Police horses? At a Junior football match?
Sure, two West Super Premier rivals facing off against each other in the Junior Cup (especially with Rangers & Celtic playing the next day in the league Cup Final) is going to generate a bit of interest and a bigger than normal crowd, but this is just weird. One guy shared my surprise as we stood in the pie queue. He reckoned there would be about 400 Arthurlie fans down, but still little need for the boys in blue (and luminous yellow). In the end, they had little to do but kick out a few shell suit clad dobbers (top marks to the lad caught trying to smuggle in bottles of Buckie and MD) and keep a watchful eye on the Talbot Choir in the shed for some reason.
Beechwood Park is remarkable for it's decent sized stand, though on closer inspection, I found that the seats, especially near the front were in a poor way, and I think the roof needs looking at, the small concourse at the front slippery and green with a lichen like substance. That said, if you found yourself a pew near the back, you'd get a grand view of the game. The rest of the ground is open, consisting of concrete slab terracing of varying depths, with the exception of the aforementioned shed, which provides just about enough resonance to get a good sing-song going.
The atmosphere for this game was actually fairly electric for the first five minutes or so, especially with Arthurlie scoring after less than ten seconds. A combination of strong running and neat first time passes sent John McLay through on the keeper. His initial shot was blocked, but he was alert enough to scoop the rebound into the net. Cue wild celebrations from the Arthurlie players as they all piled into one corner of the field, before making their way back for the KO, doubtless pinching themselves at the ease with which they ripped open the zombie like Auchinleck defence.
The game settled down into a bit of a stodgy affair after that, Talbot coming into the game with plenty possession, but no edge, and Arthurlie looking dangerous on the counter attack on a few occasions. Into the 2nd half, and it was Auchinleck who took the game by the goolies though, pressing relentlessly for the equaliser. It came roughly on the hour mark. From where I stood in the shed, it looked like a series of headers across the edge of the box eventually found Sean McIlroy, who drove into the box and stuck the ball past the keeper. Cue bedlam amongst the relieved Talbot fans, and thoughts turned to getting a winner.
It didn't come. The game looked to be petering out, though with Auchinleck still on top. Unsure of the train times, I sloped off with about five minutes to go, but found out from fans who congregated later on the station platform that the game had ended 1-1.
Overall, an enjoyable day out, and a good atmosphere to soak up on what was a cold, overcast and sometimes showery day in deepest Ayrshire.
Game - 3/5 - Pitch looked a bit heavy, and the first half dragged a bit. Nicely taken goals and the 2nd half was better entertainment.
Ground - 4/5 - Tidy, though slightly 'rustic' in places. Good view out to the rolling Ayrshire hills. Main stand makes the ground seem a little bigger than it is. An impressive non-league stadium.
Grub - 2/5* - Plenty choice, and all cheap. Tea/coffee/bovril/soft drinks, as well as two types of pie, plain or with onion. I chose a plain pie, but I think it had been in the display too long as it was more than a little crunchy.
*Maybe a little unfair on the Auchinleck pie there, as everyone elses pies looked lovely. Still, it's what I was given for my pound, so 2/5 it is.........