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(FM'09) Mission -: Conquer Scotland


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Tuesday 1st July 2008
As a little known and unproven football manager, I have scored the biggest job of my career to date at the ripe age of just 30 years old. I've been appointed the new man in charge of Scottish Third Division side Dumbarton. They've shown huge faith in my abilities by offering me a one year deal on just £95 per week! 

The Board are hoping for a season where we finish nicely in mid table. But I'm setting my sights much higher than that! From the outside looking in, Scotland is a country just waiting for a club to conquer it and destroy the annual dominance of the Old Firm clubs. A club that won't sit back and watch them snatch up any half talented player and then leave them to rot in the reserves while they bring in an over-priced, over-paid and over-rated foreign striker. My plan is to make Dumbarton the club to challenge their dominance.....once we win three promotions, maybe a few Cups, build a new ground, attract a billionaire owner, and convince some of the best players in the land that this small town on the west side of Scotland's 'central belt' is the place to play their football......

Obviously we'll need a good season under our belts to earn me a new contract extension before I can start to unleash my full plan to dominate in domestic and continental football. With a bit of money in the transfer kitty, and some room in the wage budget, I plan to start by bringing in veterans with huge experience and exploit the loan market.

Season 1 - 2008/09
Target - Achieve a respectable league position in the Third Division
Transfer Budget - £26,000
Wage Budget - £2,200 per week (£1,860 current spend)


Hi. Welcome to my latest offering for your reading, entertainment, and ultimately amusement, as I spectacularly fail. This is the first of at least two new stories I have been planning and lined up for you. The intention has been explained. The idea is a quicker paced and lower detail content read to allow some quicker paced play, designed to keep your attention and allow me to move through the game a bit quicker than normal.

This save is using FM'09 once again. Every nation and league available is loaded and playable. Unfaking has been done, but other than that, only cosmetic editing for strips and logos has been applied. My past experience has been set to automatic. Enjoy. Comments, questions, queries etc are all welcome as always.

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If this were a experiment in trying to achieve with a young group of players, then you'd be pretty happy with the hand dealt, as there are some excellent young prospects in the Dumbarton squad. But it isn't, and with just under two weeks until we start a pretty packed schedule of half dozen games in a 12 day span for pre-season, I quickly set about adding to the squad. We already have two players brought in on loan before I got here. 28 year old Kieran McAnespie is a versatile 28 year old left footer who is on loan from Morton for the season, and they're covering his wages. 21 year old Irish right winger Dennis McLaughlin is also here for the season from Heart of Midlothian. Again, we're not paying the wages, but he is much more raw, and much less likely to earn playing time with us.

Wednesday 2nd July 2008
There is a press conference to announce my arrival at the club. I stay for two questions, then leave. And to be fair, I didn't really give any kind of answer either. I've more important things to do.

Thursday 3rd July 2008
Like completing the signing of my first signing. A genuine superstar, a name synonymous with goalscoring at the highest of levels. Jean-Pierre Papin is 44 now though, but he still has excellent natural fitness, and you just never lose that ability to find the net, hopefully. At this level, would you back against him scoring goals on a regular basis? 30 goals in 54 caps for France says banging them in here shouldn't be too much of a problem. He was playing for an amateur team in France, and jumped at the chance to play in a more competitive environment.

Friday 4th July 2008
Two more arrive today, as we improve our full back options. 18 year Sam Peters signs for £2,000 from Team Wellington, his British passport meaning no work permit is required for the right back with 12 Under-21 caps for New Zealand to his name already.

Very much at the other end of his career is Darren Barnard, the 36 year old left back is known mostly for his time with Barnsley after being a youngster at Chelsea. He signs from Camberley Town for £3,000, and he will also work as our Youth Coach, as well as bringing his considerable dead ball skills to the club.

Saturday 5th July 2008
A much needed centre back is next in the door. A bit of a gamble, as former five times capped Israel Under-21 International utility player Guy Melamed hasn't played much football in the last few years. He's still only 28 though, and has returned to the game to sign for us, using his British passport and leaving the American one at home. He's previously played for Maccabi Haifa. He should be very effective at our current level.

Sunday 6th July 2008
With the wage budget now spent, unless we start putting in some of the transfer kitty, we'll be looking at loan deals now, though I don't think we need too much more. Four players have had loan offers from us accepted by their clubs.

Two Cup draws are made this lunchtime. The League Cup will give us our first shot at a giant killing, as we're drawn away to First Division club Dunfermline Athletic, which will take place at East End Park on Tuesday 5th August.

Before that, we have a kinder, though only slightly, outcome of the League Challenge Cup First Round draw. There we get a home tie, this time against Arbroath of the Second Division. That one is taking place on Saturday 26th July. As a result, we chop away the last two scheduled pre-season friendlies.

Thursday 10th July 2008
That attempt to bring in a loan player looked set to be unsuccessful, and then the last of the bunch gave us the nod today. 21 year old David Armstrong of Hearts has chosen us ahead of Berwick Rangers and Stenhousemuir, and the one time capped Northern Ireland Under-21 International will spend the season with us. His impressive pace will be much welcomed in the middle of our defence. All of his first team football has come from loans so far, with Cowdenbeath and Crusaders in his homeland twice. He's eager to get involved again.

Monday 14th July 2008

Ayr United v Dumbarton
Pre-Season Friendly
Somerset Park, Ayr

Our opening pre-season tilt takes us an hour down the east coast to Ayr. With the games close together, I do some mix and matching, with two of our new veterans getting us off the mark from a set piece, Darren Barnard's corner headed home off a post by Guy Melamed. There was a quick equaliser from the hosts by Mark Roberts, before we lost on loan David Armstrong to injury just over five minutes before the break. Fortunately it wasn't too bad an injury, but the reshuffle did cause us issues, and Roberts low drive was saved by Dave McEwan, and Ryan Borris guided home the rebound on the half volley. I made five more changes at the break, including the introduction of Kieran McAnespie and Jean-Pierre Papin. The French veteran snatched at a chance on the hour, and didn't get the power he wanted, meaning an easy save for Stephen Grindlay. Moments later, Papin was the mid guy in a one-two with Michael Moore, the striker smashing a shot off the bar. I made the rest of my changes, and with Ayr making theirs too, the game petered out. Not a bad first run out though.

Ayr United (2) 2 - Mark Roberts (24), Ryan Borris (41)
Dumbarton (1) 1 - Guy Melamed (16)
Attendance :- 336
Dave McEwan (Mark McGeown 71); Gordon Lennon © (Andy Geggan 45), Darren Barnard (Patrick Boyle 71), Guy Melamed (Mick Dunlop 71), David Armstrong (inj - Ben Gordon 39); Mark Canning (Jason McLaughlin 45), Ryan McStay (Ross Clark 45); Derek Carcary (Dennis McLaughlin 71), Stephen Murray (Kieran McAnespie 45); Paul Keegan (Jean-Pierre Papin 45), Michael Moore (Paul McLeod 71).

Tuesday 15th July 2008
It looks like a twisted knee for on loan centre back David Armstrong, so he will be out of contention for a little while, though it didn't look that bad at the time.

Wednesday 16th July 2008

Dumbarton v Kilmarnock
Pre-Season Friendly
Strathclyde Homes Stadium, Dumbarton

It's another Ayrshire opponent, this time with us as the hosts as we welcome SPL side Kilmarnock. I'm delighted to report that for the opening half hour or so, we were easily the better side. We pummelled our Premier League visitors, with set pieces very much the order of the day. Darren Barnard hit the side netting when a corner came back to him, while Guy Melamed forced a superb tip over from Damien Rascle when he connected with a header from a Barnard delivery. The Welshman had another go, a low drilled free kick that was only just wide of the target from his gifted left foot. Despite losing talented Moroccan International playmaker Mehdi Taouil to injury, Killie took the lead before the break, James Fowler ignoring the narrow angle, and beating Dave McEwan at his near post. Half a dozen changes at the break didn't seem to diminish our spirit in any way, sub Paul McLeod first hitting the post, and then finding the net with a shot on the turn, but on both occasions he was offside. That would be as good as it got for us, as Kilmarnock slowly took control, and wasted several chances to increase their lead late on. We suffered another late injury too, Mick O'Byrne damaging an elbow. Another defeat, but again we gave a very good account of ourselves.

Dumbarton (0) 0
Kilmarnock (1) 1
James Fowler (38)
Attendance :- 1,232
Dave McEwan (Mark McGeown 71); Gordon Lennon © (Andy Geggan 71), Darren Barnard (Patrick Boyle 45), Guy Melamed (Mick Dunlop 71), Ben Gordon (Mick O'Byrne 71); Mark Canning (David Gray 71), Ryan McStay (Ross Clark 45); Derek Carcary (Dennis McLaughlin 45), Stephen Murray (Kieran McAnespie 45); Paul Keegan (Jean-Pierre Papin 45), Michael Moore (Paul McLeod 45).

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Friday 18th July 2008

Crawley Town v Dumbarton
Pre-Season Friendly
Broadfield Stadium, Crawley

A trip south of the border as we enter the second half of our pre-season, and a match against a Blue Square Premier outfit. Rotation was required for an unseasonably wet and windy Friday evening kick off, but one thing didn't change, and that was the danger we presented from set pieces. Different cast, same result, Stephen Murray swung over the corner, and Mick Dunlop headed home, though keeper Simon Rayner should have done better. Jean-Pierre Papin got a chance from the start, but lasted only midway through the first half before going off with a hamstring injury. Paul McLeod came on, and soon combined with Derek Carcary to cause chaos in the Crawley penalty box, where the ball fell to Michael Moore, and he smashed home our second from close range. I made five more changes at the break, including the introduction of 16 year old Scottish/Swedish 6'3 centre back Anders Molander. As has been the pattern throughout these games, the second half saw the quality drop significantly as both sides cleared their subs benches, but that suited us, and we'll head north for home with a nice win under our belts.

Crawley Town (0) 0
Dumbarton (2) 2
Mick Dunlop (17), Michael Moore (31)
Attendance :- 349
Dave McEwan (Mark McGeown 69); Andy Geggan (Sam Peters 69), Patrick Boyle (Darren Barnard 69), Mick Dunlop (Guy Melamed 69), Ben Gordon (Anders Molander 45); Jason McLaughlin (Mark Canning 69), Ryan McStay (David Gray 45); Derek Carcary (Dennis McLaughlin 45), Stephen Murray (Kieran McAnespie 45); Jean-Pierre Papin © (inj - Paul McLeod 22), Michael Moore (Paul Keegan 45).

26 year old physio David Paterson joined the club today. His first job is to assess 44 year old French striker Jean-Pierre Papin. It's a pulled hamstring, and around a month on the sidelines. That's a disappointment for us in more ways than one. We were hoping the presence of the veteran would put some numbers on the attendance figures.

Paterson also runs the rule over our two injured defenders. Neither is going to be back during pre-season, Mick O'Byrne's damaged elbow will leave him sidelined for a few weeks, while David Armstrong's twisted knee isn't serious enough for him to have to head back to Edinburgh to get treated by his club Hearts.

Sunday 20th July 2008
Two scouts join the club today, and their first job is to find us a loan striker. We have plenty of striker options, but I'm not convinced we have a young striker that can find the net on a regular basis. Three offers are sent out and accepted by their clubs.

Monday 21st July 2008
It's our final pre-season game tonight before the domestic campaign begins on the weekend. It's time to select our Captains for the season, with right back Gordon Lennon given the armband, and new signing Guy Melamed selected as his stand in.

Dumbarton v West Ham United Reserves
Pre-Season Friendly
Strathclyde Homes Stadium, Dumbarton

Gianfranco Zola doesn't make the trip North of the Border, leaving his assistant Steve Clarke in charge as Premier League side West Ham United's second string pay us a visit. They bring some talented youngsters with them, but it was a tough watch for the Scot on his return to the country. He watched his young charges go two-nil down, Darren Barnard's cross field pass setting Derek Carcary off on the right, and his cross picked out Paul McLeod for a simple finish. There was nothing simple about Ryan McStay's finish midway through the first half, an absolute screamer into the top corner from 20 yards out, seconds after Sam Peters header was cleared off the line by Junior Stanislas. We ran into trouble when Michael Moore was injured shortly after, and West Ham came roaring back. Freddie Sears hit the post, before a Jack Collison cross found Stanislas, and he slid home one back before the break. It was the same provider when Tony Stokes slotted home the equaliser quickly after the second half kicked off, before Stanislas' 50th minute curler beat Dave McEwan at his near post and into the top corner. We were a bit lucky to keep the score down after that, with our guests missing a host of chances to increase their lead, while we suffered another injury late on, left back Patrick Boyle taking a knock this time.

Dumbarton (2) 2 - Paul McLeod (6), Ryan McStay (22)
West Ham United Reserves (1) 3 - Junior Stanislas (40,50), Tony Stokes (46)
Attendance :- 162.
Dave McEwan (Mark McGeown 68); Sam Peters (Gordon Lennon 68), Darren Barnard (Patrick Boyle 68 (inj - 86)), Guy Melamed © (Mick Dunlop 68), Ben Gordon (Anders Molander 68); Mark Canning (David Gray 68), Ryan McStay (Ross Clark 68); Derek Carcary (Dennis McLaughlin 68), Stephen Murray (Kieran McAnespie 68); Paul McLeod (Paul Walker 68), Michael Moore (inj - Paul Keegan 35).

And so our pre-season ends with another defeat. We looked really good in the opening quarter of the game, but once West Ham got a foothold back in the game, we couldn't live with them. Patrick Boyle has only stubbed a toe, so not to much to worry about there. But striker Michael Moore has sprained an ankle, and with Jean-Pierre Papin already sidelined, I dive right into the loan market with my final available domestic loan slot.

Tuesday 22nd July 2008
That loan move is completed very quickly, as 18 year old Motherwell's striker prospect Mark Archdeacon joins our ranks on loan for the season. His parent club will cover his wages for the duration. He's been on the SPL clubs books for two years without making his senior debut, and this is his chance to get some first team football under his belt.

Wednesday 23rd July 2008
I can still bring in one more player on loan, but it cannot be from a Scottish club. It will be a pretty tough sell getting a player worth adding to come to us from clubs south of the border, but that won't stop us trying if we can find someone who will add some quality to our squad.

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Dumbarton FC 2008/09 Pen Pictures :-
(* denotes new signing)

Goalkeepers :-

Dave McEwan (GK) - Scottish (2 Under-21 Caps)
26 years old - 6'0

Signed - 23/5/2008 from Free Agency
Our first choice keeper right now, and a steady eddie. No more or less than that.

Mark McGeown (GK) - Scottish
38 years old - 5'11
Signed - 30/5/2008 from Free Agency

The Player/Goalkeeper Coach at the club. Who likely won't be doing much of the playing.


Defenders :-

Guy Melamed* (SW, DC, DM, MC) - Israeli (5 Under-21 Caps)
28 years old - 6'1
Signed - 5/7/2008 from Free Agency

Been out of the game for a while, but judging on pre-season, he is going to really improve our defence.

Gordon Lennon (D RC) - Northern Irish
25 years old - 6'1
Signed - 20/1/2008 from Free Agency

Our new Club Captain who is very experienced at this level. Might be a little too defensive for my style though.

Sam Peters* (D R) - New Zealand (12 Under-21 Caps)
19 years old - 5'8
Signed - 4/7/2008 from Team Wellington for £2,000

Has played almost as much International football as he has club games. Good pace, good going forward. Watch out Lennon.

Andy Geggan (D R, M C) - Scottish
21 years old - 5'8
Signed - 2006 from Free Agency

Finishes like a striker, dribbles like a winger, passes like a midfielder, defends like a defender. Should really decide which ones he wants to be. And fast.

Mick Dunlop (D/WB LC, DM, M C) - Scottish
25 years old - 6'1
Signed - 23/5/2008 from Free Agency

Left footed centre back who could really benefit from our prowess at set pieces. Has never scored more than two goals in a season. I'd bet he has more than that this side of Christmas.

Ben Gordon (D C) - Scottish
22 years old - 5'11
Signed - 30/5/2008 from Free Agency

Has never played senior football before, but defensively, he is probably the best we have.

David Armstrong* (D C) - Northern Irish (1 Under-21 Cap)
21 years old - 6'1
Signed - 10/7/2008 from Heart of Midlothian (season long loan)

Has played all his senior football during loan spells, and brings some much needed pace to our defence.

Mick O'Byrne (D C) - Scottish
19 years old - 6'1
Signed - 2007 from Free Agency

Young and raw centre back, who may struggle to make an impression on the first team this season.

Darren Barnard* (D/WB L) - Welsh (22 Caps)
36 years old - 5'7
Signed - 4/7/2008 from Camberley Town for £3,000

Hugely experienced left footed dead ball specialist. His physical attributes may be diminishing, but technically, he's still top drawer. Is also the Youth Coach at the club.

Patrick Boyle (D/WB L) - Scottish
21 years old - 5'10
Signed - 2008 from Free Agency

Former Everton youngster who was let go this summer after only mildly successful loan spells. A very capable understudy for Barnard.


Midfielders/Wingers :-

Mark Canning (D C, DM, M C) - Scottish
24 years old - 5'11
Signed - 2006 from Free Agency

Ball winning midfielder who enjoys the combative side of the game. Strikes a mean free kick too.

Kieran McAnespie (D/WB L, AM LC) - Scottish (4 Under-21 Caps)
28 years old - 5'8
Signed - 1/5/2008 from Morton (season long loan)

A career that hasn't gone the way many expected when he broke into the St Johnstone side as a teenager, before heading south of the border. Likely to be used in a more attacking role than he has previously taken up.

Jason McLaughlin (DM, M C) - Scottish
19 years old - 5'10
Signed - 2006 from Youth Intake

I hear good things about him, but as yet, I don't see anything that makes me think he'll make it here.

David Gray (M RC) - Scottish
20 years old - 5'5
Signed - 10/5/2008 from Kilmarnock on a Free Transfer

Was out of his depth with both Dundee United and Kilmarnock and didn't get to play in the SPL. Can the diminutive midfielder make the grade here? 

Ross Clark (M C) - Scottish
25 years old - 5'9
Signed - 2007 from Alloa Athletic on a Free Transfer

Has played over 150 times at this kind of level with Queen's Park and Alloa, but has been labelled as 'gifted, but lazy'. He needs to lose that tag if he's going to stay here and be successful.

Ryan McStay (M C) - Scottish
22 years old - 6'1
Signed - 2008 from Free Agency

Has bounced around several clubs trying to make his way, but this is his first time outside the top two tiers. Exceptionally talented, and should show his class at this level.

Dennis McLaughlin (AM R, ST) - Irish
21 years old - 6'1
Signed - 1/5/2008 from Heart of Midlothian (season long loan)

He clearly has something, as there is always a queue of clubs to sign him on loan. But none of them ever want to keep him, and it might just be that he is over rated.

Derek Carcary (AM RL, ST) - Scottish
22 years old - 5'7
Signed - 1/7/2008 from Free Agency

Had such a good first senior season at Queen's Park that Rangers picked him up. But he never played at Ibrox, and Raith Rovers failed to get the best from either. Lightning quick, can dribble and cross with both feet. Needs to show he can produce now, as it might be his last chance.

Stephen Murray (AM RL, ST) - Scottish
25 years old - 5'4
Signed - 30/6/2008 from Free Agency

Was a regular at Kilmarnock for several seasons, but when they cut him loose he had poor seasons at Patrick Thistle and Queen of the South. Won't win too many headers, but very capable of supplying our strikers with plenty of opportunities to win them from either wing.


Strikers :- 

Paul McLeod (AM R, ST) - Scottish
21 years old - 5'10
Signed - 2008 from Free Agency

Former Hamilton Academicals youngster who still hasn't worked out his best position. I'm seeing him more as a striker playing off the knock downs from a big target man type forward.

Paul Keegan (ST) - Irish
35 years old - 6'1
Signed - 1/1/2008 from Partick Thistle on a Free Transfer

Being long in the tooth isn't too much of a problem here. Having a strike rate of a goal every seven or eight game might well be know. Unless he finds the net regularly when he plays, he may be on the fast track to retirement.

Jean-Pierre Papin* (ST) - French (54 Caps / 30 Goals)
44 years old - 5'9
Signed - 3/7/2008 from AS Facture Biganos on a Free Transfer

Even in his mid-40's, and after a career that has seen him play for some of Europe's best clubs, Papin still has the desire to play and score goals. If he still has 'it', then he could put bums on seats and balls in the net in our colours.

Mark Archdeacon* (ST) - Scottish
18 years old - 6'1
Signed - 22/7/2008 from Motherwell (season long loan)

An eager teenage striker with capabilities in the air and on the deck. Hungry for a first taste of senior football, and could learn all there is to know from someone like Papin.

Michael Moore (ST) - Scottish
27 years old - 6'2
Signed - 2008 from Ayr United on a Free Transfer

Back for a second spell with the club after leaving last summer to join Ayr for £1,000. Has scored goals everywhere he has been, but will miss the opening few months with a sprained ankle.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Friday 26th July 2008
Our domestic season begins tomorrow afternoon, and a very early chance to pull off a Cup upset, as we are visited by Arbroath of the Second Division in the opening round of the League Challenge Cup. The bookies have us as narrow favourites for the game too following our squad additions. It would certainly be a cracking start to the campaign for us if we could get into the Second Round.

It's a peculiar one to work out though. Those wise fellas who come up with the odds have us as favourites to turn over a side that they predict will get relegated from the Second Division this season. But when it comes to the odds for the Third Division Title, they have us as virtual non-runners, pricing us at 20/1. In fact, they think we might struggle to stay off the foot of the table. The media don't agree with that, and they have us as third favourites.

Saturday 27th July

Dumbarton v Arbroath
League Challenge Cup, First Round
Strathclyde Homes Stadium, Dumbarton

Injuries up front means starts for Paul Keegan and new loanee Mark Archdeacon. From an early Darren Barnard corner, Guy Melamed failed to get his header on target, while an outswinging Mark McCulloch free kick found Ian McGrane at the other end, but he also missed. Derek Carcary had a penalty shout turned down, while Keegan's shot on the turn was pushed away. McGrane took too long when he was played into space and the chance went as the first half remained goalless. The second half started at some pace though, and Barnard got the ball back from Ryan McStay after a corner, and his low cross caused chaos, Darren Hill tried to parry it away, but it hit McCulloch and rolled in. That lead lasted just two minutes, right back Paul Lunan's cross to the far post found Steven Weir, who's header appeared to be straying wide, but took a huge deflection off skipper Gordon Lennon and found it's way inside the near post. That gave Arbroath a huge confidence boost, and just after the hour Weir played a short pass to John Fraser, who took it from all of 30 yards, his curling shot just beating Dave McEwan's stretching fingertips, and crashing in off the underside off the bar, a really special goal. Now we had to push forward, almost getting caught on the counter attack quickly, Melamed taking one for the team with a foul right on the edge of the box that cost him a booking. When a chance did come our way in the final ten minutes, Mark Archdeacon was just beaten to the ball by Craig Forsyth when Paul McLeod flicked it on into the box. We're out.

Dumbarton (0) 1 - Marc McCulloch (54 og)
Arbroath (0) 2 - Gordon Lennon (56 og), John Fraser (62)
Attendance :- 490
Dave McEwan; Gordon Lennon ©, Darren Barnard, Guy Melamed (Ben Gordon 69), Mick Dunlop; Mark Canning, Ryan McStay (Ross Clark 69); Derek Carcary, Stephen Murray; Paul Keegan (Paul McLeod 69), Mark Archdeacon.

It's always disappointing to be knocked out of Cup competitions early, but we were facing a team a Division above us. I do think that if we played that match again in a month or so, then we could have come out of it with a win. But hopefully there will be plenty more opportunities to trip up opponents from higher divisions in the future. We bank £2,100 in prize money after the loss.

Wednesday 30th July
It's been a quiet week so far, with the only event of note being several players from bigger clubs in England refusing options to join us for a loan spell. Today I agree that the players will receive a bonus on the higher end of the scale at the end of the season, depending on their League position. The Cup bonus remains more along normal lines.

Friday 1st August 2008
We start our League campaign tomorrow with a trip to face Montrose, a club who are not expected to be part of the promotion race this season. They've gone down a similar line to us this summer, as they are currently trying to bring in now 37 year old veteran Scottish International midfielder Don Hutchison, who we are also in the hunt to sign. Despite being away from home, the bookies are making us favourites to open up with a win. Mick O'Byrne has resumed training today, but too late to be considered for tomorrow's game.

Saturday 2nd August

Montrose v Dumbarton
Scottish Third Division
Links Park, Montrose

We head cross country and towards the North East coast to face Montrose on a beautiful sunny day. Our lack of forward options leaves me going with a conservative tactic, and skipper Gordon Lennon had to bail us out early on twice from corner deliveries that should have been cleared before they got to his back post area. In a first half limited on quality chances, our big one came midway through, Ryan McStay sending a pinpoint pass with the outside of his foot into the box, Stephen Murray letting it run across his body, and striking left footed back across goal and wide of the near post. Dave McEwan had to make a smart save from David Cox at his near post, while Roddy Hunter smashed a shot just over the bar after tricking his way past Lennon. As the second half began, it looked as if a gilt edged chance would be needed to break the deadlock, and it came just over ten minutes after the restart. Chris Hegarty's cross field pass found skipper David Worrell in space on the right, and his low cross picked out Hunter on the penalty spot, who had time to set himself and put his low shot beyond McEwan's dive and into the bottom corner. And after being opened up once, our defence were quickly broken down again, Hegarty again involved with a pass from midfield into Cox's feet, he was stopped by a well timed Guy Melamed sliding tackle, but the ball fell to Hunter, and he swept a shot into the near top corner from ten yards out. We regrouped to be a lot more attacking, and as the final ten minutes neared, Paul Keegan's attempt to get onto a loose ball saw Jamie Buchan bring him down in the penalty box. Darren Barnard stepped up and planted his low left footed spot kick into the bottom corner, his first goal for the club, and we were back in the game with only ten minutes left to play. Montrose were now in survival mode, while we were on all out attack. In injury time, Keegan went down again, but this time the ref said no, and we opened the League campaign with a defeat and the closest we got to a haul of three was a near three hour trip back home.

Montrose (0) 2 - Roddy Hunter (58,63)
Dumbarton (0) 1 - Darren Barnard (79 pen)
Attendance :- 468
Dave McEwan; Gordon Lennon ©, Darren Barnard, Guy Melamed, Mick Dunlop; Mark Canning, Ryan McStay; Derek Carcary, Stephen Murray (Kieran McAnespie 68); Paul Keegan, Mark Archdeacon (Paul McLeod 68).

Maybe I set us up a little too defensively for that one, and we paid for it by having to come out of our shell too much once we fell behind. Kieran McAnespie gashed an arm late on, the on loan left sided player will likely miss a week or so with that knock. Meanwhile, we need to find the best way to suit us, and the fine line between defensive stability and attacking intent. With a trip to Dunfermline in the League Cup next, things won't be getting any easier right away.

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Sunday 3rd August 2008
Don Hutchison is one of several Free Agent players we are chasing and trying to bring into the club to give us a bit more depth, and frankly, some better options. Some are more keen than others. We've sold 240 season tickets for this campaign, and we're going to have to do a bit better to stop them turning against us in a hurry.

Monday 4th August
Getting things better tomorrow night might be a tough ask. We are travelling cross country again, this time into Fife to face Dunfermline Athletic of the First Division in the First Round of the Scottish League Cup. Despite being already much better stocked in their squad than us, this summer they added dozen times capped veteran England winger Trevor Sinclair, and 1995 English Premier League Winners Medal holder, centre back Ian Pearce. Any wonder that the bookies have us pegged to get an absolute stuffing at East End Park then.

Tuesday 5th August

Dunfermline Athletic v Dumbarton
Scottish League Cup, First Round
East End Park, Dunfermline

One change for us as Mark Archdeacon starts up front in place of Paul McLeod. Not that the ball got anywhere near our strikers. Scott Muirhead got past Derek Carcary down their left, and pinged a quick pass to the feet of Francis Murphy. He shifted the ball away from Mark Canning, and curled in a cross towards the far post and Jamie Mole. But the ball was overhit, clearing everyone and finding the net via the inside of the post to give Athletic a 4th minute lead. His volley at the top corner moments later was a whisker off target, but the reprieve was momentary. Mole's diagonal pass into the box found Graham Bayne, who looked offside. The flag stayed down though, and he fired across goal and inside the far post to double the lead in the 9th minute. Mole was involved again in the 21st minute, a period of heavy pressure having us defend for our lives, but failing when Guy Melamed stretched for the ball and brought on loan Mole down to concede a penalty. Trevor Sinclair smashed the spot kick home, his first goal for the club. 3-0, and we weren't even a quarter of the way through the game. And they kept the pressure on. Stephen Glass headed down the ball from a corner, Sinclair fired it goalwards, but Darren Barnard headed that one off the line. When we did make an excursion up the park, Paul McLeod's cut back found Ryan McStay, but he dragged his shot wide of the target. Melamed picked up a booking as the frustration grew, peaking in injury time when Murphy curled home a superb left footed curling free kick after McStay had brought down Glass. The air was turned a distinct shade of blue in our dressing room as I berated my players effort and decision to seemingly throw in the towel very quickly. I challenged them to prove me wrong. And they did! Ben Gordon came on for Melamed after he'd been booked, and promptly got his name taken himself. But he did also cause chaos when Barnard delivered a corner, Carcary poking home his first goal in our colours to at least add a bit of respectability to the scoreboard. Our hosts hadn't taken their foot off the gas, but they were no longer taking their chances, Bayne, Murphy and Sinclair all missing when they should have scored. With more changes made in the latter stages, we got another one back, Stephen Murray's cross found sub Mark Archdeacon all alone, and he volleyed home his first ever senior goal. There was a wariness about Dunfermline now, and Ross Clark sent a long range effort curling just wide, before Gordon Lennon crashed a shot against the bar after joining the attack. We had got as close as we would manage though.

Dunfermline Athletic (4) 4 - Francis Murphy (4,45+1), Graham Bayne (9), Trevor Sinclair (22 pen)
Dumbarton (0) 2 - Derek Carcary (58), Mark Archdeacon (78)
Attendance :- 3,521
Dave McEwan; Gordon Lennon ©, Darren Barnard, Guy Melamed (Ben Gordon 45), Mick Dunlop; Mark Canning, Ryan McStay (Ross Clark 74); Derek Carcary, Stephen Murray; Paul McLeod, Paul Keegan (Mark Archdeacon 74).

A predictable defeat then, but that first half made for appalling watching, with my players showing no guts or pride when things started to go wrong. It took an absolute bawling session to get it into their heads how annoyed I was, and the second half was much, much better, and while there was never any real danger of us making a sensational comeback, they showed me something at least. I won't ever tolerate us giving up.

We are given a £10,000 prize for not winning a game in the competition, though Guy Melamed has picked up a one game ban that applies to all domestic Cup games after picking up a second booking in Cup competitions this season.

Wednesday 6th August
On loan centre back David Armstrong is back in training today following his knee injury. Now we need to make a decision on his availability for the weekend.

Friday 8th August
We're hoping to snap our run of three competitive defeats tomorrow afternoon with another away trip, once again heading north-east, though not quite as far as Montrose this time, though not far off. It's Forfar that is our destination, and they drew on the opening day at home to Elgin City. They got a goal from their dangerman, and on loan teenage striker Johnny Russell, who is at Station Road for the season from Dundee United. The home side are the narrow favourites with the bookies to be the first of our two clubs to pick up a League win of the season.

Saturday 9th August

Forfar Athletic v Dumbarton
Scottish Third Division
Station Road, Forfar

Four changes are made in total from the defeat in Dunfermline, three of them to the defence with only Darren Barnard remaining in the starting lineup. We resisted making another change when Mark Canning took an early knock, but he played on. It was the hosts who had the early initiative, Joshua Vermooten sending their best chance over the bar, while at the other end, Mark Archdeacon's shot on the turn was wide. An even better chance would go begging when Archdeacon's flick on sent Derek Carcary away in the clear, drawing out Alistair Brown, but sending a shot flashing across goal and wide. Ryan McStay had two cracks at opening the scoring as we slowly started to control the game, not getting all that he wanted on his first effort, but catching the second one beautifully, Brown tipping it over. And it was starting to look like it might not be our day when Barnard's cross was met by Archdeacon's powerful header, which thumped back off the bar. So a goalless first half, and at the break Ross Clark replaced Canning, immediately getting into the game to tee up McStay, who's dipping shot didn't dip enough. With our fair share of chances coming and going, we started to fear being caught at the other end, Callum Smith firing a first time shot wide, while a Craig Winter free kick was deflected wide. When the deadlock was finally broken midway through the second half, it wasn't without controversy. Clark and Vermooten battled for the ball in the centre circle. Clark came away with it, while Vermooten was left injured. He spread the ball to Stephen Murray, and he got it into the box for Paul McLeod. The striker held it up, and then cut it back for the arriving Clark, who sent a shot into the roof of the net to open his account for the club, while Vermooten went off injured. Talk about adding insult to injury! Then with just over ten minutes to play, and right as I was considering shutting things down, Barnard played a one-two with McLeod, and then sent a low cross to the near post that McStay met with a half volley to net his first competitive goal for the club from close range, and I was able to make my changes and help us see the game out, as we earned three points and an equally important clean sheet.

Forfar Athletic (0) 0
Dumbarton (0) 2
Ross Clark (68), Ryan McStay (79)
Attendance :- 409
Dave McEwan; Sam Peters, Darren Barnard ©, Ben Gordon, Mick O'Byrne; Mark Canning (inj - Ross Clark 45), Ryan McStay; Derek Carcary, Stephen Murray (David Gray 85); Paul McLeod (David Armstrong 85), Mark Archdeacon.

That was so much better, as we rode the early storm, and then slowly took control of the game, giving our wide players, Derek Carcary in particular, enough ball to express themselves and cause major issues. Ryan McStay picked up the headlines with a superb performance from the midfield, capped with his first goal for the club, and only the second of his career.

There also needs to be a big mention for Darren Barnard. The only member of the back four to keep his spot, he added an assist to the goal he netted last weekend to continue his sparkling early season form for us and defy his veteran status.

And hopefully that's a good omen too, as it's not just Jean-Pierre Papin's return from injury that we have to look forward to. As late tonight, we get the news that Free Agent veteran and former Scottish International midfielder Don Hutchison is to join us on a two year deal. Now 37 years old, this will be the first time he has played domestically in Scotland, heading North of the Border after being released by Luton Town at the start of the summer. It's news that delights our fans.

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Sunday 10th August 2008
Don Hutchison gets involved right away, part of a very strong Reserve side that made the long 200 mile trip north today to Elgin as our second string opened their Group 3 campaign. The former International played 70 minutes, and joined the likes of Kieran McAnespie who was given some game time as he returns from injury, and some other fringe squad players. An emphatic 3-0 win means some of these players will be pushing those in the First Team soon.

Monday 11th August
Darren Barnard joins weekend goalscorers Ross Clark and Ryan McStay in the Third Division Team of the Week selection.

Friday 15th August
It's our first home League game of the campaign tomorrow, as we host Cowdenbeath, relegated from the Second Division last season. The bookies have them as the Title favourites, the media don't think they're as good, and only have them pegged to finish second. But this might be a very good time to face them. They've taken four points from their two League matches, but now have half a dozen players out with injury, and that includes their first choice keeper, a centre back, their new signing Slovakian attacking midfielder, and a pair of strikers. Meanwhile, we've got Jean-Pierre Papin back in training  again. This could be perfect timing for us.

Saturday 16th August

Dumbarton v Cowdenbeath
Scottish Third Division
Strathclyde Homes Stadium, Dumbarton

Gordon Lennon is back at right back, Ross Clark replaces Mark Canning in midfield. We have great options from the bench with Kieran McAnespie, Don Hutchison and Jean-Pierre Papin all selected. Stephen Murray plays his 150th career League match. The sides swapped early chances, Derek Carcary's early cross just missing it's target Paul McLeod, while Brian Fairbairn almost made the most of Mick O'Byrne failing to find his feet, but he sent his shot over the bar. Cowdenbeath suffered further injury problems when full back John Armstrong was forced off. A clever free kick routine saw Stephen Murray send in a low shot that teenager keeper Sam Morris couldn't hold, but did push away. He was quickly called into action again, Lennon's cross volleyed at goal by McStay at the far post, Morris making the save again. A late first half free kick from Darren Barnard found Carcary, but the winger scuffed his shot well wide. The Welsh full back's next set piece was a corner that Ben Gordon headed goalwards, only to see it hacked off the line. Into the second half, and it would be fair to say we were dominating, a lengthy and nice passing move finally getting the ball into the box for Mark Archdeacon, who's shot was again turned aside by Morris. The young striker then sent a header wide from a Barnard corner when he really should've done better. Third time lucky though in the 72nd minute, as a counter attack sent Murray into space on the left, and his pinpoint cross found Archdeacon, who half volleyed home his first senior League goal! Moments later, we added a second, Murray once more the supplier from the left, this time a low drilled cross that McStay fired into the bottom corner. With our visitors suffering more injury woe, with ten minutes to go I emptied the bench, bringing on McAnespie alongside debuts for Hutchison and Papin for a brief cameo appearance in front of the home crowd. They could have seen a debut Papin goal though, after Carcary received the ball from McStay and set off on a mazy run past five players, that was only ended when Chris Shanks took his standing leg away as he was about to shoot. Papin really wanted to take the spot kick, but Barnard had none of that. He might have wished he did let him take it though, as he saw Morris turn his effort onto the post, and Papin didn't manage to complete his brief outing, hobbling off in injury time as we finished with ten men. It's easier to deal with when you're winning though.

Dumbarton (0) 2 - Mark Archdeacon (72), Ryan McStay (76)
Cowdenbeath (0) 0
Attendance :- 673
Dave McEwan; Gordon Lennon ©, Darren Barnard, Ben Gordon, Mick O'Byrne; Ross Clark (Don Hutchison 80), Ryan McStay; Derek Carcary, Stephen Murray (Kieran McAnespie 80); Paul McLeod, Mark Archdeacon (Jean-Pierre Papin 80 (inj -90)).

If we'd lost that, not only would I be hearing about our poor form, but I'd also start to be questioned about Jean-Pierre Papin, and if this was becoming a bit of a publicity stunt, with little intention of him playing. We all know that's not the case, he is genuinely here because I believe he can score goals at this level, but we are going to have to really nurse him to fitness. Fortunately, this one was just an impact knock and there was no damage done. He is annoyed that he wasn't allowed to take that spot kick though. Stephen Murray was man of the match, setting up both goals in an upturn of form for the former Kilmarnock man on his 150th League outing. The surprise early leaders are East Stirlingshire, and we host them at our place next weekend.

Sunday 17th August
It was another strong Reserve side that played at home to Albion Rovers today, and won again. 2-0 this time, with goals from Paul Keegan and Kieran McAnespie. Though there was bad news as Andy Geggan was injured half hour in, a sprained ankle ruling him out for two months.

Monday 18th August
It's three players in the Team of the Week once again, with Ryan McStay included once more, this time with wingers Derek Carcary and Stephen Murray.

Friday 22nd August
So the League leaders East Stirlingshire that visit us tomorrow afternoon. Perennial whipping boys in the bottom tier, they have improved their squad no end with a few loan signings. 21 year old striker Brian Graham is on loan from Morton, and has scored five times in three League games. Jamie Stevenson is also on loan from Morton, but hasn't played a competitive match yet after tearing a hamstring in pre-season. The bookies have us as Even money favourites due to our home advantage and impressive  form over the last couple of games.

Saturday 23rd August

Dumbarton v East Stirlingshire
Scottish Third Division
Strathclyde Homes Stadium, Dumbarton

Sit back with your feet up and enjoy the story of game of the season. Unless you support one of these clubs, in which case prepare to chew your fingernails down to the knuckle while perched on the edge of a seat. And it got of to a flying start, right from kick off Mick O'Byrne made an interception, and the ball fell to Gordon Lennon, who drilled a through ball down the park and between the defenders, Mark Archdeacon quick off the mark and rounding keeper Mark Peat, before sending the ball into the unguarded net to give us a lead with just 28 seconds on the clock. A short lived lead though, Brian Graham's shot saved by Dave McEwan, but the ball was sent back across by Colin Cramb, and Ray Scully headed home an equaliser with less than three minutes played! Paul Weaver picked out skipper Derek Ure a short time later, and McEwan had to make a save to prevent us going behind. But we would fall behind in the 16th minute in comical circumstances, Ure finding Cramb, who's shot took a huge deflection off O'Byrne, and Darren Barnard tried to hoist it clear, smashing the ball against Stephen Murray and past McEwan. The wingers chance to make things right came and went, Archdeacon's setup half volleyed wide from twenty yards out by Murray. As the half hour approached, he found a way to fix things, Murray collecting the ball down the touchline from Barnard, and his low near post area cross found Paul McLeod, who held off the challenge from Michael Bolochoweckyj, and fired inside the near post to level things up. Less than five minutes later, we had turned things around, Barnard picking out Archdeacon on the edge of the box, and he held the ball up before sending a deft through ball between the centre backs, where Derek Carcary nipped in and sent a shot beyond Peat and put us back ahead. Briefly. Again. Not quite as briefly this time, Peat's injury time hoist down the park put McEwan in two minds, and he chose the wrong one. He didn't come off his line, and Cramb punished him, reaching the ball and slamming it across goal and inside the far post. Half time, three apiece. I don't think anyone expected the second half to be as frantic as the first, but it still wasn't short on entertainment, both sides missing half decent chances to put themselves back in front. Ironically, it was as East Stirlingshire made changes to try and improve their defence that we struck midway through the half, Barnard's corner, and Ben Gordon connected with his header into the top corner, and we had something to hold onto. Weaver injured himself as he tried to prevent Carcary going for another of his jaunts down the right wing. Where he fell, he played everyone onside, Murray's volley saved, Archdeacon's follow up blocked. I started making my changes, as we sank back into a more defensive setup, with counter attacking on our minds. But unlike our visitors, I didn't take off my defender who had been poor on the day. But O'Byrne did smash the ball upfield and find Jean-Pierre Papin, and he was left one on one with Gerard McGranaghan. Not blessed with pace anymore, Papin still found a way through with his opponent booked and unable to take a risk, Peat bailing him out by kicking the shot clear. And we would pay for that. With the clock showing 89 minutes, Andy Rodgers found Sean Anderson on the right, and his cross wasn't cleared by O'Byrne, and Carl Peteffer headed home a late equaliser in this dramatic game!

Dumbarton (3) 4 - Mark Archdeacon (1), Paul McLeod (29), Derek Carcary (33), Ben Gordon (67)
East Stirlingshire (3) 4 - Ray Scully (3), Stephen Murray (16 og), Colin Cramb (45+1), Cark Peteffer (89)
Attendance :- 809
Dave McEwan; Gordon Lennon ©, Darren Barnard, Ben Gordon, Mick O'Byrne; Ross Clark (Don Hutchison 79), Ryan McStay; Derek Carcary, Stephen Murray; Paul McLeod (Jean-Pierre Papin 83), Mark Archdeacon (David Armstrong 83).

Wow! An early contender for game of the season, and all that to earn a solitary point, which felt more like a defeat with Peteffer's leveller coming as late as it did. Unbelievably, the man of the match award went to Mark Peat, despite the keeper being beaten four times. Go figure. East Stirlingshire remain top despite dropping their first points of the season, while we drop to third with seven on the board from our opening four games.

Monday 25th August
Darren Barnard and Derek Carcary are both included in the Third Division Team of the Week. There is now just one week remaining of the Summer Transfer Window.

Friday 29th August
Our final League game of August is tomorrow afternoon, and we'll make the trek South this time, into the border town of Berwick-upon-Tweed for a match with a Berwick Rangers side that have taken four points from their opening four matches, shipping nine goals during that time, and like us, they are also out of both Cups that have got underway so far. Despite those stats, they are priced as the Even money favourites for the win. Maybe the bookies are unconvinced by our defending after last weeks goal-fest?

Saturday 30th August

Berwick Rangers v Dumbarton
Scottish Third Division
Shielfield Park, Berwick-upon-Tweed

After a bit of a horror show last week, a change is made to the defence, Mick O'Byrne not making the journey, with on loan David Armstrong starting the game, and Guy Melamed returning to the matchday squad on the bench. We could have gone behind very early, Ben Gordon doing a good job holding up Michael Reddy and forcing him to shoot from range, Dave McEwan stopping the shot but not holding it, and Jamie Nolan blasted over from only 5 yards out. Our willingness to let them have the ball cost us soon after, an attempt to counter attack was snuffed out, Nolan ran at our defence, his shot being partially blocked, but only into the path of Fraser McLaren, who slid his shot under McEwan's dive to open the scoring. We hit back quickly, Paul McLeod battling to keep possession deep in the Rangers half, and getting the ball wide to Stephen Murray, who got into the box, and cut the ball back across goal, where Mark Archdeacon found himself unmarked and able to tap in the equaliser. We almost completed a very quick turnaround, Ryan McStay's inswinging corner coming back off the crossbar. Derek Carcary thought he was fouled in the box, but instead a free kick was awarded the other way. Instead it was the hosts who went into half time with a lead, Ross Clark conceding a free kick thirty yards out, and full back Craig James sent a low bullet like shot into the bottom corner, with McEwan helpless by the time he saw it. It was fairly calm in our dressing room, but I did tell the players that I needed to see more, and I got a fabulous response from them. Just five minutes after the restart McStay worked with Gordon Lennon to win the ball down our right, before the former played it into the feet of Carcary. His first touch got him away from James, and he sped into the box, beating two more players before firing between Ryan McGurk and his near post to bring us level again. All of a sudden, Rangers looked nervous, and they sank back into survival mode. Archdeacon sent in a shot that clipped the bar on its way over, while Carcary was causing mayhem down the right, running past James time after time, and almost recreating his goal with another run on the hour mark. McStay had a shot blocked on the line after a goalmouth scramble, before an Archdeacon header from a McStay corner crashed back off the bar. But midway through the second half we finally broke through and into the lead, Darren Barnard dropping the ball down the left for Murray, and he again picked out his man, McLeod sidefooting home at the near post. And we quickly doubled that lead, Barnard with a corner this time, Gordon's header was blocked by McLaren, but the centre back swept home the ball at the second attempt and gave us a buffer. Barnard and Clark came off, with Kieran McAnespie and Don Hutchison coming on, both quickly getting stuck in. McAnespie's cross field pass found Carcary in acres of space, the winger picking out Archdeacon with his cross, the striker volleying against the post, McStay sending the rebound wide. Guy Melamed came on for McLeod as we attempted to shut up shop, but we still found a way through again to net a late fifth. McStay carved Rangers defence open with a defence splitting through ball to send Murray into space on the left again. He picked out Archdeacon in the box, but with no route to goal and a shot, he unselfishly squared the ball to Carcary, who moved past a defender, and then slammed home his second to round off an exceptional second half performance.

Berwick Rangers (2) 2 - Fraser McLaren (14), Craig James (39)
Dumbarton (1) 5 - Mark Archdeacon (16), Derek Carcary (50,85), Paul McLeod (66), Ben Gordon (71)
Attendance :- 272
Dave McEwan; Gordon Lennon ©, Darren Barnard (Kieran McAnespie 71), Ben Gordon, David Armstrong; Ross Clark (Don Hutchison 71), Ryan McStay; Derek Carcary, Stephen Murray; Paul McLeod (Guy Melamed 80), Mark Archdeacon.

That second half showed exactly what we are capable off, and why I believe we will do better than the bookies have predicted this season. With five games played, we sit in third place, and we're now starting to score quite freely, with our two wingers getting right into their stride, with Derek Carcary earning man of the match today. On the whole, it hasn't been a bad month of August at all, despite exiting two Cups early on.

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Monday 1st September 2008
The month was rounded off nicely yesterday with the Reserve side winning again, with Mark Canning and Kieran McAnespie finding the net, and young full back Sam Peters being included in the New Zealand Under-21 Squad as they face New Caledonia in a Friendly double header at the end of the week and into next midweek.

Ben Gordon, Derek Carcary and Paul McLeod are included in the Third Division Team of the Week. But there were bigger prizes being handed out to two of the trio. McLeod was named as the August Young Player of the Month for the Third Division, while Derek Carcary walked off with the Player of the Month Award. No Award for me though, as I come third in the Manager of the Month stakes.

The Transfer Window comes and goes today, with no business taking place in or out of the club. Michael Moore returns to training to improve our options up front. The Board are satisfied with my opening month in charge, pleased with the signing of Mark Archdeacon on loan, less pleased with the opening day loss at Montrose. A profit of nearly £26,000 for the month has the club showing a healthy bank balance of £138,000.

Saturday 6th September
Sam Peters represented New Zealand Under-21's today as they played the first of two matches against New Caledonia, with this one in Nouméa. It was a bit of a surprise result too, as New Caledonia held on for a 0-0 draw, with Peters playing the full game at right back to earn his 13th cap at Under-21 level.

Sunday 7th September
It's a strong Reserve side that are selected at Strathclyde Homes Stadium today to face Queen of the South. On the positive side of things, Guy Melamed, Don Hutchison and Kieran McAnespie all played ninety minutes of football, while Michael Moore got seventy minutes under his belt. On the less positive side, they lost, 2-0.

Tuesday 9th September
Saturday see's us return to action after two weeks without a match. The Board have made that game against Annan Athletic a 'Fan Day', in an effort to boost the home attendances and interest in the club.

Friday 12th September
We go into tomorrow on a four match unbeaten run, and sat in third place, hosting Annan Athletic who are currently 7th in the table. We're heading into the game at home as comfortable favourites.

Saturday 20th September

Dumbarton v Annan Athletic
Scottish Third Division
Strathclyde Homes Stadium, Dumbarton

We buried Annan in the early stages. In the 6th minute, Darren Barnard found Ross Clark twenty yards or so out, and he moved infield, earned his shooting space, and then curled a low shot around a group of players that were impeding Graeme Loughman's vision, and into the far bottom corner. We could have quickly made it two when Derek Carcary's floated cross from the right was aimed at Mark Archdeacon, but Stuart Hill's last gasp touch knocked it away from him. But in the 12th minute Carcary took a pass from Gordon Lennon and swerved into the box, before cutting it back towards Paul McLeod, who would have had an easy finish had Hill not beat him to it and put it into his own net while trying to sort his feet out. We were blowing our visitors away, Ryan McStay's low driven shot only just turned around the post by Loughman at the last second. From the corner, Barnard picked out McLeod at the far post, and he volleyed home from close range to make it three nil with only fifteen minutes on the clock. Moments later a McStay corner picked out Ben Gordon, absolutely unmarked in the middle, but his powerful downward header was wide of the near post. We took a foot off the gas a little, a spell that coincided with Carcary taking a knock. Athletic created a few chances of their own, the best falling to Neil Young, but was cleared off the line. Two wayward efforts from range by Liam Cusack brought the first half to a close, and also Carcary's day, as I decided to take no further chances with the winger as the scoreboard was so heavily in our favour. Kieran McAnespie came on, with Stephen Murray moving across to the right. We were certainly less at the races after the break, though Gary Brown was booked for flattening McLeod early after the restart. Dave McEwan doesn't make many mistakes in our goal, but he had a howler just after the hour mark. A long throw into the box was flicked on by Cusack, there was also a touch by David Armstrong, and McEwan tried to tip over a very catchable ball, managing only to push it up into the air, and when it came down, it was to the feet of Cusack with an open goal two yards out to reduce the arrears slightly. That made me a little more nervous than I should be, as we settled back down nicely. Clark and Archdeacon came off with around a quarter of an hour to play for Don Hutchison and Jean-Pierre Papin to get some more game time. And a few minutes later, Barnard whipped over another free kick from the right that Loughman came for and didn't get to, and McLeod headed home. His second goal, Barnard's third assist. McStay's late thump at goal was pushed into the path of Papin, the French legend seeing his shot blocked. It didn't matter today though.

Dumbarton (3) 4 - Ross Clark (6), Stuart Hill (12 og), Paul McLeod (15,79)
Annan Athletic (0) 1 - Liam Cusack (62)
Attendance :- 869
Dave McEwan; Gordon Lennon ©, Darren Barnard, Ben Gordon, David Armstrong; Ross Clark (Don Hutchison 76), Ryan McStay; Derek Carcary (inj - Kieran McAnespie 45), Stephen Murray; Paul McLeod, Mark Archdeacon (Jean-Pierre Papin 76).

Well we're certainly not short of goalscoring prowess, as that's fifteen goals in four games now. We're far from water tight at the other end of the park, but our attacking abilities are putting points on the board, as we're now five unbeaten in the League, and sat in second place. But we'll likely be without dangerous winger Derek Carcary for the next one. He's injured a toe and will be out for around ten days.

Monday 15th September
No place in the Team of the Week for two goal striker Paul McLeod, but veteran left back Darren Barnard is included.

Friday 19th September
We're home again tomorrow, this time the visitors are an Albion Rovers side that have started the season far better than expected. The Coatbridge side were pegged as cannon fodder for the majority of the other clubs, but they've won four of their opening six and come into the match in fourth, thanks in large part to their strike force of Ian Harty and Patrick Walker, who have nine goals between them in all competitions.

Saturday 20th September

Dumbarton v Albion Rovers
Scottish Third Division
Strathclyde Homes Stadium, Dumbarton

Kieran McAnespie come into the side on the left, allowing Stephen Murray to move over to the right in place of the injured Derek Carcary, with a place on the bench for on loan forward Dennis McLaughlin. Gordon Lennon plays the 100th League game of his career today. We tried to replicate our start against Annan, a Darren Barnard free kick into the box finding the head of Mark Archdeacon, the on loan strikers header was over the bar though. Rovers first attack came in the tenth minute, Stephen Murphy's corner hanging to the far post, Ian Harty battling with Archdeacon to get to the ball, and forcing it home, though our players surrounded the ref, claiming he'd used his hand to control it. The goal was allowed to stand though. They tried to push home their advantage, full back Sean Fleming's free kick just missing the top corner. We retaliated, Barnard taking the ball down from a cross field ball by Murray, and Jamie Ewings had to make a save low at the near post, and shortly after Archdeacon's shot was over the top. We kept pushing, Ewings having to make a superb stop when Paul McLeod's diagonal through pass found Archdeacon and the striker was through one on one. We finally got our goal with ten minutes to play in the first half, Barnard's corner finding Ben Gordon, and he powered his header into the top corner. And we almost turned the game right around, Murray making a superb run down the right, before cutting the ball back for Ryan McStay, who's low shot across goal flew just wide of the far post. Before the break, Archdeacon had another go, a fierce drive from a McLeod pass that Ewings pushed to safety. All square at the break, and I told my players the game was there to be won. And they went out to try and grab it by the scruff of the neck. Murray cut across field from the right and kept going, before sliding a pass out to Barnard, and then getting on the end of the veteran Welsh full backs cross, his diving header bringing out yet another superb save from Ewings. As the second half wore on, Barnard continued to have a big role to play, sending Kieran McAnespie into space down the left, his cross taken away from McLeod at the last second as he was about to shoot. Archdeacon got himself a booking a little after the hour mark, before with twenty minutes to go Barnard picked another pass into the box, McLeod's shot through a crowded box was saved by Ewings, and he then had to prevent McAnespie from burying the rebound with a second stop. That was the last action for both of our players involved there, as they were both substituted before the corner, Dennis McLaughlin coming on for his debut and Murray moved back to the left, while Jean-Pierre Papin replaced McLeod. I was hoping we could create one last great chance to win this one. And we did. Archdeacon flicked the ball on in the 89th minute, and Papin threaded a diagonal pass into the box and right into the run of McLaughlin, the winger prevented from netting a debut winner though when Ewings turned his attempt to beat him at the near post around the post. 1-1 at the end.

Dumabrton (1) 1 - Ben Gordon (35)
Albion Rovers (1) 1 - Ian Harty (10)
Attendance :- 851
Dave McEwan; Gordon Lennon ©, Darren Barnard, Ben Gordon, David Armstrong; Ross Clark, Ryan McStay; Stephen Murray, Kieran McAnespie (Dennis McLaughlin 71); Paul McLeod (Jean-Pierre Papin 71), Mark Archdeacon.

That opening goal was certainly considered controversial, with many in the media suggesting that Ian Harty used his hand before netting his fifth goal of the season. I refused to comment on the goal, not prepared to risk a touchline ban. Instead I took out my frustration on my opposite number at Rovers, suggesting that Paul Martin was out of his depth in Senior football, and that Rovers would have a better chance of keeping their top half spot if they switched Managers sooner rather than later. Leaders East Stirlingshire are also held to a draw, but Montrose move into second after their 3-0 home win over Cowdenbeath, who drop to ninth while our next opponents Stenhousemuir move off the foot of the table with their first League win of the campaign.

Sunday 21st September
A much weaker Reserve side than we had fielded in recent weeks travelled to face Montrose this afternoon, and returned with a 2-0 win thanks to first half goals from David Gray and Paul Keegan. The hosts failed to get even a consolation goal when Paul Stewart's injury time penalty was saved. We move up to second in the Group 3 table.

Monday 22nd September
Only one of our players made the First Division Team of the Week, and surprisingly it wasn't Darren Barnard. The honour this week fell to Ben Gordon. Much less of a surprise was the inclusion of Albion Rovers goalkeeper Jamie Ewings after his outstanding performance against us.

Tuesday 23rd September
Mark Canning returns to training today after three weeks out of action with a groin injury. The 25 year has played four times so far in all competitions. It could be noted that our fortunes have actually improved dramatically since his injury.

Friday 26th September
Tomorrow we play our final match of September, and will look to remain unbeaten for the month when we travel to face Stenhousemuir. They nudged up into 8th spot last weekend with their first win of the campaign in the League, or any other competition for that matter. The bookies don't consider them likely to add to that lone win tomorrow either, making us fairly comfortable favourites for the win.

Saturday 27th September

Stenhousemuir v Dumbarton
Scottish Third Division
Ochilview Park, Stenhousemuir

Derek Carcary is back in training and available today, and returns to the side on the right wing, with Stephen Murray returning to the left flank and Dennis McLaughlin drops out of the matchday squad with Kieran McAnespie back on the bench. Should the on loan Morton left sided player make it onto the park today, it will be his 175th career League appearance. Talk about rough starts to a game, Stenhousemuir and their five man midfield saw three of their players take knocks inside the opening fifteen minutes, with the last of them, Michael O'Byrne, having to go off. They still created the first chance of note though, Iain Diack's cross from the right went right through the box, Chris McGroarty retrieved it though, and his whipped cross found Craig Molloy, who couldn't keep his header down. Ten minutes later, and nice build up play down the left involving several players saw Stephen Murray send a low cross to the penalty spot, Mark Archdeacon didn't quite catch it as he would have liked, but keeper Keiron Renton didn't catch it all, the ball squeezing by him and into the bottom corner. Renton would definitely would like to have that one back! In the closing stages of the half, he would be put under more pressure, as we won a series of corners. One of them found it's way back to Darren Barnard after being partially cleared, and he tried to catch Renton out at his near post from wide, his effort going out off the outside of the post. He then had another go, swinging the corner in and off the face of the cross bar. Third time lucky, this time finding not one, but two team mates unmarked at the far post, Ben Gordon having to dodge the ball to stay out of the way of Archdeacon's half volley as he netted his second of the match in first half injury time. With another player going off at the break, Stenhousemuir's prospects looked bleak. But we gave them a helping hand just 22 seconds after the restart, Diack crossing from the right towards Molloy, midfielder Ross Clark tried to help out his defence, but only diverted his header past helpless keeper Dave McEwan into the bottom corner to half our lead. I couldn't help but feel a little nervous at this point, but the lads had it under control, and settling right back down into our slick passing game. One person who had been quiet today was Derek Carcary on his return to the team, but he got the crowd going midway through the half, ghosting past John Ovenstone easily, then making Renton believe he would try and beat him at his near post before squaring it across the goalmouth, Paul McLeod sending it goalwards, but Steven Ferguson made a spectacular last ditch goal line clearance. Stephen Guest pushed himself further up the park as the hosts attempted to get themselves back level, but that meant he wasn't in position to defend a 77th minute corner, Barnard curled it over, and Archdeacon glanced home a header to complete his hatrick and restore our two goal lead. Stenhousemuir quickly changed to a very attacking 4-3-3, and Guest lofted in a cross from the left channel of the box to find Molloy, who missed the target with his downward header. I decided closing up the sweet shop would be a good idea, and switched us into a defensive 4-1-4-1 that was set up to counter attack, and made three changes at the same time, Ryan McStay, Murray and McLeod came off, Guy Melamed, Don Hutchison and Kieran McAnespie came on. But we were quickly pegged back, Andy Brand's 81st minute cross from the right didn't look particularly dangerous, but Ovenstone dropped back and caught it with an outrageous right foot volley that flew into the top corner to reduce the arrears once more. Now I was worried all over again. Guest got on the end of Brand's corner with five minutes to go, but that effort was blocked. There would be an even bigger scare to come, sub Kevin Motion threading a pass into the box, and Ferguson curled it inside the far post. His, and the home fans, celebration was cut short by the offside flag. I've watched it back half a dozen times now, and if I was being totally honest, we might have got away with one there. I'm not complaining, obviously.

Stenhousemuir (0) 2 - Ross Clark (46 og), John Ovenstone (81)
Dumbarton (2) 3 - Mark Archdeacon (29,45+2,77)
Attedance :- 320
Dave McEwan; Gordon Lennon ©, Darren Barnard, Ben Gordon, David Armstrong; Ross Clark, Ryan McStay (Don Hutchison 80); Derek Carcary, Stephen Murray (Kieran McAnespie 80); Paul McLeod (Guy Melamed 80), Mark Archdeacon.

That was a tough afternoon's work, and we have Mark Archdeacon to thank as we head back across the Central Belt and to the West of the nation with three more points to add to our total. The on loan striker now has six League goals, taking him joint top of the scorers table with Brian Graham of East Stirlingshire, who's winner away to Cowdenbeath keeps his side top of the table, while we move into second place with one more game to go to hit the quarter point of the Third Division campaign. After losing on the opening day of the season, we are now seven unbeaten. 

Sunday 28th September
Our Reserve side have gone one better than the First Team, moving to the top of Group 3 with a 2-0 win at home to Annan Athletic thanks to a goal in each half from David Gray and Jason McLaughlin. 20 year old Gray is in sparkling form for the second string right now, and pushing for a chance in the First Team.

The big news today though is the draw for Round Two of the Scottish Cup, the only Cup competition left for us to have a go at. The fixtures are due to take place in late October, and we will have to take on the long 3 hour trip north to face non-League club Cove Rangers. The Board expect us to move through two rounds of this competition and make it at least as far as the Fourth Round of the Cup. The Highland club have no real record of success in the Scottish Cup, unlike ourselves, who have won it once. Not that we should use that as any real guide to form.....as that success was 125 years ago.....

Monday 29th September
Unsurprisingly, Mark Archdeacon is named in the Third Division Team of the Week.

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2008/09 Scottish Third Division, up to & including Tuesday 30th September 2008

| Pos   | Inf   | Team               |       | Pld   | Won   | Drn   | Lst   | For   | Ag    | G.D.  | Pts   |

| 1st   |       | East Stirlingshire |       | 8     | 5     | 3     | 0     | 20    | 11    | +9    | 18    |
| 2nd   |       | Dumbarton          |       | 8     | 5     | 2     | 1     | 22    | 12    | +10   | 17    |
| 3rd   |       | Montrose           |       | 8     | 5     | 1     | 2     | 12    | 5     | +7    | 16    |
| 4th   |       | Forfar             |       | 8     | 4     | 2     | 2     | 14    | 12    | +2    | 14    |
| 5th   |       | Albion Rovers      |       | 8     | 4     | 2     | 2     | 10    | 8     | +2    | 14    |
| 6th   |       | Berwick            |       | 8     | 2     | 2     | 4     | 10    | 19    | -9    | 8     |
| 7th   |       | Elgin              |       | 8     | 0     | 6     | 2     | 6     | 8     | -2    | 6     |
| 8th   |       | Stenhousemuir      |       | 8     | 1     | 2     | 5     | 9     | 14    | -5    | 5     |
| 9th   |       | Cowdenbeath        |       | 8     | 1     | 2     | 5     | 6     | 12    | -6    | 5     |
| 10th  |       | Annan              |       | 8     | 1     | 2     | 5     | 7     | 15    | -8    | 5     |   


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3 hours ago, tenthreeleader said:

Fun as always, Neil, but curious as to why FM09?

I still have FM08 and would play it if I could get it to run on my machine.


Thanks very much 10-3. I got the bug for playing FM'09 after starting my 'Chance To Rewrite History' save. The first edition with a 3D Match Engine, and probably still my favourite.

I also have FM'08. I can't get it to work on my current laptop either. If I could get it going, there would definitely be a save around that one coming up.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Wednesday 1st October 2008
September had been a really good month for us, and the reward for going unbeaten throughout it was the Manager of the Month Award, edging out Dick Martin of Forfar Athletic and Paul Martin of Albion Rovers.

The Board are certainly satisfied with how things are going, and why wouldn't they be. Things are going pretty well on the park, and the finances are not too bad either, a small loss of £5,000 last season shouldn't cause any concern. If we can continue our recent form, there's no reason why anything should change either.

Friday 3rd October
There's only two League matches on our schedule for this month, and they are both at home. The first of them is tomorrow, a very winnable looking game against Elgin City, who come into the match in 7th place, and without a win, drawing six of their eight League games played to date. Their main problem has been scoring goals, they are the current joint lowest scorers in the Division. The top scorer in their squad is 29 year old Irish striker Gary Smyth, though that total is only two. If we can get ourselves in front by a couple of goals, we could well get the victory that the bookies are predicting for us.

Saturday 4th October

Dumbarton v Elgin City
Scottish Third Division
Strathclyde Homes Stadium, Dumbarton

There were no changes at all from the win at Stenhousemuir last time out, and Mark Archdeacon almost continued his fine scoring form early on, getting his head to Darren Barnard's third minute corner, but sending it over the bar. Shots from range by John McNicholas, Joey Courtney and Liam Keogh all missed the target over the next quarter of an hour or so. Paul McLeod showed them how it's done in the 19th minute, picking up a pass from Stephen Murray, and as the defence backed off, he struck a low curling shot from 25 yards that went under Andy McNulty's dive to put us in front. While we continued to be on top for large parts of the game, it was City who were creating the chances, McNicholas getting a knock while he tried to get on the end of a Mark Jones shot that was saved by Dave McEwan, while Courtney swung a free kick wide from the corner of the box. The visitors shooting from range wasn't great, but when they got closer in, they made us pay. McNicholas dropped a free kick from the centre circle into the edge of the box, Jones flicked it on, Gordon Lennon and Ben Gordon left it to each other, and Ross Clark didn't match Gary Smyth's run, and their top scorer notched his third League goal of the season as he lashed the loose ball into the roof of the net from ten yards out. All square at half time, and I gave my players a gee up at the break, but the second half started very slowly. On the hour mark McNicholas' knock got the better of him, and he was taken off along with Jones. That seemed to take away a fair bit of City's threat level, and with just around ten minutes to go, I decided to go for broke. Despite sitting on a perfectly acceptable point, I took off Lennon and Clark for Don Hutchison and Jean-Pierre Papin, asking Barnard to sit in front of a centre back pairing with no full back protection, and three strikers up top. I wasn't too worried when Courtney sent another free kick wide. I got a little bit more worried when Michael Kerr's 88th minute corner into the middle only found Gordon, but his attempt to clear spun off his boot to Smyth, his shot on the turn was bravely blocked by Don Hutchison. The worry level reached new heights as I frantically tried to get us reorganised from the touchline, while Courtney's cross went all the way through to sub Steve Mackay, who took a touch and shot across goal, his effort coming back off the inside of the post before Barnard hacked it clear. We seemed to have ridden out the storm as we moved into injury time, but there was a whole new stress level to be reached yet. Courtney sent a pass from halfway down into the right channel. Gordon tried to let it run, but when Smyth tried to get around him to keep the ball in, Gordon manhandled him to the floor, and the referee pointed to the spot! Courtney had been pretty poor in front of goal, so it was a bit of a surprise to see him step up. He drove his spot kick down the middle, with McEwan already on the move to his right. But he hadn't moved far, and he got a foot to the ball to keep it out, with Murray and Barnard throwing themselves in front of Mackay as he attempted to get onto the loose ball. We had clung on to that point, just!

Dumbarton (1) 1 - Paul McLeod (19)
Elgin City (1) 1 - Gary Smyth (41)
Attendance :- 753
Dave McEwan; Gordon Lennon (Jean-Pierre Papin 81), Darren Barnard, Ben Gordon, David Armstrong; Ross Clark (Don Hutchison 81), Ryan McStay; Derek Carcary, Stephen Murray; Paul McLeod, Mark Archdeacon.

That nearly backfired spectacularly! I really didn't think it was much of a risk, the threat seemed to have disappeared in the latter stages. But that attacking move in the last ten minutes didn't work at all, and we were hanging on for dear life at the end, very thankful for Dave McEwan's penalty save. It didn't look a likely outcome when Paul McLeod had netted his fifth goal of the season to put us ahead. 

Two points dropped at home then, and while we remain second as Montrose were beaten, it was the leaders East Stirlingshire who beat them, moving into a three point lead with a quarter of the League schedule now played. We're unbeaten in the League for eight games, since that opening day defeat at Montrose.

Tuesday 7th October
There's bad news today, as midfielder Ross Clark suffered a dislocated shoulder after a challenge in training. He'll see a specialist, but is likely to be out for the rest of the calendar year. The uptick in our form since Clark was brought into the side on a regular basis was noticeable, so now we will see how we fare without him.

Saturday 11th October
No First Team game today, but our Reserve side have travelled cross country to face Arbroath at Gayfield Park, and they came back with three more points for their Group 3 total. The goals came from fringe players, with on loan Dennis McLaughlin opening the scoring in the first half, and Andy Geggan and a Michael Moore penalty in quick succession in the second half finishing the job off. With seven games on the board, our second string are now two points clear at the top.

Friday 17th October
Our final League match of October, and we entertain Forfar Athletic tomorrow afternoon at the Strathclyde Homes Stadium. Our visitors have moved quietly into fourth spot, losing only once in the League since we beat them 2-0 at Station Park in early August. They've also managed a home win over St Johnstone of the First Division in the League Cup, though they were rewarded with an away trip to Rangers in the next round, who duly thumped them at Ibrox, albeit while considerably improving their bank balance I'd imagine. Their on loan strike pair of Johnny Russell and Calum Smith from Dundee United and Brechin City respectively have almost reached double figures between them, while they also have their own 'Darren Barnard' in the presence of 36 year old Mickey Bell, the former Northampton Town, Wycombe Wanderers and Bristol City man could make his 600th League appearance against us tomorrow afternoon.

Saturday 18th October

Dumbarton v Forfar Athletic
Scottish Third Division
Strathclyde Homes Stadium, Dumbarton

With Ross Clark out, it was Don Hutchison who was called into the starting lineup to partner Ryan McStay in the midfield, with Mark Canning brought back into the matchday squad to take a place on the bench, just edging out David Gray for that role. An early chance to throw a free kick into the box almost saw us get caught on the counter attack, Calum Smith breaking at pace down the left, but Ryan McStay halting his progress with an excellent tackle. A wild shot off target by Craig Winter at one end was followed by a run of skill and pace down the right by Derek Carcary, but when he got into a shooting position, he only found the side netting. That turned out to be only the practice effort for a moment of magic though. A Forfar corner was poor, and hoisted clear down to our right touchline. Carcary's blistering pace got him there in time to keep the ball in play, and then he turned first inside, and then back out, to trick his way past full back Stephen McNally. Left back Stephen Tulloch was across to help out, but Carcary hurdled his slide tackle and made for the box, this time cutting back inside the desperately chasing McNally to give himself a better angle, before drilling a low and hard left footed shot inside the near post, giving us the lead with his 5th of the season, and a contender for goal of the season for sure. Forfar almost did much better from their next corner, a delivery to the near post ended in a goalmouth scramble, and the ball at the feet of Tulloch, his effort cleared off the line at the last second by Darren Barnard. We saw McStay pick up a booking as the first half neared its conclusion, but with half time almost upon us, we managed to add a second. Alarm bells should have been ringing when Mark Archdeacon stood over a free kick instead of being amongst the players in the box to aim for. And while Alistair Brown organised his defence, he left a huge gap at the near post while he anticipated the cross, Archdeacon thumping the ball goalwards, and Brown couldn't get back across to cover the ground. The only blemish on the first half was Don Hutchison picking up a late injury, Mark Canning coming on at the break as Forfar were also forced into a change. The second half was to be a much quieter affair, though early on Carcary made another great run, this time crossing, but Archdeacon only found the side netting with his placed shot. And the in form striker was quickly nearly in again, Gordon Lennon's curling ball over the top released the striker, and as he entered the penalty box and Brown came off his line, he lifted his lobbed shot over the keeper beautifully, only to see it drop just wide of the far post. McStay scuffed his shot wide when Barnard picked him out with a cut back, before a McStay corner found David Armstrong at the near post, but he couldn't keep his header down. A Barnard corner was then headed home by Archdeacon midway through the half, but that one was chalked off by the ref as Ben Gordon was deemed to have held a defender as the ball came across. Archdeacon saw a shot from range just fade wide of the post as he continued to torment the Athletic defence, while a rare excursion forward from the visitors saw Johnny Russell send a shot high over the bar. Two late changes saw Stephen Murray and Paul McLeod replaced by Kieran McAnespie and Jean-Pierre Papin, before we gave another masterclass in counter attacking with five minutes to play. Again it came from a Forfar corner, which was only part cleared until Papin helped it away on the edge of his own box. He found McAnespie who made ground down the left, before it was switched right via McStay, and out to the man we wanted on the ball, Carcary. He again showed great pace, and this time he crossed from the byline, low and hard into the near post, where Archdeacon met it with a drilled first time shot to get his second of the match. We did blot our copybook right at the end, Mickey Bell's late corner picking out Winter in the middle, and he was unmarked to drill in a half volley from eight yards out. The points were safe by that point though.

Dumbarton (2) 3 - Derek Carcary (24), Mark Archdeacon (44,85)
Forfar Athletic (0) 1 - Craig Winter (90)
Attendance :- 762
Dave McEwan; Gordon Lennon ©, Darren Barnard; Ben Gordon, David Armstrong; Don Huutchison (inj - Mark Canning 45), Ryan McStay; Derek Carcary, Stephen Murray (Kieran McAnespie 80); Paul McLeod (Jean-Pierre Papin 80), Mark Archdeacon.

An excellent home performance to end our League schedule for October, and Mark Archdeacon moves to the top of the Division's goalscoring charts, taking his League goals total for the campaign to eight. While he was named man of the match, there was no doubt about the topic of conversation after the match, that outstanding solo goal from Derek Carcary, who leads the Division's average rating table, with five Dumbarton players in the top ten, and eight across the top twenty.

The injury to Don Hutchison is a blow, he came off after injuring himself very late in the first half, and the veteran midfielder has damaged his foot after jumping for a header, and will likely be out for around a month. Our depth in midfield is now starting to get stretched.

Our unbeaten run has now stretched to nine games, and with East Stirlingshire held to a 1-1 draw away to Albion Rovers, we will go into November's packed League schedule sitting in second place and now just a single point behind the early leaders, who remain unbeaten so far in the Third Division. But attention now turns to the Scottish Cup, with our campaign beginning next weekend in the North East.

2008/09 Scottish League Third Division Table, Up To & Including Saturday 18th October 2008

| Pos   | Inf   | Team               |       | Pld   | Won   | Drn   | Lst   | For   | Ag    | G.D.  | Pts   |

| 1st   |       | East Stirlingshire |       | 10    | 6     | 4     | 0     | 22    | 12    | +10   | 22    |
| 2nd   |       | Dumbarton          |       | 10    | 6     | 3     | 1     | 26    | 14    | +12   | 21    |
| 3rd   |       | Montrose           |       | 10    | 6     | 1     | 3     | 13    | 6     | +7    | 19    |
| 4th   |       | Albion Rovers      |       | 10    | 4     | 4     | 2     | 13    | 11    | +2    | 16    |
| 5th   |       | Forfar             |       | 10    | 4     | 3     | 3     | 16    | 16    | 0     | 15    |
| 6th   |       | Stenhousemuir      |       | 10    | 2     | 3     | 5     | 12    | 16    | -4    | 9     |
| 7th   |       | Cowdenbeath        |       | 10    | 2     | 3     | 5     | 8     | 13    | -5    | 9     |
| 8th   |       | Berwick            |       | 10    | 2     | 3     | 5     | 11    | 21    | -10   | 9     |
| 9th   |       | Elgin              |       | 10    | 0     | 7     | 3     | 7     | 10    | -3    | 7     |
| 10th  |       | Annan              |       | 10    | 1     | 3     | 6     | 8     | 17    | -9    | 6     |


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  • 4 weeks later...

Sunday 19th October 2008
Our Reserve side hosted Ross County at the Strathclyde Homes Stadium this afternoon, and stayed top of Group 3 after a 1-1 draw, coming from behind after the Highland visitors went in front in the 10th minute, and Michael Moore levelled in first half injury time. They had some work to do in the second half when skipper Andy Geggan was shown a red card midway through for a second bookable offence.

Monday 20th October
Four of our players are included in the Third Division Team of the Week, with Darren Barnard, Ben Gordon, Derek Carcary and Mark Archdeacon as we provide more players than any other club.

Friday 24th October
Our final game of October, but it's a long trip for this one, as we head North East and into Aberdeenshire for a tie in the last Cup competition that we're left in, and the biggest one, the Scottish Cup. With the First Round for the non-League clubs, we now take a trip to face one of those. Cove Rangers really fancy their chances of rolling us over at Allan Park tomorrow afternoon, the Highland League club have some form for that over the years too. We need to make sure we do a professional job, and then hopefully we'll get a bigger club in the Third Round so we can accurately gauge how far we have come along, and how we might fare should we get promoted this season.

Saturday 25th October

Cove Rangers v Dumbarton
Scottish Cup, Second Round
Allan Park, Aberdeen

With Don Hutchinson out injured, Mark Canning is brought into the side to pair up with Ryan McStay in midfield. That means there is a spot on the bench today for David Gray, while with Guy Melamed suspended for this match, there is also a call into the matchday squad for Mick O'Byrne. There was chance for Derek Carcary to show his blistering pace early on, the ball played to him just inside the Rangers half, and he dusted Michael Renton for pace and got into the box, but sent his shot well over the cross bar. Moments later, David Armstrong stepped up from centre back to break up the play. The ball was played around nicely as we set up, and then it was given to Carcary. As they backed off, he pinged a pass to Paul McLeod, his shot was saved by Lee Windrum, it wasn't cleared by Renton, and Mark Archdeacon toe poked home his 10th goal of the season to put us in front. Carcary was scaring the living daylights out of the non-Leaguers now, and he created two more chances before the first half ended, Archdeacon sending a shot well over, while a McLeod curler was easily caught by Windrum. I really wanted us to get another goal to kill off the danger from our hosts, who had already had to make two forced substitutions. They really hadn't caused us any problems, that was until five minutes after the restart when Renton lumped the ball up the park, and Armstrong lost concentration and let the ball bounce by him, Gerry O'Driscoll racing by him and into the box, but sending his shot too high to our relief. That would be the best chance of the entire second half, with twenty minutes remaining I made all my changes at once, Mark Canning, Stephen Murray and McLeod all came off, replaced by David Gray, Kieran McAnespie and Jean-Pierre Papin. Predictably, we picked up a couple of knocks after that, with both Armstrong and Carcary picking up knocks. Gray missed a chance to make a name for himself, caught between two minds at the corner of the box and failing to either hit the target or pick out a team mate with a cross, while Ryan McStay did hit the target with a shot, but he didn't get any power behind the shot. Today though, it didn't matter.

Cove Rangers (0) 0
Dumbarton (1) 1
Mark Archdeacon (13)
Attendance :- 195
Dave McEwan; Gordon Lennon ©, Darren Barnard, Ben Gordon, David Armstrong; Mark Canning (David Gray 70), Ryan McStay; Derek Carcary, Stephen Murray (Kieran McAnespie 70); Paul McLeod (Jean-Pierre Papin 70), Mark Archdeacon.

That was exactly the kind of test we were expecting. And we showed our mettle and game management to come through it, and move into the Third Round of the Scottish Cup, with another win needed to meet the Boards target of reaching the Fourth Round of the competition.

We had come through it pretty much unscathed as well. David Armstrong had run off his knock, while Derek Carcary has suffered a gashed arm which leaves him doubtful for next weekends Third Division trip to Stenhousemuir. Our attacking intent is becoming more and more reliant on the speed and skills of our 22 year old right winger, who is performing at a very high level so far this season. High enough that a new contract offer has been tabled tonight.

Sunday 26th October
It's a lunchtime draw for the Third Round of the Scottish Cup after yesterdays long round trip to the Highlands, and our win over non-League side Cove Rangers. This round sees the Second Division clubs join the competition, along with the teams finishing 5th down to 10th in last seasons First Division. Our preference for Cup draws is very straight forward, either a winable home tie, or an away tie against a big club where if we're going to get beaten, we can at least make some money. So the result of this draw was a bit, meh. It's halfway through the draw when we are pulled from the velvet bag, and it's a home draw. Taken out next as our opponents are Second Division side Raith Rovers.

They're currently second in the third tier, level on points with leaders Ayr United. They've lost only twice in their ten League matches, but have been beaten by Third Division opposition already this season, losing away to Forfar Athletic in the League Cup back in early August. They fared significantly better in the Challenge Cup, losing their Semi-Final away to Airdrie United a fortnight ago. They have a lethal strike force who have 16 goals between them in all competitions, Kevin Smith is on loan from Dundee United, while Gary Wales joined on a Free Transfer from Kilmarnock in the summer. Is there a possibility of an upset? Well, I'm certainly not ruling it out when we meet at the end of November!

Monday 27th October
A good news day, as Derek Carcary needed very little time to think over his contract offer. It was obvious he was keen, as the two and a half year deal contains no pay rise, though there is a better bonus package for the winger who has five goals and an assist in all competitions this season. Now he just has to concentrate on getting himself fit to play away against Stenhousemuir this weekend.

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  • 1 month later...

Saturday 1st November 2008
Into November then, and straight into League action with a trip to face seventh placed Cowdenbeath. We already hold a 2-0 win over them this season from mid-August, and their form hasn't really picked up since then either. They did win in the League last time out against Annan Athletic, but that was their first haul of three points since early August at home to the same opposition. They even failed to beat non-League side Golspie Sutherland at home in the Second Round of the Scottish Cup, though they did win the Replay, and will be delighted to face Annan again in Round Three. We're Even money favourites, and on current form, that looks good value. It's going to be a busy month, this the first of four League games for us, before ending November with that Cup date against Raith Rovers.

Cowdenbeath v Dumbarton
Scottish Third Division
Central Park, Cowdenbeath

Just one change to the starting lineup, on loan Dennis McLaughlin comes in for the unfit Derek Carcary on the right, while Michael Moore takes over from Jean-Pierre Papin on the subs bench. Ryan McStay makes his 75th career League Appearance today, while home keeper David Hay hasn't conceded in 271 minutes coming into this match. He can tack 19 more minutes onto that total, but that would be as good as it would get, Dave McEwan having plenty of time to wander outside his box with the ball at his feet and measure a delivery to Paul McLeod, who slotted his pass to Mark Archdeacon, and the in form striker did the rest with a finish slipped by the keepers dive. That lead would be doubled on the half hour mark, McLaughlin winning a corner that Darren Barnard sent over, Archdeacon's header was blocked on the line, but fell right to McLeod who netted from two yards out. Paul McQuade missed two headed chances to pull Cowdenbeath back into the game, both times he was pressured into rushing his efforts, which I was happy to see. The home side came out fighting for the second half, but their best early chance after the restart was squandered when centre back Darren McGregor sent a shot wide of the target following a corner. We had the ball in the net again in the 56th minute, Ryan McStay's shot from range was scuffed, but it went right to McLeod who fired it in on the turn, but from an offside position. McStay continued his shooting from range policy while the game started to stagnate, so I made a pair of changes, Stephen Murray and McLeod replaced by Kieran McAnespie and Michael Moore. The striker surprisingly passed up a chance to shoot from just inside the box, a sign of his low confidence maybe. It didn't matter today though.

Cowdenbeath (0) 0
Dumbarton (2) 2
Mark Archdeacon (19), Paul McLeod (30)
Attendance :- 354
Dave McEwan; Gordon Lennon ©, Darren Barnard, Ben Gordon, David Armstrong; Mark Canning, Ryan McStay (David Gray 84); Dennis McLaughlin, Stephen Murray (Kieran McAnespie 74); Paul McLeod, Mark Archdeacon.

That's another very comfortable job done well from us, and we move to ten unbeaten in the League, eleven in all competitions. I mentioned that future opponents in the Cup later this month Raith Rovers have a prolific strike partnership, but while they move to the top of the Second Division, our strike force of Archdeacon and McLeod move beyond their strike pairings total. If the Transfer Window opened right now, I would be happy to let it pass us by, but of course there is a lot of football to play yet, and we're not counting our chickens by any means.

The Board remain satisfied with how things are going, and why wouldn't they be? The signing of Mark Archdeacon remains something that particularly pleases them. We lost around £4,500 last month, but the bank balance remains very healthy at £128,500.

Sunday 2nd November
It's a strong Reserve side that are at pitched in at home to Forfar Athletic's second string, and they come out with a 1-0 win. It's currently out of favour centre back Guy Melamed who gets the goal and the man of the match award too.

Monday 3rd November
Just the one player in the Third Division Team of the Week, and it's veteran Welsh left back Darren Barnard.

Friday 7th November
After a quiet week, we're right back into game mode, and this one really matters too. Montrose are about to come into town, and they're the only team to take a three point haul from us this so far this season, beating us at Links Park in the Third Division season opener. If you were to assume we're a promotion contender, then it should also be assumed that Montrose are in the hunt too. We're the favourites for this one, and I want to see the team on their game.

Saturday 8th November

Dumbarton v Montrose
Scottish Third Division
Strathclyde Homes Stadium, Dumbarton

Derek Carcary returns to the right wing for us today, with the only other change made being a return to the matchday squad for Guy Melamed after his excellent performance for the Reserves. A promising start for us saw us pin Montrose back into their own defensive third of the park, to the point where the visitors had to adopt an 'anywhere will do' attitude to their clearances. David Cox just missed the top corner from range for the visitors, before Stephen Murray did the same at the other end. Those efforts continued, Mark Archdeacon just missing, visiting skipper Keith Gibson getting closest of all, seeing his shot hit the cross bar. Gibson was involved again in the 34th minute, playing a long through ball from just outside his own box. It was overhit, and ran through to keeper Dave McEwan, who continued the 'over' theme by over playing the ball on the edge of his own box. He tried to get around striker Robbie Kelleher, but failed, losing the ball and allowing him to find the bottom corner of the unguarded net from 20 yards out. Individual errors can't be taking into consideration in pre-match plans, and now we needed to find a way back. Derek Carcary missed the target with a free kick from range, Murray missed a better chance with a close range effort that was kept out by Tony Bullock. By now Montrose were sinking deeper and deeper to protect their lead, and the game had reverted back to how it had been early on. A nice cutback from Ryan McStay picked out Paul McLeod, but by the time he turned he had three defenders crowding his space. A treble change was made to try and kick us into action, but the best we could manage was an Archdeacon shot from range that was off target, and a Kieran McAnespie shot from the corner of the box that found only the side netting. Montrose have done us over again!

Dumbarton (0) 0
Montrose (1) 1
Robbie Kelleher (34)
Attendance :- 883
Dave McEwan; Gordon Lennon ©, Darren Barnard, Ben Gordon, David Armstrong; Mark Canning (Guy Melamed 78), Ryan McStay; Derek Carcary, Stephen Murray (Kieran McAnespie 78); Paul McLeod (Michael Moore 78), Mark Archdeacon.

Do we have a bogie team in our Division then? That's zero points from six available against Montrose now this season, and they become the first team to hold us goalless this season. With East Stirlingshire also winning well away to bottom of the table Annan Athletic, our lead at the top has gone, and we now drop down to a net third place. We're a third of the way through the Third Division schedule now, and just two points cover the top three. We're away to East Stirlingshire next weekend as well, just to put the cat amongst the pigeons a little further.

Sunday 9th November
Our Reserves twice came from behind to earn a 2-2 draw away to Stranraer today. The best part of that was that it was fringe First Team players who got the equalisers with all the goals coming in the first half, with David Gray netting early on, and a Jean-Pierre Papin penalty levelling the game up before the break. Papin celebrated his 45th birthday last week, and celebrates on the park by getting his first goal in a Dumbarton shirt at any level.

Tuesday 11th November
Speaking of fringe First Team players, veteran Scottish International midfielder Don Hutchison is back in training after his foot injury. That's good news for the club.

Thursday 13th November
Teenage right back Sam Peters hasn't been able to dislodge Gordon Lennon from the First Team yet, but he continues to be a regular pick for New Zealand Under-21's, named in their squad for the upcoming Friendly in Hamilton against Fiji, which could see him win his 14th cap at the highest age group level.

Friday 14th November
After last weekend's defeat to promotion rivals Montrose, we now face the other club who have themselves firmly in the running right now, as we travel to face East Stirlingshire tomorrow afternoon. When we faced them back in August, a crowd of over 800 were treated to a back and forth eight goal thriller, with East Stirlingshire earning a point with a last minute equaliser. They're the favourites going into this one with home advantage.

Saturday 15th November

East Stirlingshire v Dumbarton
Scottish Third Division
Ochilview Park, Stenhousemuir

No changes for us this despite defeat last time around, with the exception of Jean-Pierre Papin coming back into the matchday squad on the bench to replace to Michael Moore. Our hosts play with three at the back and five across the midfield, and early on that caused us some issues. The sides swapped early chances Paul Evans sending a shot just wide for the hosts, before a Mark Archdeacon shot was deflected behind for a corner, which Darren Barnard put onto Ben Gordon's header. That effort was headed for the top corner, until Evans headed it off the line. But then East Stirlingshire took over, Carl Pettefer finding David Dunn and his low pass across the box found Paul Weaver, who feigned to shoot on his left, and then cut back onto his right to find the near bottom corner. Archdeacon thought he'd beaten the offside trap as we tried to hit back, but at the other end Ray Scully and Pettefer missed the target, before Scully picked out Gerard McGranaghan in the box, and he fired the home side further ahead. Just like after the first goal, we almost replied from a corner, Archdeacon seeing his header saved from point blank range by Mark Peat. The hosts had the ball in the net again before the break, Dunn firing home Evans cross, but he was offside and that one got chalked off. I was hoping a half time dressing down would coax some life from my team, and it looked like it might happen when David Armstrong's header from a corner thumped the post. So when Archdeacon found the bottom corner midway through the second half from a Paul McLeod reverse pass, I figured we were back in the game. Not so, as a Pettefer through ball hit its target, and McGranaghan guided home his second of the game. With a little over ten minutes to play, I went for what qualified as Plan B. We were being overun in midfield, so I took Mark Canning out of there and brought Jean-Pierre Papin on as we decided to bypass the centre of the park altogether with long ball football. But that went about as well as the rest of our afternoon had gone, and East Stirlingshire put the knife in. Sub Derek Ure seemed to be heading for the corner, but he had a cross in him, and found Andy Rodgers, who had to readjust mid jump, but pulled out a spectacular looping header that found the top corner and finished us off.

East Stirlingshire (2) 4 - Paul Weaver (21), Gerard McGranaghan (28,72), Andy Rodgers (90+1)
Dumbarton (0) 1 - Mark Archdeacon (68)
Attendance :- 492.
Dave McEwan; Gordon Lennon ©, Darren Barnard, Ben Gordon, David Armstrong; Mark Canning (Jean-Pierre Papin 79), Ryan McStay; Derek Carcary, Stephen Murray; Paul McLeod, Mark Archdeacon.

I'm going to have to carry the can for that one to a large degree. It would appear that I drastically overestimated my sides ability to just go out and adapt to situations where necessary. If we had even matched up with them, I'm sure we'd have had better luck, but they've now blown eight goals by us in two matches.

Suddenly our cruise to the top of the Division and making believers of everyone else that we were the real deal and promotion contenders has hit a speed bump. We can make a case of being unlucky last weekend, but not this time, we were taken apart, and now we're five points behind East Stirlingshire, and four behind Montrose. We do still have a healthy gap down to the fifth placed side, but we need to get back to winning ways next weekend when Berwick Rangers visit us.

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There  are lots of gashed arms and other soft tissue injuries flying around in this thread. Are weapons allowed on the pitch in the Scottish 3rd Division?

Do you still have faith in J.P.P? As it might be my eyesight but I haven't noticed him score yet.

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On 16/03/2021 at 12:21, Mandy42 said:

There  are lots of gashed arms and other soft tissue injuries flying around in this thread. Are weapons allowed on the pitch in the Scottish 3rd Division?

Do you still have faith in J.P.P? As it might be my eyesight but I haven't noticed him score yet.

It may take that to make Scottish Football more interesting ha

Papin is suffering due to the form of Archdeacon and McLeod. They're keeping him from getting a run in the side, and I wouldn't be surprised if he decides to retire soon if he can't break into the lineup and start finding the net.

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Monday 17th November 2008
Guy Melamed has just managed to work his way back to the fringes of the First Team through his form for the Reserve side. Unfortunately, the 29 year old Israeli has now damaged his neck in training. He'll be sent to a specialist to get sorted out, but it will still be two to three weeks on the sidelines for him, and a setback to his chances of working his way back into the side.

Friday 21st November
After losing to both of our nearest rivals this month, we need to get back on the winning trail tomorrow when our visitors are Berwick Rangers. They won last week against bottom of the table Annan Athletic, and come into the game sat in 7th place. We're the favourites to win with our home advantage, though after getting thrashed last week, there are clearly some new reservations about us, as we're priced at a backable 5/4.

Saturday 22nd November

Dumbarton v Berwick Rangers
Scottish Third Division
Strathclyde Homes Stadium, Dumbarton

A third straight game with no changes to the starting lineup as we look to keep the pressure on the two teams that have recently beaten us. What we didn't need was keeper Ryan McGurk's huge clearance down the park being an issue for Ben Gordon who didn't deal with it, and Michael Reddy latched onto it and got his shot by Dave McEwan to put Rangers ahead. Gordon missed the chance to make amends, his header from Darren Barnard's corner was wide. A better chance arrived with Derek Carcary played in on goal with a long ball that utilised the wingers pace, but McGurk saved the shot with his legs. We were now in control, David Armstrong heading over from a Barnard corner. Five minutes before the break, that combo did come up trumps though, on loan Armstrong with a powerful downward header to score his first for the club. That goal changed the tone of the half time talk from 'What the hell was that?' to more like 'This game is yours to go out and win now!' Ryan McStay saw his shot turned over by McGurk. The midfielder took revenge by delivering a corner to the head of Gordon, who directed the ball by the keeper and the defender on the line and put us in front. That lead was soon extended, Barnard showing he doesn't just deliver corners, as he crashed home a low free kick from 20 yards out. We were comfortable enough to start making changes, Paul McLeod subbed for veteran Jean-Pierre Papin. And it would be the day that the fans would finally see the Frenchman find the net, as ten minutes after coming on he threw himself at Gordon Lennon's cross and headed home from five yards out. Two late efforts from Mark Archdeacon to get his name on the scoresheet failed, but he can save his goals for another day when we really need them.

Dumbarton (1) 4 - David Armstrong (40), Ben Gordon (50), Darren Barnard (58), Jean-Pierre Papin (74)
Berwick Rangers (1) 1 - Michael Reddy (12)
Attendance :- 663
Dave McEwan; Gordon Lennon ©, Darren Barnard, Ben Gordon, David Armstrong; Mark Canning (Mick Dunlop 78), Ryan McStay; Derek Carcary, Stephen Murray (Kieran McAnespie 74); Pual McLeod (Jean-Pierre Papin 63), Mark Archdeacon.

That was a game we never looked like losing, but it just took us quite some time to get ourselves going. But when we did, we were ruthless, and Darren Barnard put in a much deserved first man of the match performance this season, with a goal and an assist for the Welsh left back. It was a good day all around, with both East Stirlingshire and Montrose held to draws, away to Stenhousemuir and Elgin City respectively. Albion Rovers are fourth after a home win, and we travel to face them in our next League game. They make up the final club in a group of four that are now a good distance in front of the chasing pack. But we have a big day coming up before that game.

Monday 24th November
Five of our players are included in the Team of the Week, with the entire back four joined by winger Derek Carcary.

Friday 28th November
Tomorrow is our chance to try and pull off a giant killing in the Scottish Cup Third Round, as we host Raith Rovers, the current leaders of the Second Division. The Stark's Park club have done a fabulous job of working the loan market to their advantage this season, and their fans must be hopeful they can sign up a few of them permanently to stay at the club.

Kevin Smith is on loan from Dundee United, and has been averaging a goal every other game, striking up a great partnership with Gary Wales, who is matching his effort. Graham Weir is used mostly from the bench as an impact player, and he has netted five goals and is posting an average rating nudging 7.50 in that role. The consensus is that we will need to be on top form to beat them, our home form expected to bring us closer, but the visitors are still the odds on favourites.

Saturday 29th November

Dumbarton v Raith Rovers
Scottish Cup Third Round
Strathclyde Homes Stadium, Dumbarton

It's an unchanged starting lineup once more, though there is one change on the bench, with Don Hutchison brought into the matchday squad to replace Mick Dunlop. The game started very slowly, with nearly twenty minutes on the clock before the first shot of note was taken, Nathan Porritt's effort was over the bar. Rovers were starting to look the more likely though, Chris Guiney's cross from the left on the half hour was headed home by Gary Wales, but the striker was flagged offside. The flag wouldn't save us in the 38th minute though, the left channel again providing the outlet, with Porritt sending the cross over this time, and Wales got between defenders and netted with a downward header. A goal down at the break, I'd seen enough to know we were still in with a shot though. All I wanted was to see us put our visitors under some intense pressure. I got that too early in the second half. Almost identical to the Rovers goal, Stephen Murray sent in a cross, Mark Archdeacon was totally unmarked, but his header was just too close to David McGurn who got a strong hand to it and kept it out. On the hour, Barnard's cross into the box saw firstly Archdeacon have a shot blocked, and then Derek Carcary also failing to thread his shot through the mass of Rovers players throwing themselves at the ball. That was all just the beginning, Paul McLeod headed back across goal but wide, before Ben Gordon thumped a header against the Rovers cross bar. Shortly after that, a corner was only partially cleared, and Ryan McStay let fly with a well struck shot that took a huge deflection and left McGurn stranded, only to be headed clear by a defender that had stayed on his post. I'd seen enough to decide it was now worth us pulling the pin and having a spell of throwing the sink at it. Mark Canning and Murray came off, Barnard moved up to left wing, with Gordon Lennon shifting into the middle as we brought on Don Hutchison and Jean-Pierre Papin to make it a 3-4-3. We just needed one more clear chance, but it didn't come, the closest we got was the ball breaking loose to the edge of the box in the 89th minute, and David Armstrong had a rush of blood, the centre back sending a shot well over the bar when he had better options. That's our Cup football done for the season then.

Dumbarton (0) 0
Raith Rovers (1) 1
Gary Wales (38)
Attendance :- 492
Dave McEwan; Gordon Lennon ©, Darren Barnard, Ben Gordon, David Armstrong; Mark Canning (Don Hutchinson 78), Ryan McStay; Derek Carcary, Stephen Murray (Jean-Pierre Papin 78); Paul McLeod, Mark Archdeacon.

We gave that a really good go, and I've nothing but praise for my players effort, particularly in the second half when we did everything but score. If we can find a way to get promoted this season, that outing would certainly suggest we could compete in the third tier.

We make out exit from the Scottish Cup then, concluding our Cup efforts for the season. We get £20,000 in prize money, taking our overall balance up near the £150,000 mark. Another round of progress would've been better yet for the bank balance, but there were no shocks of real note to be had, and Raith move on to Round Four where they will face a trip to Airdrie United. No doubt about the tie of the Round though, as Aberdeen will host Heart of Midlothian in one of three all SPL ties.

For us, December will bring five League fixtures, four of them away from home, as we face another gut check of our credentials as promotion hopefuls this season.

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2008/09 Scottish League Third Division, Up To & Including Sunday 30th November 2008

| Pos   | Inf   | Team               |       | Pld   | Won   | Drn   | Lst   | For   | Ag    | G.D.  | Pts   |

| 1st   |       | East Stirlingshire |       | 14    | 8     | 6     | 0     | 35    | 19    | +16   | 30    |
| 2nd   |       | Montrose           |       | 14    | 9     | 2     | 3     | 18    | 8     | +10   | 29    |
| 3rd   |       | Dumbarton          |       | 14    | 8     | 3     | 3     | 33    | 20    | +13   | 27    |
| 4th   |       | Albion Rovers      |       | 14    | 7     | 5     | 2     | 19    | 13    | +6    | 26    |
| 5th   |       | Forfar             |       | 14    | 4     | 5     | 5     | 18    | 20    | -2    | 17    |
| 6th   |       | Cowdenbeath        |       | 14    | 3     | 5     | 6     | 12    | 17    | -5    | 14    |
| 7th   |       | Berwick            |       | 14    | 3     | 4     | 7     | 17    | 30    | -13   | 13    |
| 8th   |       | Elgin              |       | 14    | 1     | 9     | 4     | 10    | 14    | -4    | 12    |
| 9th   |       | Stenhousemuir      |       | 14    | 2     | 6     | 6     | 18    | 23    | -5    | 12    |
| 10th  |       | Annan              |       | 14    | 1     | 3     | 10    | 8     | 24    | -16   | 6     |


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Monday 1st December 2008
The Board remain satisfied with how things are going at the club, and they're likely to get more satisfied the longer we keep ourselves in the Promotion and Playoff hunt. They remain very pleased with the signing and form of Darren Barnard, and are less happy with the form of Stephen Murray. That sounds fair enough on the surface, but a look at the stats show Murray actually has notched nine assists in eighteen games in all competitions. Granted, he does drift in and out of games though. The club made a profit of almost £14,000 last month, due entirely to our prize money from the Scottish Cup.

Wednesday 3rd December
Excellent news for the club today as midfielder Ryan McStay signs a new deal that will take him through to the Summer of 2011. It will see him earn £40 per week. If we were to progress up the tiers as a club, it's quite feasible that McStay is a player who could progress with the club.

We receive some good news this evening, as Montrose play their game week fifteen match at home to Forfar Athletic, and are held to a 1-1 draw. They are now within three points reach of us, and we have a game in hand and a better goal difference.

Thursday 4th December
If I was considering moving Stephen Murray out of the team, his natural replacement in the Squad would be on loan Kieran McAnespie.......who has just suffered a back strain in the weights room. As he isn't our player, we are unable to decide the best course of treatment for 29 year old, with parent club Morton having to take that decision. They tell us it's going to be around a month on the sidelines for him. A stay of execution for Murray, or just taking the pressure off the under fire former Kilmarnock man?

Friday 5th December
Another tough day at the office is expected tomorrow as we travel into the Central Belt, and face Albion Rovers at their Cliftonhill home. They come into the game just a point behind us and in fourth spot, part of the quartet that have moved clear of the rest of the Division. They're the slight favourites at the bookies with home advantage, and like many clubs at this level it would seem, they are relying heavily on a potent strike pairing. 30 year old journeyman striker Ian Harty and 24 year old Portsmouth born Patrick Walker have 13 goals between them in all competitions.

The build up is dominated by my press conference, which was short. The media who were present seemed to have formed some kind of alliance, and spent the short session tearing apart members of my playing staff and their current form. They started with Stephen Murray, who I defended. When they moved on to Mark Archdeacon, I told them they were out of order, and had gone too far. 'A dozen goals for the club, and we're doing better than any of you hacks thought we would this season, ain't we? And still you come here and take your shots. I don't see any reason to waste my time with you, and I'm not going to either!' With that, I made my exit.

Saturday 6th December

Albion Rovers v Dumbarton
Scottish League Third Division
Cliftonhill, Coatbridge

An unchanged side is selected, though Guy Melamed is back from injury and returns to the matchday squad. This is one of the few occasions where we have to change strip too. We needed a great double save from Dave McEwan to keep us level early on, before a long range effort from Sean Fleming just missed the top corner. Rovers then lost Ryan McGavigan to injury, and we started to get some chances of our own, Mark Archdeacon forcing a superb point blank stop from Jamie Ewings. Ryan McStay hit the post, before Darren Barnard took a booking for the team to prevent Ian Harty launching a counter attack. Before half time, Gordon Lennon sent Derek Carcary into room on the right, and the winger picked out an unmarked Paul McLeod in the middle, who sidefooted home. A dipping McStay shot was just too high as we looked to press home our advantage, but we couldn't hold on, Todd Lumsden picking up a part cleared corner and sending it through the crowd into the bottom corner of our net. Lennon would also pick up a booking in an incident that saw Harty have to go off injured, but we weren't able to find another goal, and the spoils are shared.

Albion Rovers (0) 1 - Todd Lumsden (69)
Dumbarton (1) 1 - Paul McLeod (43)
Dave McEwan; Gordon Lennon ©, Darren Barnard, Ben Gordon, David Armstrong; Mark Canning (Don Hutchison 79), Ryan McStay; Derek Carcary, Stephen Murray; Paul McLeod, Mark Archdeacon (Jean-Pierre Papin 79).

Attendance :- 435

That didn't turn out to be the worst point in the world for either side, as both East Stirlingshire and Montrose lose away to mid-table opposition. We're now two points behind the latter, and with a game in hand which comes in midweek away to rock bottom Annan Athletic, where a win would see us move into second place. And as an added bonus, Ross Clark will be back in training next week. The midfielder has missed two months with a shoulder injury, and his spell in the side earlier in the season coincided with a run of games that saw us move swiftly up the table.

Tuesday 9th December
Tomorrow evening we play our game in hand on Montrose with a 100 mile trip south to play bottom of the table Annan Athletic. They are without a win in eleven games in the League, and are cut adrift at the bottom, six points behind Elgin City in 9th place. 3/1 on them winning at home tells you all you need to know about their current form. We turned them over fairly easily at home three months ago.

Wednesday 10th December

Annan Athletic v Dumbarton
Scottish League Third Division
Galabank, Annan

I resisted the urge to bring Ross Clark back with an immediate return to the starting lineup, instead naming the midfielder on the bench today. Athletic certainly didn't play like a team bottom of the table in the early stages, Shaun Gallagher in particular causing us problems with his crossing and shooting from angles that we weren't expecting. Shortly after the half hour mark, they had the ball in the net too. David Hoey played a threaded ball through our defence, and Neil Young slipped it past Dave McEwan, though unfortunately for Annan he hadn't quite held his run long enough and it was chalked off. And their disappointment would be compounded moments later, Mark Archdeacon playing in Derek Carcary down the right. The winger sped off until he ran out of room,  and then cut back inside two attending defenders and curled a shot with his weaker left foot that beat a super annoyed Graeme Loughman at his near post. That put Athletic back in their box a bit, and we slowly started to gain a stranglehold on the game. Archdeacon sent two shots well over the bar shortly after the hour mark, and he was soon given a new strike partner with Paul McLeod replaced by Jean-Pierre Papin in what would be his 450th Career League Appearance, with Ross Clark coming on at the same time. With only a few minutes remaining, Ryan McStay had to be replaced with a knock. Nothing serious fortunately, and we'll travel home with three points and a nudge up into second place.

Annan Athletic (0) 0
Dumbarton (1) 1 -
Derek Carcary (37)
Dave McEwan; Gordon Lennon ©, Darren Barnard, Ben Gordon, David Armstrong; Mark Canning (Ross Clark 64), Ryan McStay (inj - Don Hutchison 85); Derek Carcary, Stephen Murray; Paul McLeod (Jean-Pierre Papin 64), Mark Archdeacon.
Attendance :- 170

So we leapfrog the inactive Montrose and up into the second spot, two points behind leaders East Stirlingshire who had to come from behind at home to defeat Elgin City this evening, the team we travel north to face on the weekend. And we have a bit more of a gap down to fourth spot as well now, as Albion Rovers are beaten 2-0 away to Cowdenbeath.

Friday 12th December
After a midweek win over the bottom of the table side, we now move one spot further up as we make the long four hour trip north to play 9th placed Elgin City at Borough Briggs tomorrow. They've only won once all season, at home to Forfar Athletic last month in the League, but they have drawn ten of their 15 other First Division matches, something of specialists in the art of draws in a Division that has more than its fair share of them. We're narrow favourites to win away for a second time in four days.

Saturday 13th December

Elgin City v Dumbarton
Scottish League Third Division
Borough Briggs, Elgin

Ryan McStay is dropped to the bench for this one after his knock on Wednesday night, with Ross Clark starting in his place. Mark Archdeacon lobbed keeper Andy McNulty early on, and Stephen Murray sent in a curled effort, but neither hit the target. Ross Clark also missed the target, and then before the break we got our noses bloodied, John McNicholas blasted a free kick by our wall and into the bottom corner. We were only behind briefly though, as we have a set piece expert of our own. On this occasion though, Darren Barnard didn't have a wall in front of him, Murray brought down as he was about to fire in a shot by Joey Courtney, and the Welshman fired his spot kick right down the middle to equalise quickly. We hadn't been clinical enough in that first half, and McStay came on at the break to replace Mark Canning. But we were quickly behind again early in the second half, Courtney fired a free kick into the wall, but when it came back to him he drilled it into the roof of the net! City immediately went into defensive mode, and they paid for it with twenty minutes to play, Barnard's corner was cleared, McStay drove down the right wing, and then crossed to the far post where Murray hit a controlled volley that McNulty should've kept out but didn't, and Murray had his first goal for the club. City stayed defensive after that, but neither side managed to create another chance of note, and we would travel back South bound with a point.

Elgin City (1) 2 - John McNicholas (42), Joey Courtney (48)
Dumbarton (1) 2 - Darren Barnard (45 pen), Stephen Murray (70)
Dave McEwan; Gordon Lennon ©, Darren Barnard, Ben Gordon, David Armstrong; Mark Canning (Ryan McStay 45), Ross Clark (Don Hutchison 81); Derek Carcay, Stephen Murray; Paul McLeod (Jean-Pierre Papin 81), Mark Archdeacon.
Attendance :- 324

It'll be a few months yet before we find out if that's a good point earned or a bad pair left on the park four hours North. No real harm done today though, as Montrose and East Stirlingshire meet and draw 2-2 as well, while Albion Rovers are also held away from home, a goalless draw at Stenhousemuir.

We host Stenhousemuir next Saturday in our final game before Christmas, before we travel to Forfar Athletic on Boxing Day to finish off 2008. If things go well, we could even be top by then.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Wednesday 17th December 2008
We are one of multiple club that have a £1,000 offer to Hamilton Academical accepted by the club for their 26 year old out of favour striker Kenny Deuchar. He's a 6'3 Stirling born lad who has scored goals everywhere he has played, but he can't get a game for the side rooted to the bottom of the Premier League right now. But it's too much of a drop in levels, and his agent advises us that he doesn't wish to discuss terms, and he will look at other options. They include Morton if he wishes to stay in Scotland, or St Patrick's Athletic and Cork City in the Republic of Ireland. There is also an option to return south of the border and into England with Bradford City.

Friday 19th December
Our last home game of 2008 is tomorrow afternoon as we host 8th placed Stenhousemuir. These are the kind of games that our form has led to an expectation on us to pick up wins reasonably comfortably. It's never that simple though in Leagues like this, and we need to keep our foot to the floor to ensure we stay in the promotion race.

Saturday 20th December

Dumbarton v Stenhousemuir
Scottish League Third Division
Strathclyde Homes Stadium, Dumbarton

It's a snowy week before Christmas in Scotland, and we show one change from the side that drew in Elgin, with Ryan McStay coming back into the side to replace Ross Clark who isn't yet fit enough to play two games in a row. We're behind in the 6th minute with the first real chance of the game, Iain Thomson rolling the ball into the path of skipper Steven Ferguson, a player who spent time on loan here a few years ago, and his 25 yard shot skidded up off the turf, under Dave McEwan's dive and into the bottom corner. The keeper would like that one back! Chances came and went for us after that, Derek Carcary's shot curled away from goal, Stephen Murray's header was tipped onto the roof of the net by Keiron Renton, before Paul McLeod and a lacking in confidence Mark Archdeacon both sent shots over the bar. McLeod then just missed the top corner with a diving header. The players got a well deserved rollicking at the break and came out fired up, McLeod seeing Renton tip his curling shot over, Murray going down in the box appealing for a penalty but being denied. But in the 58th minute Murray stung Renton's hands with a shot he couldn't hold, and McLeod fired home the loose ball to equalise. Now we had a chance to win it, and with twenty minutes to go I brought Ross Clark off the bench to replace Mark Canning as we look to go for it, but we couldn't fashion a chance to win it, and have to settle for a point today.

Dumbarton (0) 1 - Paul McLeod (58)
Stenhousemuir (1) - Steven Ferguson (6)
Dave McEwan, Gordon Lennon ©, Darren Barnard, Ben Gordon, David Armstrong; Mark Canning (Ross Clark 70), Ryan McStay; Derek Carcary, Stephen Murray; Paul McLeod, Mark Archdeacon.
Attendance :- 774.

There will be days like that, there always are for every club. Unfortunately, this time it would come on a day when our rivals would take advantage. There are wins for East Stirlingshire and Montrose, with the only silver lining be that the latter defeated Albion Rovers. We've dropped back down to third place, four points behind the leaders and a point behind Montrose who leap back above us. There is still a handy eight point gap back to the fifth placed side, Forfar Athletic, who we visit to finish our 2008 schedule on Boxing Day.

Wednesday 24th December
No Christmas rest for us as we prepare for another vital League game, and we head North East just outside Dundee to face fifth placed Forfar Athletic at their Station Park home on Boxing Day. Our hosts are unbeaten in their last five Third Division games, and earned a place in the Fourth Round of the Scottish Cup too during that spell. On loan striker Johnny Russell from Dundee United leads the scoring chart for the club, and the creative tactics of their Manager at the club Dick Campbell make them tricky to play against. The former Dunfermline Athletic, Brechin City, Partick Thistle and Ross County boss is a cautious type, but it'd be wrong to underestimate that trait, his teams can counter attack at pace and they're favourites for this clash.

Friday 26th December

Forfar Athletic v Dumbarton
Scottish League Third Division
Station Park, Forfar

So I spring a tactical surprise, setting us up with three centre backs in a 5-2-2-1 to try and combat Forfar's own three at the back and another three across midfield, and try to tempt them out so we can counter attack them ourselves. Mark Canning moves into the rearguard, while Paul McLeod drops to the bench allowing Ross Clark to start in the middle with Ryan McStay. It started promisingly too, as McStay sent a low pass into the box that Mark Archdeacon fired across goal and into the bottom corner to end his recent goal drought and hand us an 8th minute lead. We had planned to force Forfar to come out of their defensive shell, and we soon wished we hadn't baited them. Stephen McNally made a run down the right in the 20th minute, and his cross to the edge of the box was knocked down by Andy Tod, and Darren Brady walked into it and sent a shot through a crowd that Dave McEwan didn't see until it was past him. We fought back, both Gordon Lennon and Darren Barnard sending in crosses that just missed their mark, before McStay did the same with a shot from the edge of the box that found only the side netting. And by half time we were behind, the keeper sending a long ball down the park, Johnny Russell not quite able to control it, and David Armstrong's attempted clearance hit Russell and fell right into the path of Stephen Manson who buried it. I urged my players to respond in the second half, Derek Carcary pulling the ball back from the right flank after the restart, McStay's dipping shot cleared the cross bar. By midway through the second half, we had come no closer to denting their defence again, so I switched us around, Barnard and Armstrong replaced by Don Hutchison and Paul McLeod as we looked for more options further up the park. But now we were at the mercy of the Athletic counter attack, Russell just missing the top corner, and then sending another effort across goal and past the far post. With ten minutes to play, I pushed us into an even more attacking setup, but we created nothing, and our unbeaten run was over.

Forfar Athletic (2) 2 - Darren Brady (20), Stephen Manson (40)
Dumbarton (1) 1 - Mark Archdeacon (9)
Dave McEwan; Gordon Lennon ©, Darren Barnard (Don Hutchison 67), Ben Gordon, David Armstrong (Paul McLeod 67), Mark Canning; Ryan McStay, Ross Clark; Derek Carcary, Stephen Murray; Mark Archdeacon.
Attendance :- 346.

The press were all over me for this one. I was labelled as 'tactically inept' for risking an untried tactic such as five at the back in such a big game. When the 4-2-2-2 had been working so well and got us into this position, they couldn't fathom why I had taken a risk and changed it in a game that saw Forfar move up into fourth and five points behind us, overtaking a Albion Rovers side that lost again and were now winless in five. But that was only the minor issue, as East Stirlingshire and Montrose both win again, pulling seven and four points in front of us respectively at the top of the table.

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2008/09 Scottish League Third Division Standings, Up To & Including Wednesday 31st December 2008

| Pos   | Inf   | Team               |       | Pld   | Won   | Drn   | Lst   | For   | Ag    | G.D.  | Pts   |

| 1st   |       | East Stirlingshire |       | 19    | 11    | 7     | 1     | 41    | 23    | +18   | 40    |
| 2nd   |       | Montrose           |       | 19    | 11    | 4     | 4     | 26    | 13    | +13   | 37    |
| 3rd   |       | Dumbarton          |       | 19    | 9     | 6     | 4     | 39    | 26    | +13   | 33    |
| 4th   |       | Forfar             |       | 19    | 7     | 7     | 5     | 28    | 24    | +4    | 28    |
| 5th   |       | Albion Rovers      |       | 19    | 7     | 7     | 5     | 20    | 20    | 0     | 28    |
| 6th   |       | Cowdenbeath        |       | 19    | 5     | 5     | 9     | 18    | 23    | -5    | 20    |
| 7th   |       | Berwick            |       | 19    | 4     | 7     | 8     | 20    | 33    | -13   | 19    |
| 8th   |       | Elgin              |       | 19    | 2     | 11    | 6     | 18    | 20    | -2    | 17    |
| 9th   |       | Stenhousemuir      |       | 19    | 2     | 10    | 7     | 21    | 31    | -10   | 16    |
| 10th  |       | Annan              |       | 19    | 3     | 4     | 12    | 15    | 33    | -18   | 13    |


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  • 5 months later...

Thursday 1st January 2009
So into the New Year we go, and a month that would see us play five League matches, including two against the teams above us in the table, games that would be crucial to us.

One of the players from the top two clubs is Montrose full back Stephen Thomson, who has edged out our on loan striker Mark Archdeacon to be named Scottish Third Division Young Player of the Month for December.

Over the last month, the Board have lost some faith in the job I'm doing at the club, and while my job is not considered to be under any threat at this point, the heavy loss against East Stirlingshire in November, combined with only one win through the month of December has led to a mood shift in the Boardroom. A big January is needed to get us back on track.

Friday 2nd January
Ross Clark has blown hot and cold for us this season. He has undoubted talent though, and I had no intention of letting the midfielders contract run down. The former Queens Park and Alloa Athletic man has inked an extension for another year at the club. This is all despite constant rumours that we are negotiating to bring in a new midfielder.

We'll start our January schedule with a home game against a Cowdenbeath side who have been cast adrift from the top five who seem to be in play for the top four spots, at this point at least. They have lost their last three games, leaving us as the favourites for this one. Kieran McAnespie has returned to training today, but is not likely to be considered for selection this soon after his back injury.

Saturday 3rd January
It's the morning of the match, and we're informed by Morton that Kieran McAnespie is the subject of a contract offer from Dorchester Town. It was nice of them to let us know, they weren't obliged to do so as the offer is to sign him on a Free Transfer when his contract is up in the summer, and we're not even currently contributing to his £400 per week wages. We can't afford to sign him, and to be honest, he hasn't really shown us much to suggest he's worth the price tag.

Dumbarton v Cowdenbeath
Scottish League Third Division
Strathclyde Homes Stadium

We revert back to our regular 4-2-2-2 wide tactic, with Mark Canning moved back into the midfield, and Paul McLeod partnering Mark Archdeacon up front and Ross Clark on the bench. That lineup lasted less then five minutes, as a dead leg forced centre back Ben Gordon off after just three minutes, Guy Melamed coming on to replace him. And we should have been in front five minutes later, Archdeacon volleying the ball into the box, McLeod catching it on the half volley but pulling the effort wide. He would have another chance moments later after a great run by Ryan McStay, hitting the target this time only to see David Hay push the low shot around the post. John Gemmell blasted the ball well over the bar when Stephen Murray made the mistake of letting the ball bounce, and McStay picked up a booking as we remained goalless into the second half. Neat play on the left saw the ball moved just outside the box into the centre, where Gordon Lennon walked onto it and struck a curler with his weaker left foot that grazed the bar on it's way over. At the other end, Dave McEwan was forced into action to tip over a Marek Tomana drive from range, before the goalmouth action became secondary news. Graeme Brown sprayed a pass into the box, and McStay got there late. Not stupidly late, but too late for someone who'd already been booked, and our midfielder received his marching orders. That wouldn't stop us trying to pinch a goal though, despite McLeod being withdrawn for Clark and us going with one up front. Darren Barnard's inswinging corner was aimed at Archdeacon, who appeared to be wrestled to the turf by Jay Shields, the referee deeming there was no foul, and Murray was left to shoot, his shot blocked by Hay. No goals to be seen here on a frustrating day at the office.

Dumbarton (0) 0
Cowdenbeath (0) 0

Dave McEwan; Gordon Lennon ©, Darren Barnard, Ben Gordon (inj - Guy Melamed 3), David Armstrong; Mark Canning, Ryan McStay (Sent Off 63); Derek Carcary, Stephen Murray; Paul McLeod (Ross Clark 64), Mark Archdeacon.
Attendance :- 640.

I'm not one hundred percent sure we got a fair shake there from referee Des Roache, I don't mean the sending off, Ryan McStay made a bad decision and was rightly given a second booking, and has been warned about his future discipline. But the failure to award a penalty a little later on when Mark Archdeacon was fouled was a poor decision from the ref. Fear of receiving a sanction or touchline ban meant I couldn't make any comment on this in the after match press conference.

Montrose drop points too, as they are also held to a goalless draw away to Annan Athletic. But East Stirlingshire earn a 1-0 win in the Borders against Berwick Rangers, extending their lead to five points over Montrose in the process. We face both of the top two over the next fortnight.

Now four games without a win, Ryan McStay will be suspended for next weekend's trip to Montrose, and Ben Gordon will be doubtful with a dead leg. And we won't have the new signing we were chasing either. 19 year old Icelandic Under-21 International centre midfielder Steinn Gunnarsson is out of contract at KA, who continue to pay him on a week to week deal. He was offered a chance to quadruple his wages by joining us, but he doesn't believe a move to the lower Divisions of Scottish football is the best move for his career at this point.

Monday 5th January
Kieran McAnespie has agreed a summer move from Scotland down to the South Coast in England, as he has signed for Dorchester Town, currently of the Blue Square South, but very much embroiled in a relegation fight, effective from the 2009/10 season.

Wednesday 7th January
So we know that McAnespie won't be here next season, and it's looking likely that 21 year old left wing back Patrick Boyle will be moving on as well. Shifted from the First Team picture by the arrival of Welsh veteran Darren Barnard, and without a contract offer to remain at the club beyond this season, he has now received an offer from Scottish Second Division club Alloa Athletic.

Friday 9th January
It's a big day tomorrow, as we travel to face rivals Montrose. As we move into the second half of the season, we have a four point deficit to overhaul on the Links Park club, who have already beaten us twice this campaign. Another defeat to them tomorrow would leave our automatic promotion dreams in tatters, and have us concentrating on making the Playoffs at best you would think. The bookies have this one as too close to call.

Saturday 10th January

Montrose v Dumbarton
Scottish League Third Division
Links Park, Montrose

Ben Gordon failed a late fitness test, and Guy Melamed is brought in to replace him, while there is a new duo starting in midfield, with Don Hutchison and Ross Clark teaming up there. Darren Barnard drove a 10th minute free kick just wide of the mark, before Stephen Black's inswinging corner needed to be dealt with by Dave McEwan, the keeper touching the ball over the cross bar. Mark Archdeacon then missed the target with a driven shot that was aimed at the top corner. He would have a better chance at the end of a goalless first half though, Stephen Murray finding him in the box, and a low shot was blocked by Tony Bullock who was off his line quickly to give the striker nothing to aim at. We'd had the better of that first half, and started the second half on the front foot when Ross Clark curled a free kick around the wall, but just wide of the target. We did almost get caught on the counter attack though, Robbie Kelleher played in between our defenders and lifting his shot over McEwan, but also just over the bar. Archdeacon dragged another shot wide when Clark played him in on the hour, before Conor Devine lashed an effort high and wide at the other end. With fifteen minutes to play and two home players on bookings, Derek Carcary finally got a chance to stretch his legs down the right, but he couldn't pick out Murray in the box with the winger unmarked. McEwan would need to make another smart stop when sub John Maitland found the ball at his feet late on, while the man we hoped would be our own super sub, Jean-Pierre Papin, didn't get a sniff. A second consecutive goalless draw, this one more pleasing than the previous one though.

Montrose (0) 0
Dumbarton (0) 0

Dave McEwan; Gordon Lennon ©, Darren Barnard, Guy Melamed, David Armstrong; Don Hutchison, Ross Clark (Mick Dunlop 82); Derek Carcary, Stephen Murray; Paul McLeod (Jean-Pierre Papin 82), Mark Archdeacon.
Attendance :- 507.

Guy Melamed put in a man of the match performance on a day when several scouts from south of the border were at the ground to watch Montrose's on loan left back Gordon Pope, who's performances during his spell at Links Park from Dundee United have English clubs queuing up to sign him. Now Melamed has also attracted some attention, with AFC Bournemouth and Mansfield Town both interested in the Israeli centre back.

Two goalless draws to start the new year, and we are looking more difficult to beat than we have in previous weeks. But it is still now five League games without a win, and we go into next weeks clash with league leaders East Stirlingshire eight points behind them, and they now also have a game in hand on us.

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