Sunday, March 11, 2012

Spotlight on......Annan Athletic

10th March 2012

Irn Bru League Division 3
Annan Athletic 1-3 Stranraer
Galabank, Annan

Attendance: 491

Annan Athletic are, of course, the newest team to enter the Scottish Football League. What people may not know about the club is that the SFL is actually the sixth league in which Annan have played in their 80 year history.

1942 – 1945: Dumfries and District Youth League
1945 – 1952: Dumfries and District Junior League
1952 – 1977: Carlisle and District League
1977 – 1987: South of Scotland Football League
1987 – 2008: East of Scotland Football League
2008 – 2012: Scottish Football League

With all the talk of re-structuring, could Annan be set for league number seven?

The Stadium (quirkiness and comfort) - 9/10

Regardless of the league, Annan have always played their football at Galabank, a largely open stadium with uncovered standing areas around three-quarters of it and a cute little Main Stand on the West side of the ground.

My favourite thing about this bizarre little stand is that it is only five rows deep which makes things nice and compact and gets you right in the thick of it with the fans.

As it’s open, you are able to walk all the way round (everyone knows by now I’m a massive fan of that) and Galabank has a few quite nice, quirky touches as well.

The club shop (in portacabin form), the fold-out plastic tunnel attached to the clubhouse and the marquee that seemed to be holding someone’s fiftieth birthday party were but three of Galabank’s treats!

Overall, I found the stadium to be a fantastic wee place in which to watch a match.

Catering (quality and price) 9/10

I’d heard some good things about the catering before heading down to Annan – including a rumour of Vimto bon-bons – and I wasn’t disappointed. Well, I was a bit…in that there weren’t any such bon-bons….but the pie was absolutely tremendous. For £2.20 the usual pie and tea combination was a winning formula.

They don't have a hugely varied menu and did seem to run out of things quite quickly so my advice would be to get in early. Even waiting until half time, I suspect, would be risky business, but if you do get in early you’ll not be disappointed.

Fans (scored on both atmosphere & conduct – sporting behaviour, welcoming nature etc) - 17/25

The Annan fans, on the whole, were pretty elderly. I would say the average age of a home supporter was about 65. This isn’t conducive to a particularly raucous atmosphere. In fact, when Annan took the lead my “yeooooooooooooah” was about the noisiest thing in the ground which isn’t ideal. That said, as things developed in the game, the fans did come alive somewhat (perhaps the old fellas were just napping?) and the fans did get into it a bit more.

I was able to hear many of them acknowledging the strengths and weakness of their team and that Stranraer were the better side. They were appreciative of the good football being played by the away team and, recognised that their own side weren’t the best on the day.

I didn't get a picture of the fans...but isn't this horse lovely?

Overall, I’d say the Annan fans were extremely sporting and knowedable about the game but don’t create a particularly fun atmosphere for those at Galabank.

Entertainment on the pitch (quite self explanatory) - 15/25

On the pitch, Annan weren’t the best to watch. At times, they played okay stuff. Especially down the right hand side. Generally speaking though, it was all a bit fragmented and one-dimensional – namely…long ball. I wouldn’t say it was excruciating though, the “up and at em” stuff worked in some spells and does get you going but they really did just struggle to deal with a far superior opposition on the day.

Despite taking the lead through a fantastic Steven Swinglehurst header after only 3 minutes, Annan couldn’t kick on from there with the away side taking charge and dominating for most of the first half thereafter. A silly foul on Martin Grehan gave the Stair Park side a penalty equaliser and right on the stroke of half time the visitors took the lead thanks to a fantastic Frank McKeown header.

Token match shot

The second half saw Annan puffing and panting but not really threatening and Stranraer playing on the counter – which is how they scored their third with Craig Malcolm finishing neatly after a lovely through ball.

Some players worth a mention:

Peter Watson: The big right back is a massive unit and (apologies for the clich√©) for such a big guy he really does have a great touch. Good going forward and solid at defensively, I was quite impressed by this fella. I’m not sure he could play much higher than Division 3 mind you but he had a good game certainly.

Sean O’Connor: The former Queen of the South man was Annan’s stand out player in my opinion. He won every long ball played up to him, took ball into chest and feet brilliantly and linked play up well. If he hadn’t been playing with the quite awful David Winters, he may have also managed to stick one away too.

Value for money (what you get for your buck) - 20/30

I would actually say that Annan is decent value as a day out. Okay, they weren’t great on the park and the fans weren’t maybe the most excitable, but the ground is a lovely wee one to be in and the food is tremendous. More than that, the choice of music played before the match was phenomenal. “When the Going Gets Tough” by Billy Ocean, people. Come on!

New to the SFL, I would suggest that people get themselves down to Annan at least once for a visit. Even though it’s a trek, it is a good day out and one I would recommend.

Overall score for Annan Athletic – 70/100

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