Remarkably, in our 137 years it appears that we had never before played in Scotland, meaning that this first and otherwise hugely successful tour left us with a 100% losing record north of the border. The Meggetland Sports Complex is a rather finer facility than the name suggests, but we were back on Astro which is rarely an omen for success. Liverpool Ramblers against Bank of Scotland Strollers certainly has a ring to it.
The Friday night advance party had carried out reconnaissance on the opposition, which was slightly troubling as they were regularly being asked for ID to prove that they were 21. Post-match research revealed that they had fielded one true Vet, but that did not count for much given that he had played professional football. Of course, we could compete. Dr John Smith, a fine Rambler back in the day, had scored a hat trick in the Scottish Cup Final for Queens Park. But that was in 1881. The good doctor was unavailable for selection.
The first twenty minutes were tight and tense. Ian “Hoot Hoot” Patterson, a referee for whom fine detail is a way of life, had told us the 5 rules of respect. The first, however, was to respect yourself and no mirrors were required to know that was unlikely. The deadlock was broken when he awarded a penalty against Bodey, a decision so uncontroversial that even he didn’t complain. Not much, anyway. By his standards. Another goal came from a retaken free kick, the skipper making the goal look huge as he dived the wrong way. “You should have trusted your wall”, the Chairman rebuked. But that shows how little he’s played this season.
Chances were created and missed at the other end, but at half time 2-0 meant that the game was still alive.
The team selection was immediately exposed as lacking when Jimiesta Byrne (boots laced for once) made an immediate impact on his introduction to the fray. He created a perfect chance for Mornington who finished clinically, but Mr Patterson had just spotted that the ball had gone a yard and a half out of play before it was crossed.
After a third had been conceded, a substitution of even bigger impact came about. In the ten minutes that Bagpuss’s hamstring allowed, Mornington converted a penalty he had won himself. But that was not the big impact. That came from one of the most uneven body checks that there has ever been, Bagpuss’s Anthony Joshua weight flattening his counterpart. But yes, we scored one and conceded none whilst he was on the pitch.
A different mismatch came about on the other side of the pitch, 60-year-old Bagley marshalling his 22-year-old winger. There is no substitute for experience. But there is no substitute for pace either. When the score got to 5-1 the game felt out of reach, but a Duffy header at a corner brought some respectability to the scoreline.
The hospitality at the Kilted Pig was second to none. Even Nelson’s nomination of the Chairman for Man of the Match could not take the shine off things. It is impossible to overestimate the thanks we owe to Tom “Events” Reade for his organisation. This tour might just have a future.