Alford Pleasure Park, AAFA First Division East, 8/6/22
Entrance – Free
Attendance – 227
Pie – N/A
Pint – £3.70 Tennents, Haughton Arms
Alford Amateur Football Club
Founded – 1971
Nickname – None
Honours – AAFA Division One East – 2021/22, AAFA Divison Four – 1972/73. AAFA Division Five – 1971/72. Barclay Cook Cup – 1971/72. Cusiter Cup – 1971-72. Edmond Trophy – 1979-80. Paterson Cup –1982/83. Ian Napier Memorial Trophy -1984/85. Hans Fyfe Trophy – 1991/92 and 2005/06. Castle Rovers Cup – 2006/07. White Cup – 2021/22
Random Fact – I had in fact watched a game at Alford before when either injured or suspended for Ellon Thistle. It all came back to me tonight when I went into the pub pre-game. We lost 1-0, it was scorching and there was a carryout on the sidelines.
The season continues, and the season is still throwing up important fixtures. They don’t get more important than a last game shoot out for the league title. A localish game to us at the opposite side of Bennachie from our Meldrum abode, we found ourselves in a place I have a lot of time for. As far as nice necks of the woods in the ‘shire go Alford is right up there. Starting the night off with a feed in the Houghton Arms down the road from the game the pub fits right in with my good feelings for the town. Good food, nice boozer , friendly folk and a cracking dog called Milo who made pals with us. It was in here that I realised the league table on the AAFA website was not up to date and this was a winner takes all. Beacon were correct but Alford’s results were not. This meaning all the scenarios I had worked out in my head were incorrect and Alford in fact needed a draw to win the league, Beacon had to win. Simple.
On arrival to Pleasure Park I was impressed with the facilities. I remember a dry ski slope and the fitba pitch from the past but its a lot more. The football pitch sits at the bottom of three tiers. Up one is the rugby pitch, then up top is a training pitch which I would guess is also used for youth games. There are tennis courts, basketball courts, a bowling green, large skate park and a fitness park. For a town of this size they really are fantastic. Some cities would not have it as good as sleepy Alford does. One slight annoyance. There is no sign for the place anywhere so our thumbs up photo had to be in front of the pitch. A wee gripe but nothing major. Anyway we utilized the rugby pitch for a kick about as the teams warmed up, this moved into the skate park at the request of Wee Man
I am not going to lie, I was not fully impartial tonight. This down to I would always choose the teuchter team over the toonsers, this because I am a life long country boy myself. It’s that simple. Its nothing against Beacon, its just a bumpkin solidarity thing. However I really didn’t know how this game would go. The mandatory pre-match prediction for Wee Man was 1-1 but that was just to give him a score. I did not have a clue.
The game was a bit rubbish to start off in all honesty. But this could be expected given what was riding on it. It was a bit stuffy. Beacon created a couple of half chances in the first few minutes with a header from Frazer Burrows being the best. But it fell flat. There were a lot of stray passes and lets say a bit of nerves. The next thing of note after the early chances was when one of the many Alford Reids, Fraser, had the chance of the game to date when he found himself in space and curled an effort across goal and just over. This was followed by a comical penalty claim from Alford’s Scott Coutts, down he went theatrically then he let out this whimper of a shout as if he realised half way through his act that he had no chance. Comical and a bit pathetic really. Alford spurned the biggest chance of the half when another Reid, this time Mark was left unmarked at the back post but his header seemed to be too powerful and went agonizingly over the apex of the goal. Beacon took the lead just prior to the half when James Wilson stepped up to strike a freekick which he did with fantastic accuracy over the wall and into the bottom corner from twenty yards. A cracking strike to open the scoring. Alford thought they had equalised immediately but it was ruled out for offside. Other end of the park so cant comment, but noticeably the impressively large Alford support didn’t complain too much which was a bit of a give away.
HT 0 v 1
The second half was a lot better and both teams upped a gear turning this game into an enjoyable watch. This also got the noise of the crowd up. A crowd that had swelled considerably at the break due to youth teams and parents turning up after their training had finished. I originally counted 188 in the first half, this had increased to 227 come the refs whistle to restart things. Impressive numbers and works out at about one tenth of the towns population. Community spirit in abundance.Alford pushed and Beacon defended sternly, with clearances and challenges being celebrated with plenty of back patting going on in the defence. You could tell how much this meant to the men in red. Whether a clearance from Craib or a tackle from Stewart the passion of the team was clear and they limited Alfords chances for a lengthy period. However, Alford had the first real chance of the half when substitute Ewan Smith only had keeper MacKenzie to beat but hit it too close to the big keeper. Soon after fellow substitute McIntosh should have scored when at point blank range, but he struck across the ball putting bend on it and the effort struck the outside of the post and out for a goal kick. I would have to say bad miss here given the distance from goal. Then the opposite post was involved in the next big moment and it was huge in this title race. Let call what unfolded a bit of a stramash where MacKenzie was again called into action saving well from a close effort the follow up was struck off the post then the next effort from Fraser Reid was saved, the striker was under serious pressure and looked to have been fouled as he hit it. The referee thought so anyway and blew for the penalty. This all seemed to happen at a frantic pace with the box loaded with what seemed to be every player on the park. Grant stepped up and sent MacKenzie the wrong way. Alford were in the driving seat and the cheers from the locals told you as much. Alford created a few more decent chances but never found the target. The next time they did hit the target was after they were awarded a controversial penalty when Chalmers slipped in the box. His marker had a hand on him but nothing to send someone down. Even Wee Man would have stayed on his feet. The striker went down as he slipped and his legs went from under him. No foul and not even remotely near to a foul. Grant again stepped up but this time MacKenzie guessed right but his save seemed to create a spin on the ball sending it into the opposite corner of the net. Unfortunate for the keeper and for Beacon in general as big decisions going against you in such a high staked game are not what the doctor ordered. Alford went on to kill the game when Fraser Reid(my man of the match for the record, what a shift) broke free, as he closed in he squared to Ian Chalmers who poked home sending the locals into delirium. The trophy sitting on the sideline was staying in Alford.
Good to see a title race go to the last day but you cant help feel for the loser. Beacon went 23 games unbeaten prior to this match and did not win the league(very Buckie Thistle-esque). Sore one that. Alford on the other hand picked up a league and cup double. A decent second halves viewing after a bit of a turgid first period.
Pay per view Scotland game or free last game shoot out in the Aberdeenshire Amateurs, I know what I will choose every time. Especially in a great wee town like Alford. With fuel prices getting quite frankly fucking ridiculous these days, more wee local towns Amateur sides will be getting visited instead of long range efforts to Ayrshire, Lothian and such like, just out of principle. (I filled up today at 1.96 a bloody litre and dont intend to do that very often). Funnily enough we were diverted through Monymusk on the way home and I showed Wee Man the local eponymous side’s Deer Park to which he stated, “can we go there next?”. First next season, quite possibly.
Me 233 (belatedly added to the list tonight), Wee Man 110