2019/20: An Incredible Journey. Match Day 1 – Wednesday 24th July 2019: Hearts v Stenhousemuir
I have always been a Chelsea fan since that fateful day in August 1969 when I saw my first ‘live’ game, although previous to that I had occasionally seen them on the tv, but back in the day there weren’t the limitless channels showing football from around the globe. Match of the Day was well past my bedtime, so it was the Big Match on a Sunday afternoon for me, and fortunately we lived down south which tended to have a southern First Division match as the featured game, so often giving me my fix of watching my beloved Blues.
With my Dad being in the Air Force we moved around a bit, so I have always followed the teams local to where he was stationed. As a result, I have a soft spot for the Italian club Napoli, from when we lived there in the mid to late 1960s and my Dad used to go to watch Gli Azzurri from time to time. Half of our family were Chelsea fans and the other half were Fulham fans, and we used to go to alternate matches from time to time – if Chelsea were at home, Fulham were away and vice versa. So Fulham are another team I have a soft spot for too, despite the West London clubs being viewed as rivals. I also lived in Lincoln for 10 years and went to watch the Imps regularly in my teens, and now my home is Huddersfield, so have adopted the Terriers too. So these are “my” teams and I was determined to see each of these this season.
If you’re around my age you will probably have a Scottish team as well as your own team, unless of course your first team is Scottish and then you’ll probably have an English team! Whilst I was at school everybody chose either Celtic or Rangers, however, always wanting to be different I looked at the Scottish league tables and right down the bottom were Stenhousemuir, nicknamed Stenny or the Warriors – interesting name I thought. I read up about them a bit and their history, when without the luxury of the internet, research was done down at the local library and so Stenny became my Scottish team.
Why this story? Well, during my summer holidays in 2019 with my daughter we were up in Scotland, doing a bit of a tour and we ended up near Edinburgh and fortunately Stenhousemuir were in town too at Hearts. So we did a bit of shopping and sightseeing in Edinburgh during the day and made our way to Tynecastle for the evening kick off. On our way to the ground we got talking to a couple of young brothers who were also going to the game and had a really good chat about Scottish football in general, and discovered they also watched Edinburgh City who play in the lower echelons of the Scottish pyramid.
The ground wasn’t fully open, as it was a Wednesday night in July and a group game in the early stages of the Scottish League Cup, so hardly one to pull in the punters. Our seats were perched on high in the Gorgie Family Stand with the 100 diehard Stenny fans stationed at the opposite end of the ground. As you’d expect between a top tier and fourth tier team, Hearts were dominant from the start. However, incredibly Stenny made it to half-time with the game goalless. Into the second-half and it was more of the same pressure from Hearts with the Stenhousemuir ‘keeper, Graeme Smith, proving to be the Man of the Match. At one point he pulled off a stunning triple point blank save in the second period to thwart the Hearts attackers. The game was played entirely in the Stenny half, and more dangerously in an around the box. But wait….the Warriors breakaway and Mark McGuigan scores with just thirteen minutes remaining in the game, Hearts of Midlothian 0 Stenhousemuir 1. It was now sitting on hands time as there are a lot of very irate Hearts fans around us, but it was easy to spot the Stenny fan in the stand! Was a cup upset on the cards?
It wasn’t to be, and Hearts eventually broke the Warriors rear-guard action levelling on eighty-two minutes from Craig Halkett. With Stenny hanging on, disaster struck as with just three minutes remaining, Halkett got his and Hearts second to clinch a 2-1 win for the home team.
Despite the result it was a decent game, Stenny had battled hard, and having seen them on a number of occasions previously, the final result wasn’t a surprise. No complaints though, but a good game to start the season off.
Wednesday 24th July 2019
Betfred Cup Section A
Hearts of Midlothian 2 (Halkett 82’, 87’) Stenhousemuir 1 (McGuigan 77’)
Venue: Tynecastle Park
Hearts: Zlamal, M.Smith, Souttar, Bozanic, Clare; Washington (Keena 59), Walker, MacLean (Ikpeazu 55′), McDonald (Mulraney 55′), Halkett, Hickey
Unused substitutes: Doyle. White, Dikamona, Irving
Stenhousemuir: G.Smith, McIlduff, McKernon (Watters 83′), Marsh, McGuigan, Hopkirk, Cook, McLaughlin. M Munro (Halleran 63′), Scullion (Andreson 90′). A Munro
Unused substitutes: Marley, Luke, Daramola