Kilbride Thistle v Ayr United U19s
Friendly, Tommy McGrane Cup, Semi-Final
Saturday 18th July 2009, kick-off 12pm (delayed)
Showpark, East Kilbride

A weekend feast of football as the junior clubs begin their pre-season fixtures. The annual tournament at East Kilbride Thistle's Showpark was my destination as four teams battle it out over two days for the Tommy McGrane Cup. Tommy was former club secretary at the Jags and a big part of the football club, but he sadly passed away in 1984. His wife is still involved with the club and she will be presenting the trophy to the winners alongside her two sons. The teams competing are Allan Maitland's Alloa Athletic, Glasgow junior side Petershill, Ayr United U19s and of course East Kilbride Thistle, the latter of the two are first up. The two winning sides will play it out for the cup late afternoon on Sunday with the two losing sides providing the support act beforehand, if any ties end in a draw they go straight to penalty kicks. The programme for the weekend is as follows:

Saturday 18th July
9am – East Kilbride Thistle Girls U15s v Falkirk Girls U15s
12pm – East Kilbride Thistle v Ayr United U19s
2pm – East Kilbride Thistle Youth Development
3.30pm – Alloa Athletic v Petershill
Sunday 19th July
9am – East Kilbride Thistle U21s v East Kilbride Thistle U19s
12pm – Third Place Play-Off
2pm – East Kilbride Thistle Youth Development
3.30pm – Final

On arrival I opted to park in the nearby street opposed to the home of potholes that was the car park. I purchased the weekend ticket for a tenner, not bad for all of the above, and 'The Jag Mag' (top right) tournament programme for £1.50. I visited the ground towards the end of last season for a meaningless league match against Girvan, EK losing out 1-0 in a dismal affair. Since then a lot of work has been done on the ground with the fences and sheltered stand painted, which looked quite impressive. The stand is about twenty yards back from the pitch and has a snack shop at one end, which sell high quality hot-dogs. The pitch is given a unique, old-fashioned appearance because of the square goalposts which must be very rare now, I recall Montrose having them before they changed to the plastic surface. I personally liked the ground, it had a bit of character despite totally lacking in atmosphere.

Kick-off was delayed for around fifteen minutes for some unknown reason, as a crowd of about one-hundred or so waited patiently in wet conditions. Whilst waiting some kids were blowing bubbles, perhaps they were young West Ham fans. Eventually the teams came out, The Jags in black and white stripes and the young Honest Men in all white. Ex-Jags midfielder Jonathan Tiffoney moved to Ayr United in the summer and was on bench this afternoon.

The Jags looked the better side in the early stages and had the ball cleared off the line as the Ayr youngsters took their time to settle. I noticed that EK frontman Steven McClung was being referred to as 'Dunga' by his team-mates, a belter of a nickname! It took half an hour for the experience to tell, Jags left full-back bombed forward down the wing and fired the ball across the goal, 'Dunga' reacted quickly at the near post to open the scoring. Late in the half the Jags struck the square crossbar from distance as they began to dominate, half-time thankfully came for the youngsters. The entertainment was provided by cheerleaders, I've never understood this at football games, especially when it's young girls, but EK Thistle seem to have a great relationship with the local community with things like this, ladies teams and various youth teams.

An amusing moment at the beginning of the second period as blocked cross deflected out and knocked a fan off the pitch side fence, who stumbled and fell onto the park, it arguably received the biggest cheer of the day and of course he was okay. EK doubled their lead after a volleyed shot-come-cross by Ross Ballantyne was headed in, and it was all one-way traffic. A superb third goal was then added, 'Dunga' turned his man expertly and played a one-two with his strike partner, then opened up his body to stroke it past the advancing 'keeper, beautiful! Straight after young Tiffoney came on for an early Showpark return and gave the Ayr youngsters some much needed energy, a few efforts from distance was all he could manage though.

The match finished 3-0 to Thistle and they'll play the winners of the next match between Alloa Athletic and Petershill tomorrow, Ayr United U19s will play the losers from that encounter. Some of my pictures from the day can be viewed here.

Result: East Kilbride Thistle 3-0 Ayr United U19s

East Kilbride Thistle: unknown
Ayr United U19s: unknown

East Kilbride Thistle: unknown
Ayr United U19s: none

Attendance: unknown

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