Recreation Park, South Challenge Cup, 26/10/22, (Match reversed)
Me 254, Wee Man 128
Darvel Football Club
Founded – 1889
Nickname – The Vale
Honours – WOSFL Premier Division – 2021/22. West Region Championship – 2019–20. Ayrshire District League – 2016/17
Random Fact – The president of the club is John Gall, owner of Brownings Bakers, the home of the famous Killie Pie empire.
Back on to sober fitba, Wee Man and I find ourselves in Ayrshire for the first of three games in the area before I head back to work. Darvel the destination to see the ambitious Vale and their Recreation Park which I have heard good words about. We had planned to head down here on a couple of occasions before but a mixture of things have prevented us, for example roadworks in Glasgow making the 190 mile journey impossible after the school run. However this was the time for us and we made it.
With Wee Man having a sports club in the afternoon there was no pre match entertainment and this was a down and back. As crazy as that sounds but we were both more than up for it. On arrival at Recreation Park, the first thing noticeable is the pitch. This thing looks like green felt. It is a stunning surface and could rival any pro pitch in the land. I would also hazard a guess that there has been a fair bit of money pumped in to upgrade the ground, I would further hazard a guess that there is also more to come. I liked the place.
After a pie and a pint in the Keir White Suite (tidy wee bar area) we headed for the hill behind the goal as it had the most grass for the inevitable kick about. At this point we were armed with our home and away german biscuits. I am a big fan of this, and find it to be a touch of class actually. The game went pretty much exactly how we expected it. After studying the leagues in the car on the way down Wee Man decided on 7 v 0 which was going to be my prediction. I went one further and went 8 v 0. Within six minutes Andrew Stirling had helped himself to a brace. Both goals being similar with balls out wide to the right leading to crosses to Stirling who was waiting to finish. A move that Darvel had tried numerous times in the short spell prior to scoring. It looked like the romp was on. Watching Darvel knock the ball about with pace and intent was great to see and I would go as far as saying they are the best team I have seen this season. But on top of that when the lost the ball they was rapid in recovering it. They continued to probe and came close when Lewis Morrison hit the post with a wee tap past the helpless Thistle keeper Iain Stewart. His team mate Alan MacKenzie should have scored soon after but he pulled a decent save out of East Kilbride’s number one. But he made sure a minute later when he was on the end of another similar move to the first two goals. It was all looking a bit easy for Darvel and it was even easier two minutes later when Ross Caldwell broke the mould. By this I mean he scored a different type of goal when he bent a an 18 yard effort across goal from the left. A very good finish. More chances came but The Vale did not capitalise. Then all of a sudden they took their eye of the ball and let East Kilbride back into it. The visitors had more possession and got forward causing difficulties. The even reduced the deficit when Jamie Longworth fired home with Thistles first attempt (well second as it was a rebound but you know what I mean). This coming in 37 minutes and the visitors were the better team going into the break.
HT 4 v 1
After pinging around 150 shots at Wee Man over the break the second half started in the same manner as the first with Thistle looking dangerous when going forward and the quickly had their reward when David Gray finished off a decent move albeit with the aid of a deflection past Truesdale in the Darvel goal. But Darvel soon found their mojo again and were unlucky not to have added a couple more before finally grabbing their fifth. This time it was Craig Moore who ran twenty yards with Thistle defenders in chase but as he approached the box he placed a decent effort past Stewart on the hour. Surely game over. But it wasn’t for Darvel who are ruthless. 5 became 6 couple of minutes later when Morrison thumped one home from 10 yards. I actually thought his touch had let him down but his recovery was swift and the finish unstoppable. The seventh came ten minutes later when Reilly struck an effort from inside the box on the right. A great finish again from Darvel. Not happy with 7 the Vale continued their assault on the Thistle goal and if it was not for Stewart in goal I am sure double figures would have came. The Thistle keeper was excellent especially when Morrison hit a dipping effort from range which Stewart seemed to dive backwards and tip over. A brilliant stop which he followed up with an equally magic save from the resulting corner. This time Daryll Meggat bulleted a header goal bound but Stewart at full stretch tipped it on to the bar and over. More chances came but Stewart and his defenders threw their bodies all over the box to block. Darvel had a couple ruled out for offside late too. An eighth did finally come and in my eyes goal of the game was scored. A ball out wide on the right to Eadie was knocked inside to Reilly who back heeled to Craig Truesdale who laid off Morrison who struck across into Stewarts left hand corner. Such a simple move in a straight line across the eighteen yard line. But beautiful none the less. And that was that. A destructive display by a very bloody good team. These guys will be in the SPFL soon enough. Mark my words.
A 368 mile round trip down and back on a week night. Madness? I would say it was more than worth it and I would recommend it. You will be treated to some cracking fitba. You will see one of the best pitches in Scotland at a quality modest ground. You will see one of the most ambitious clubs in the country and of course, home and away fine pieces.
See you again very soon Ayrshire.
Entrance – Me £6, Wee Man £0
Attendance – 130
Pie – £8.50 2 x Killie Pie, 2 x German Biscuits, coffee and juice
Pint – £2.80, Tennents, Keir White Suite
Score Prediction – Me 8 v 0, Wee Man 7 v 0
Season Score Prediction Total – Me 1 v 1 Wee Man