Yet another journey to Bonnie Scotland, and a "wee" treble. The games on offer this weekend were simply too good to refuse, so to speak, as they involved some of the longest treks north (for me anyhow) and they are usually very difficult to "double up" nevermind "treble up" so it made perfect economical sense!

12.00pm Saturday 31st October 2009
Scottish Football League Division Two
Cowdenbeath 2-1 East Fife
Attendance: 733

Let me begin by explaining why this game has an unusual midday kick off. A knock-on effect of Livingston’s escape from liquidation was that they were demoted from division one to division three of the Scottish league. As a consequence Airdire and Cowdenbeath were promoted to division one and two respectively. Cowdenbeath’s ground, Central Park, doubles up as a stock car racing track and today was the big autumn meeting. When the original fixtures were announced, Cowdenbeath were away to avoid a clash with the stock cars. When Livi were demoted and Airdrie promoted, Cowdenbeath simply took over Airdire’s fixtures. This now gave them a home game, hence why we are here today!!

The game, as luck would have it, is a big local derby against their rivals from Methill, East Fife. Cowdenbeath have had a good start to the season and are currently up in third place in the table whilst East Fife are just four points behind them in seventh.

The ground, to be brutally frank, is a tip! Obviously you have the stock car track around the pitch, so you are quite away from the action. There is a terrace on one side of the pitch, where most people congregate, and on the other a large seated stand, which is in two parts. Half is the original main stand and the other half is the modern replacement for the bit that was destroyed by fire in the 1990’s.

The game was a cracking full blooded end to end Derby. Both teams looked shocking defensively but great on the attack. The Blue Brazil (honestly that’s Cowden’s nickname) struck first inside two minutes when Brian Fairbairn fired home to give them the lead. East Fife player-manager Stevie Crawford then levelled on fourteen minutes before Jon Robertson restored ‘Beath’s lead two minutes later. Cowdenbeath had chances to extend their lead before half time but were very wasteful. They almost came to rue those misses.

The second half was a different story as the Fifers took control of the game and reduced the home side to playing on the counter. How they never levelled, I’ll never know. East Fife had plenty of possession but could not find an equaliser. The best chance on 70 minutes, when a David Muir header was pushed away by 'Beath 'keeper David Hay before Muir picked it up again, and his shot from 3 yards was again blocked by the keeper. The home side held on to take the three points.

It was then a mad dash up the M90 to....

 3pm Saturday 31st October 2009
Scottish Premier League
St Johnstone 2-1 Falkirk
Attendance: 4,423

St Johnstone’s McDiarmid Park was one of the first of the “new” grounds to be built in Britain, replacing Muirton Park in 1989. It is basically four identikit stands, with a variety of coloured seats. Even though it is relatively modern is does feel a little dated, maybe that is due to the style of build I don’t know, but it didn't feel as bland, even though it is, as your more recent new grounds.

The stand behind the goal was not open today, not surprising given that the opposition today was bottom of the table Falkirk. St Johnstone are not doing much better themselves but the crowd, who were mostly congregated in one stand, did create a good noise.

St Johnstone’s problems on the pitch recently have been an inability to score or when they have scored, to finish teams off. They got off to a flying start today when Collin Samuel netted after two minutes. The Saints created a few good chances but couldn’t put the ball in the net, Samuel (twice) and Jody Morris going close but worst offender was Liam Craig who missed a sitter from three yards out. Falkirk had a couple of little sniffs on the break and there was a nagging feeling the Saints problems would re-surface.

Indeed that was the case three minutes after the interval when Falkirk scored an equaliser when Carl Finnigan volleyed home past the advancing 'keeper. The home crowd quickly turned on their team, which possibly may explain why they struggle at times. However, they were soon cheering again as two goals in two minutes. A Chris Millar cross shot (64) and a Murray Davidson header (66) wrapped up the precious three points for Saints and leave the Bairns rooted to the foot of the table.

12.45pm Sunday 1st November 2009
Scottish Premier League
Dundee United 0a1 Rangers
Attendance: 9,834

After a few beers in Perth on the Saturday night, it was onto the final leg of the journey and a 35 mile trek up the M90/A90 to Dundee. Tannadice Park was the final destination to witness Dundee United take on Rangers. I knew, obviously, that the two Dundee grounds are the closest professional grounds in Britain but until you actually see it for yourself, you don’t realise how close! Quite literally it is about 100 yards between them...


Tannadice is a mish-mash of stands but it does have a proper old fashioned feel. We were sat in the front row of the rather grand George Fox Stand. The game kicked off in absolute monsoon conditions but both teams produced a frenetic end to end game, which belied the difficult conditions.

Dundee United dominated play and carved out some great chances Paul Dixon and Mihael Kovacevic both hitting the crossbar, but after 29 minutes they were sucker punched by Rangers when Steven Davis netted after he was left free when United tried to play an offside trap.

The conditions were getting worse and the ball was holding up in the surface water. A half time inspection by the match officials left them with no real choice but to abandon the game. This was only my fourth abandonment in my years of hopping joining the illustrious list of Y Felinheli, Stalybridge Celtic and Lydney Town. I'll leave the final word on this game to The Blessed Walter who, with his team leading at half time was "disappointed" with the abandonment. Old Wally disappointed? some things never change.

All that was left was a five hour journey home to contemplate the rather damp end to an otherwise enjoyable weekend's proceedings.

NEWCASTLE TOWN (Lyme Valley Stadium)

After the excursions of the previous week, it was a lie in for today so that meant selecting a game closer to home. Newcastle Town have had a great start to the season with 14 straight wins from the off, easily smashing the league record. Couple that with the fact St Helens are not doing too bad themselves meant this seemed an obvious choice of game.

Newcastle Town play on a pitch in the middle of the Lyme Valley Parkway Stadium, which is a cycle track and is where Chris Boardman used to have to travel to for practice before the velodrome was built. The ground has a seated stand on one side of the arena and a covered terrace on the other. The views were actually not that bad, in comparison to some other athletic grounds.

The game itself was good entertainment. Newcastle had the best of the early exchanges but didn't look as fluid as you think a team who'd won all their games this season would, resorting to the long ball on more than one occasion. They eventually took the lead on 20 minutes when Chris Budrys was on hand to tuck away a cross from John Sheldon from about a yard out.

St Helens were dealt a double whammy when they lost keeper Graham McCall, who injured his hand when attempting to cut out Sheldon's cross. With no substitute 'keeper on the bench midfielder Ben Kay was forced to go between the sticks. This galvanised St Helens into action and they dominated the remainder of the half. Newcastle were very fortunate to hold their lead, goalkeeper Danny Read twice making fine saves to maintain the home sides lead. Kay was forced into his first meaningful save right on the stroke of half time, saving well from Budrys.

The second half continued where the first left off with the visitors dictating play and having the better chances, the best falling to Rob Hanley who lofted an effort over the bar with only the 'keeper to beat. Eventually, completely against the run of play Newcastle scored their second, and utimately decisive, goal when a long punt up field was latched onto by Jordan Johnson, who beat a defender and fired home at the near post after 71 minutes. The game was finally over when Johnson fired home a free-kick from the edge of the area after 82 minutes and make it 15 league wins on the trot for Newcastle Town, though St Helens can consider themselves very, very unlucky.

Man of the Match, and two goal hero, Jordan Johnson (blue) takes on Peter Birch

Saturday 24th October 2009
North West Counties League Premier
Newcastle Town 3-0 St Helens Town
Attendance: 156

BENFICA (Estadio da Luz)

Thursday 22nd October 2009
Europa League Group I
Benfica 5-0 Everton
Attendance: 44,354

Another day, another train journey but now it was time for the main event! A visit to the iconic Estadio da Luz, the home of Benfica (I must stress that this is not the original Stadium of Light, that was demolished and re-built for Euro 2004, but is in exactly the same spot).
This is the first time in their recent revival that Everton have pulled a genuine "big" European side, and that meant around 6,000 Evertonians were here to bear witness. Sadly, what an anti-climax it proved to be. 

An Everton team decimated by injuries (10 first teamers were missing) was absolutely torn apart by an electrifying Benfica side. A sorry Everton side was playing for pride after a mere 51 minutes following a capitulation just after half time.

Javier Saviola scored the only goal of a fairly even first half, heading home a left wing cross. A second-half blitz just after the break saw the Blues concede three quick and easy goals from Cardozo (2) and Luisao to end the game as a contest. David Moyes' side offered nothing as an attacking force, apart from a Louis Saha shot which came back off the post. Saviola wrapped it up seven minutes from time with his second to complete the win for the homesters, and condemn Everton to their heaviest defeat in European competition.

By this time however, I was already on my way back to the bar for another Sagres.