BY MARK GODFREY
Having spent two days working in the plush, corporate surroundings of Old Trafford last week (no prawn sandwiches but half decent grub provided nonetheless), I came crashing back to down to earth on Saturday with my first visit to Newlandsfield Park, Glasgow, to watch hosts Pollok take on Glenafton Athletic.
For anyone unsure of who or what I’m talking about, Pollok is a Junior club (Scottish non-league) based in Glasgow’s southside, on the fringes of the trendy area of Shawlands. While Saturday’s visitors in the Stagecoach Super League Premier Division, Glenafton, tipped up from Ayrshire. My original plan for the weekend was to stay at the future in-laws and head to watch Partick vs. Aberdeen in the Scottish Premiership, but having totally cocked-up when reading the fixture list and realised they weren’t even playing due to the international break, I decided to take in Non-League Day north of the border. And I certainly wasn’t alone. A fair estimate would of around 500 were in attendance, which may or may not be close to the norm. It is said that quite a number of Junior teams attract gates in excess of those attracted by many of Scotland’s lower level league clubs, and on this evidence, that assertion is correct.
Arriving just in time for the 2pm kick-off, the quirky, compact ground reeked of footballing history and tradition, tucked away amongst the tenements and high-rises with terracing so tight to the pitch you could smell the player’s liniment. Unusually for such levels of the game, the pitch was in immaculate condition despite the previous day’s torrential downpour. I was hopeful rather than optimistic that the players were of such a standard to be able to take advantage. My optimism was to be rewarded.
In the first half, Pollok hussled and harried, utilising their superior physical attributes while the nippier, more assured Glenafton boys stroked the ball round, weaving pretty patterns across the manicured grass. The boys in red were rewarded just before half-time when their outstanding No.9 put them deservedly ahead having already seen the Pollok keeper deny him on numerous oocasions. The natives were not so much restless at the break, more listless, as they wandered quietly toward the snack shop for their pies and bovrils.
The second half saw The Lok fightback as wave after wave of attack was desperately fended off by the Glenafton rearguard. The pressure finally told, on the officials at least, when a highly dubious penalty was given when the Pollok frontman took a tumble in the box. The spot kick was dispatched with aplomb to level things up and very soon after, the home side went 2-1 up. Glenafton looked out on their feet, like Ivan Drago at the end of the fight in Rocky IV, but somehow they got their second wind and bagged a well-taken an equaliser late on. This highly entertaining game finished in a thoroughly deserved 2-2 draw.
After the final whistle as the spectators ebbed away, several disgruntled Glenafton fans stayed back to ‘greet’ the referee and his assistants as they made their way back to the changing rooms with one particular old-timer semi-coherently shouting and bawling his way through the streets outside as if to make sure the Saturday afternoon shoppers at the nearby Morrison’s were aware of the miscarriage of footballing justice that had just taken place.
As a neutral, I thought it was a superb advertisement for Junior football and the quality and entertainment that can be found away from Soccer Saturday, hooky internet streams, or overpriced league fixtures (just a fiver to get in. Bargain). Here’s a few photos.