Friday, October 04, 2013

Potts Cup: Star eclipsed by Newton Stewart

Ahead of the second round of the Scottish Cup, a trip to Dumfries and Galloway offered the chance to see two of this weekend's cup hopefuls in action,

The Islecroft Stadium as Dalbeattie Star hosted local rivals Newton Stewart in the quarter final of the Potts Cup.

The Whats Cup? The Potts Cup. A regional trophy that local clubs have been contesting for over a century.

The cup was donated by Mr and Mrs Potts as long ago as 1902. Mr and Mrs Potts owned the Theatre Royal in Dumfries, the oldest working theatre in Scotland.

The Potts donated the trophy around the same time as they added moving pictures to their more standard Victorian music hall fare. Maybe they saw the cinematic potential of a local cup for local sides and wanted for teams like Maxwelltown Volunteers and Nithsdale Wanderers what Rupert Murdoch wanted for top English Clubs 90 years later.

It certainly sounds more enticing than the Roller Skating Rink for County Ladies and Gentleman that the theatre introduced in 1909.

Anyways, to the football.

Dalbeattie Star went into this game as favourites, having taken their place in the new Lowland Football League this summer after ending their involvement in the South of Scotland League as champions last season.

They also have a rich Potts Cup history having first won the trophy in 1925 and last bringing the silverware back to Islecroft in 2012.

Newton Stewart remain in the South of Scotland League and have had less Potts Cup success, back to back wins in the early fifties followed by a solitary victory in the 1960s and another in 1988.

But there seemed a reasonable chance of Star being preoccupied by the Scottish Cup visit of Montrose. Their manager, Paul McGinley, had even absented himself from this game to carry out spying duties as Montrose won 3-0 at Clyde.

Newton Stewart had also enjoyed Potts Cup and league success against Dalbeattie last season, the latter victory not quite magnanimously recorded in Star's programme notes:

"...it was today's opponents who knocked [Star] out of the Potts Cup last year and also inflicted a rare league defeat in the last league match of last season's campaign, though a certain Anniversary Dinner the night before didn't do anything to help the Star cause."

A fine example of damning local rivals with faint praise and a rare example of a club admitting their players were hungover to buggery for a competitive fixture.

But if Star wanted revenge they also wanted to keep their powder dry for the visit of Montrose. Changes were rung.

That meant I missed the chance to see goalkeeper Darren Martin whose profile in the programme lightened up my pre match reading:

"In the movie of my life I would be played by: Ron Jeremy

"Stranded on an island, what are your three essential items? Deck chair, bottle of OVD and a bottle of coke.

"What is the biggest compliment you have ever received? 'You've got the biggest lugs I`ve ever seen.'"

His replacement Euan Drysdale found himself picking the ball out of the net after two minutes when Newton Stewart`s Liam Craig leapt highest to head home the opening goal.

With the goal coming against the run of play, Star stepped up the pressure with the visiting Creesiders having to rely on a goal line clearance, some wayward shooting and the woodwork to preserve their lead.

For much of the first half Drysdale was a spectator, enlivening his afternoon with moments of vocal self assessment. It must be said that shouting "fucking hell, that was absolutely fucking shit" when you sclaff a goal kick saves anyone in the crowd from pointing out your shortcomings.

Star finally equalised after 35 minutes when Paul Cook picked the ball up in the box and shot home from close range. They should have been ahead before half time when goalkeeper Harry Fidler brought down Cook but Andrew Donley saw his penalty saved.

A half time trip to the stand brought the delight of alcohol. Unfortunately I'd bought myself a beer before I found out that I couldn't drink it outside. I was forced to leave my dad standing alone on the touchline while I downed my lager. Although, with the prospect of spending a week with me looming, he was probably glad of those 30 seconds alone.

I'm not sure what regulation or law the 'drink inside' rule pertains to but on possibly the last warm, sunny Saturday afternoon of the year and with a crowd of no more than 50 inside Islecroft it seemed daft.

It did however mean I was set for the second half replenished but neither drunk nor wielding an empty can of Tennents to use as a missile.

Star found it harder to dominate possession and territory in the second half and, with neither side creating much, it was Newton Stewart who took the lead after an hour. Stewart Taylor saw his first shot saved by Drysdale but made no mistake with the rebound.

Star enjoyed plenty of possession in the last half hour but struggled to threaten. Newton Stewart's midfield dropped back to crowd out attacks, their central defenders were redoubtable under the high ball and the impressive Fidler pulled off a couple of Hollywood saves when the home side tried their luck from range.

That was enough to secure a 2-1 away win. Despite the bigger challenges ahead there was no little effort, all of it presided over by an oddly tall referee with the gruffly paternalistic attitude of the BFG: "he's just stronger than you son, get over it" the typical riposte to bleating attackers.



An honourable mention too for the Star official whose job it is to run down to the river with the sort of basket-on-a-pole contraption familiar to wayward golfers whenever a hoofed clearance threatens to be carried downstream.

"Seen worse at Easter Road" was my dad's summary at full time. It was hard to disagree.

As for the Scottish Cup prospects of the two teams?

Montrose will face a very different Dalbeattie Star, with the team restored to something more like the side that hit nine past Selkirk in their last league outing. With Montrose showing sound form in League Two it could be a cracker and Star might well fancy a trip back to Links Park at the very least.

Newton Stewart might also fancy their chances against Culter, with home advantage, a long trip for their visitors and their obvious resilience and organisation all counting in their favour.

Because I enjoyed the day - a steal at just £4 and £2 for pensioners (father paid the full rate, I was tempted to try look even older than I normally do after a week at work to save a couple of quid) - I'll be sticking a South of Scotland double on the coupon.