Red Light (Arbroath)

The remote Angus coastal burgh of Arbroath is famous for two reasons, the “smokie” a kiln smoked salted haddock and for the fact that the town’s football team hold the record for the biggest victory in senior football.

In September 1885 Arbroath defeated the hapless Bon Accord by an incredible score of 36-0. Arbroath forward Jocky Petrie helped himself to thirteen of the goals, itself an individual scoring record. Amazingly on the very same day Dundee Harp missed their chance of lasting fame by only racking up 35 unanswered goals against Aberdeen Rovers.

The club has the nickname of “the Red Lichties” which was derived from the red lights that were illuminated on the harbour front to safely guide the fishing boats back home.

Arbroath were formed in 1878 and initially played on a basic pitch between the sea and the railway line. It was known as the Hospital Field. In 1880 the club moved to a new site which was called Old Gayfield. It was tightly hemmed in and on one side the external wall was yards from the touchline meaning spectators could not watch from that side. The first game at the ground was against Rob Roy. However, the new ground irked mighty Rangers who complained that “the back green” they had just lost on was too small for purpose. The Scottish FA acquiesced to their demands for a replay which the Glaswegians won 8-1. Old Gayfield was subsequently enlarged with the acquisition of seashore owned by the local railway company.

The club played their last match at Old Gayfield in March 1925 against King’s Park before moving the ground around sixty yards south west. The old seaside stand was demolished and a new stand erected on the Dundee Road side of the new orientation of the ground now called Greater Gayfield. The ground was ready for the new season and 7,000 people packed in to see the Earl of Strathmore declare the venue open before a game against East Fife.

In 1949 the record attendance of 13,510 was set at Gayfield when another visit from Rangers passed without complaint. The floodlights at Gayfield have a chequered history to say the least. The first temporary set were erected in 1955 and in only their second game against Dundee United an Arbroath player caused much merriment by smashing one of the lights with a wayward boot of the ball. These were replaced with lights bought from Aberdeen in 1970 although sixteen years later they were sold on again to Eastwood Town.

Gayfield survived a serious fire to the main stand in September 1958, the alarm being raised by Partick Thistle players lodging in the hotel opposite the ground. The old stand suffered significant damage and was replaced by the present brick and concrete structure. Two of the three covers were erected in 1979 and the fabled “seaside” stand was covered a year later. It truly must be the closest football stand to the sea in the land, both Gay Meadow and Craven Cottage being merely riverside rather than adjacent to the howling, elemental and endless North Sea. The word “bracing” somehow just doesn’t cut muster.

Today’s game is played in a strong wind and fair light and Gayfield rocks to an early penalty kick which is comfortably dispatched by Paul McManus. The hosts failed to build on it though and only lead their Highland League visitors by a one goal margin at the turn around.

Arbroath double their lead when left back Scott McBride powers in an impressive header from a corner. Almost immediately after the restart there is concern for the home goalkeeper who was subject to a heavy but fair challenge. He is down for some five minutes receiving treatment and has to be replaced. As the sun sets over Gayfield it is the visitors of Nairn that push forward, Sean Webb reduces the arrears two minutes from time. There is of course lengthy stoppage time and Nairn pile on the pressure seeking to take the tie back to Station Park for a replay. They can count themselves unlucky that the equaliser didn’t materialise and the Red Lichties held on for the victory.

Gayfield is just glorious, there is no other word for it. Sweeping terraces and hefty covers built, no hewn, to withstand this unforgiving coast and its unrelenting wind, sea, salt and weather. This is visceral, primordial football not only do you have to outwit your opponent but you also have to do battle with the unpredictable elements. It’s not too glib to say this is an iconic lower league ground, ridiculously photogenic, all big skies and lucent light. I excitedly snapped photograph after photograph, until the red light indicated battery power down. This ground has a mythical feel to it, truly up there with the best grounds in the kingdom.

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Saturday November 1st 2014 – Scottish Cup Third Round

Arbroath 2 (McManus pen 22, McBride 67)
Nairn County 1 (Webb 88)

Attendance: 682 (at Gayfield Park)


1. David Crawford, 2. Ricky Little, 3. Scott McBride, 4. Kevin Nicoll, 5. Aldin El-Zubaidi, 6. Mark Whatley, 7. Bobby Linn, 8. Keiran Stewart, 9. Paul McManus (c), 10. Simon Murray, 11. Jordan Lowdon.

Subs: 12. Kevin Buchan (for 9,78 mins), 14. Michael Travis, 15. Johnny Lindsay, 16. Michael Wallace, 17. Connor Birse, 18. Craig Johnstone (for 11, 63 mins), 21. Scott Morrison (for 1,71 mins).


20. Callum Antell, 2. Sean Webb 3. Glenn Main, 4. Michael Morrison (c), 5. Martin MacDonald, 6. Wayne MacKintosh, 7. Bradley Halsman, 8. Alan Pollock, 9. Robert Duncanson, 10. Conor Gethins, 11. Kyle Wilkie.

Subs: 1. Michael MacCallum, 12. Paul Macleod, 14. Ross Naismith (for 11,82 mins), 15. Sam Urquhart (for 9,73 mins), 16. Adam Naismith, 17. Chris Moir, 18. Matthew Murphy.

Yellow Card: Morrison (Nairn)


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Lichties prog


The Barley Man (St.Johnstone)

St. Johnstone were officially formed in 1884 although their first recorded match was not until February 1885. A Perth cricketer called John Colborn decided to form a new football club after some fellow cricketers kicked a ball around South Inch, the large public park situated on the banks of the River Tay.

Although Perth already had its own football teams including Erin Rovers, Fair City Athletic and the Perth Railway team called Caledonian. However it was Colborn’s new team that gained popularity ostensibly a by clever choice of name. Perth was known as “St. John’s Toun” as the biggest church in the area was dedicated to John the Baptist.

The club initially played at the Recreation Ground adjacent to South Inch and opposite the town’s prison . The site suffered greatly from periodic flooding when the swell of the Tay in flood would prove ruinous. So in 1924 the club upped sticks and moved across town to a new ground called Muirton Park on the northern outskirts of Perth. Judicious selection had tram links already in place and the field’s location in Dunkeld Road meant getting to the new ground would be easy.

The ground was set out with one big main stand and three sides of uncovered terracing. The entire project cost £13,194 with nearly £10,000 of the expenditure being spent on the construction of the grandstand. Although the board were confident the public would support the move to better facilities they could scarcely have anticipated the 11,000 crowd that assembled for the first game against Queen’s Park on Christmas Day 1924.

The ground must have been bursting at the seams when in February 1951 a colossal gate of 29,972 gathered for a Scottish Cup tie against near neighbours Dundee. It was to be the all time record crowd for Muirton Park.

Apart from the addition of floodlights in 1964, the ground had scarcely changed when the Bradford fire disaster in 1985 bought about the publication of the Safety of Sports Ground Act. Lack of investment at the ground saw the North Stand and part of the Centre Stand immediately closed and a seated capacity restriction of 500 imposed. The club found themselves forcibly relegated due to the state of the ground. The future of the Saints looked bleak indeed when out of the blue the Asda supermarket chain offered to buy the site and the adjacent ice rink for a new supermarket, funding a replacement stadium as part of the deal. The club played its last game at Muirton Park against Ayr United in April 1989 before moving to the brand new McDairmid Park.

At a modest budget of £4.9 million architect Percy Johnson-Marshall provided the club with everything they needed in a new ground. A capacity of 10,600 and ultra modern facilities saw the club in prime condition to climb back up the divisions.

The site of the new stadium was on a field used for growing barley and was owned by Bruce McDairmid. The kindly landowner donated the land free of charge to “the people of Perth”. The club insisted on giving him a 20% stake-holding and naming the new stadium after him in acknowledgement of his generous act of philanthropy.

Sadly today there is no vestige of Muirton Park left, though interestingly as part of the planning agreement Asda originally had to agree to paint the store royal blue as a nod to its historic past. Disappointingly the store nowadays sports the standard green livery.

Tonight’s game sees a charge of £23 to get in which doubtless contributed, along with live television coverage, to a modest turned out on Halloween night. Rain arrived just before kick off and poured down unrelentingly for the duration of the match. The visitors from Motherwell began in the ascendancy and when Michael O’Halloran casually lost possession in his own half, within seconds Lionel Ainsworth was dispatching the ball past Alan Mannus in the home goal. The errant striker would make amends however with two classy goals, the second nine minutes from time sealing a welcome victory for the Perthshire men.

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Friday October 31st 2014 – SPFL Premiership

St.Johnstone (1) 2 (O’Halloran 40,81)
Motherwell (1) 1 (Ainsworth 14)

Attendance: 2,531 (164 away) at McDairmid Park


1. Alan Mannus, 2. David Mackay (c), 5. Frazer Wright, 6. Steven Anderson, 7. Chris Millar, 8. Gary McDonald, 14. Brian Graham, 17. James McFadden, 22. Lee Croft, 24. Brian Easton, 29. Michael O’Halloran.

Subs: 15. Steve Banks, 11. Adam Morgan, 16. Liam Caddis (for 17,85 mins), 19. Gary Miller (for 22,89 mins), 20. Scott Brown, 38. Ally Gilchrist, 31. Dylan Easton.


12. Dan Twardzik, 3. Steven Hammell, 5. Simon Ramsden, 6. Stephen McManus, 7. Lionel Ainsworth, 9. John Sutton, 11. Iain Vigurs, 14. Keith Lasley (c), 17. Zaine Francis-Angol, 20. Fraser Kerr, 24. Henrik Ojamaa.

Subs: 13. Gunnar Neilson, 2. Craig Reid, 4. Stuart Carswell, 15. Mark O’Brien (for 3,85 mins), 16. Robert McHugh, 18. Josh Law (for 11,88 mins), 19. Lee Erwin (for 17,82 mins).

Yellow Cards: Ojamaa, Vigurs (both Motherwell)


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Saints prog