Hannah Park, West Region League One. 11/5/19
Shotts Bon Accord Football Club
Founded – 1950
Nicknames – The Bonny, The BA
Honours – Scottish Junior Cup 1957-58 and 2011/12, West of Scotland Cup – 1963/64
Current Division – West of Scotland Football League Conference A
Random Fact – In 1995 Shotts were suspended from the Central Region of the SJFA for one season, after launching court action against the organisation. The club were re-admitted to its Second Division (third tier) in the 1996–97 season. Incredibly they won each of the league’s three divisions in consecutive seasons upon their readmission. Flicking a massive bird to the association en route
A year ago today Wee Man and myself were treated to a fantastic offering of fitba. For a neutral and Blantyre Vics that is . Not so much for the unfortunate losers of this great game, Shotts Bon Accord. As we fell under the former bracket we were qualified to enjoy it.
This was to be another high scoring affair in the Juniors during the crazy thirty one day period home I was in the midst of. What was about to unfold at the biggest playing surface in Scottish fitba was nothing short of first rate entertainment. Shotts trailed Gartcairn in the league by five points with two games to play, Gartcairn were finished. Its was all or bust. And Blantyre were there to make sure it was bust as they had their own promotion hopes to deal with. It was set up to be a cracker with so much riding on it
The Bonnie and Hannah Park were part of my “every team to win the Scottish Cup in my life” challenge as they got their hands on the Scottish holy grail for a second time in 2012. I couldn’t have planned it any better. One of the most fun an fulfilling days out with Wee Man, if not the outright best.
But while we were still unaware of how good the day was going to be there was the pre match entertainment to get through and the choice of venue turned out to be a lot better than I thought it would be. The Scottish Owl Centre at Polkemmet Country Park(between Whitburn and Harthill) is really good. I loved it, Wee Man loved and everyone kicking about seemed to love it. I can see why Alan Partridge suggested an Owl sanctuary for a date*. It was good for Wee Man and a lot to learn for him too . Over one hundred owls from forty species, displays and a meet an owl section too. The lad was in his element and still speaks about it to this day. Mission of morning child amusement was more than successful. If you have kids and find yourself in the area its well worth a visit. In fact who needs kids. Second mission was to feed the gannet and unfortunately the café at the park was shut and I hadn’t packed a picnic . This meaning I had to off the cuff find somewhere in either Harthill or Shotts for a bite to eat. In doing so the answer to the question I had been asking myself all the way down started becoming apparent. Driving through Harthill I saw plenty of Union Jacks flying in gardens and from windows but I didn’t see an eatery. Once in Shotts I found a café so parked up just down the road which turned out to be the carpark for the local lodge. This plus the flags in Harthill suggested the answer to my “which way do the towns down here sway” question was there’s a blue persuasion in that neck of the woods. Then in the café the guy in front and a couple behind were all in r*****s strips pretty much cemented the answer. But that was totally irrelevant as we were here to see the famous local side the BA. That is was what mattered. After a couple of sandwiches and a cup of tea we were away up the hill to Hannah Park
Keeping up Junior traditions Wee Man was let in for free(only ever charged once at this level) not without the guy on the turnstile jokingly stealing his bag of fine pieces off him as payment. These pieces were so we could have a mini picnic during the warm up as the weather was scorching and it was a shame to waste any of the cracking spring day. Once we were in I headed to the “Bonny Bistro” to get a coffee and a badge and I was in awe of how stocked with choices it was. I felt bad taking in outside food after seeing this superb outlet. No doubt about it, there was a more superior choice than you get in the South Stand at Pittodrie. The best snack bar in non league Scottish fitba. Must be in with a shout
We headed for the far end of the pitch as there was a large grassy area for us to sit and eat then have the obligatory kick about as Wee Man has taken his trusty Ol’ Yellow with him. The kick about didn’t last long as we were sweating in no time in the North Lanarkshire sun. As we sat and watched the teams warm up it became apparent that the pitch is an absolutely massive expanse of grass. I later found out the very unsurprising fact its the biggest playing surface in the country. Basically pushed to limits of dimensional legality. I used to think playing on Burghead Thistles Forest Park was a nightmare. Hannah Park eclipses it and more. In other words, bollocks to playing there. However, Hannah Park is ace in terms of non league. The stand is unique and actually looks like it would close when not in use. You maybe have to see it to understand what I am getting at. The rest of the ground is made up of a few steps of terracing circling round most of the pitch. This is found behind an aging brick wall which has seen better days but adds to the character of this great old ground. I was to find out at half time from a local punter that the ground was named after local man James Hannah. Mr Hannah was part of the volunteer team who built the ground who unfortunately contracted thrombosis during construction and died as a result.
Then the game. What a game. The teams emerged out of the clubhouse to a plume of blue flare smoke from the Blantyre fans which Wee Man was absolutely loving. A first for him(and to this day his only experience, I think) Nice work, pyro at the Juniors. This was just the start of good things to come as this encounter was to be a belter. It swapped directions on numerous occasion. The hosts were the better team in the opening stages but lacked in terms of anything in terms of chances created. But it was the visitors who should have taken the league when the forward tried to bend his shot in the bottom corner but missed the target. If it was me I would have tried to rifle the ball a bit more. This sparked Blantyre into action and turned the match into an end to end battle with chances for both teams. The opening goal could have went to either team but it was the hosts who grabbed it when McGeough was left in acres of space to head home a cross at the back post. The ‘tyre will have been disappointed at losing such a poor goal defensively . They weren’t down for long though and the flares were out again when Campbell towered above everyone in the box to nod home. As a defender myself I had to put this down to poor defending again as the Bonny seemed to all have lead in their boots
Blantyre looked more up for it from the in the second half. The lead should have been taken long before it was but for some woeful finishing .The visitors second did come though when Caldwell was put through delightfully and the number eight slid the ball expertly past the onrushing Shotts keeper Murdoch. Two became three soon after but in baffling circumstances. The ref pointed to the to the spot for a make believe infringement and awarded a pen that clearly wasn’t a pen. No claims, no linesman intervention. I am sure I heard the man in the middle say handball. But not a chance.Justice had prevailed when Jones hit the post or so we thought. The kick was to be retaken for encroachment. What a hit too, you would have thought Jones would have been rocked somewhat after missing his first effort, akin to a tennis player on a second serve but no. He stepped up again and thundered the ball off the bar where it crashed down onto the goal line and into the top of the net without touching the back of the net. Brave from the defender, but effective. Flare number three was cracked at this point and I was wondering how many this Vics fan had in his stash. He needed another one soon after when goal of the game came from Boyle curled an unstoppable shot across the goal from 25 yards leaving Murdoch to just stand and admire. This surely killing Shotts title bid stone dead. But no Bon Accord were not out of this yet. As Wee man and I started to make our way to the other end of the ground,as it would take a while to walk the five miles of it and also so we could make a cool sharp harp before the sizable crowd when The BA grabbed a second through McGeough with around ten minutes to go. The ball was rapidly retrieved and the Blantyre net was rippled just as quickly when Love notched a third for the BAs. The closing stages were a prime example of the old saying of “everything but the kitchen sink” as Shotts did everything in their power but it wasn’t to be. Blantyre were confirmed to go up along with Shotts who failed in their title hunt. Great stuff which Wee Man still speaks about now a year on. Another great game for my April and May escapades for 2019.
Another game up there with the most entertaining I have ever seen. Without a multimillion-pound player in sight. I am happy for both clubs ending up with promotion in second and third joining Gartcairn up in the Championship for season 2019/20. Just for this game alone. But also the people we spoke to(both sets of fans) were very welcoming and that goes along way towards the days experience. Some teams supporters wont give you the time of day
But more importantly, the day as whole was as close to perfect as it could be. It had everything that makes fitba awesome these days. Superb morning with Wee Man chuffed to bits, great weather, good welcoming locals whether at the turnstile, in the Bonny Bistro or having a blether with us at HT, great wee ground(one of my favourites), the quirk of the ridiculously ginormous park, a quality showing of fitba on said gargantuan park, seven goals and Wee Man clearly buzzing on the three hour drive back home. Then what game in the central belt isn’t complete with a chipper from the Newmachar Fish bar on the way home. But at the end of the day, its priceless father/son bonding. That’s what matters and that’s why football is more than just ninety minutes to me these days
*I did not see Alan Partridge and a lady while going around the centre