LIVINGSTON (Almondvale Stadium)

For the second weekend in succession I was in Scotland for another opening round of a domestic cup competition. This week though the train took the strain as the destination was the 'new' town of Livingston.

The football team, who previously went by the name Meadowbank Thistle, were re-located here, from Edinburgh, in 1996. What followed was a rollercoaster ride of promotions, demotions and near bankruptcy, but the club survived and are now working their way back up.

They have now returned to the First Division of the Scottish League and today were taking on newly promoted Arbroath, who are now in the Second Division in the 1st round of the League Cup, now sponsored by the Scottish Government.

The game was effectively over as a contest inside 7 minutes when Rory Boulding gave Livi the lead after just 90 seconds. Ian Russell added two more goals (7 & 23) before Keaghan Jacobs made it 4-0 just after the half hour. I was expecting a cricket score, but the Red Lichties did keep going and had two great chances to reduce the deficit but the home goalkeeper Andy McNeill was in inspired form and pulled of two magnificent saves.

The second half was not as intense, but Livi added two further goals through Jason Talbot (66) and Marc McNulty (72). Arbroath's misery was compounded when Steven Doris was given a straight red card for a lunge on Jacobs, which saw the Livi man stretchered off. There was no man advantage for Livi though as they too went down to ten men as all the subs had already been used.

The Almondvale stadium is a functional new build ground and, believe me, a fair walk from either train station but I did leave the ground with a happy memory as I managed to win 3rd prize in the half time draw, so I am now the proud owner of a Livingston scarf!!

David Sinclair (4) whips in a free-kick, which Ian Russell will flick home to make it 3-0.

A robust challenge from Arbroath's Kieran McAnespie

Saturday 30th July 2011
Scottish League Cup 1st Round
Livingston 6-0 Arbroath
Attendance: 804

THE SPARTANS FC (Ainslie Park)

After spending the previous day on the Banffshire coast, and the previous evening checking out some Aberdeen GBG pubs, it was time to begin the long journey home. Luckily there was a chance to get another game in en-route as The Spartans of Edinburgh were taking on a Manchester United XI in a game to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the club.

It was an all-ticket affair and Spartans were rewarded with a bumper 3000+ crowd. This was a record crowd for Ainslie Park, but not quite their all time record which was v St Mirren in the Scottish Cup at their old City Park ground.

The pitch looked absolutely immaculate and In comparison to yesterday, this game was played in glorious sunshine. It was your typical game of two halves. The United side, skippered by Darron Gibson, played some delightful stuff, as you would expect, but their hosts matched them blow for blow and the scoreline was level at the interval, John Cofie giving United the lead after 6 minutes before Alex King beat Tomasz Kuszczak from the penalty spot just before half time.

The second half was slightly more one sided as United, who made a raft of substitutions as half time, simply put Spartans to the sword (ahem!). Jesse Lingard bagged a hat-trick (50, 57, 59p) Larnell Cole, who was my man of the match, helped himself to a brace (61p & 90) and Michael Keane scored in the 87th minute. The score was harsh on The Spartans but I think they can look back on their efforts with pride.

This was also the last game at Ainslie Park until October (at the earliest) as the club replace the grass pitch with a modern synthetic surface.

Sunday 24th July 2011
Pre-Season Friendly
The Spartans 1-7 Manchester United XI
Attendance: 3,127

DEVERONVALE (Princess Royal Park)

Welcome back to another season of my ramblings! This year I have opted to move away from facebook notes and start maintaining a proper blog. I did try to do this last season but only got three games in before giving up. Hopefully I can keep it going this time and hopefully more people will be get to read it. This is my first attempt at this sort of thing, so please be gentle with me, but any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

As has been the case for the last few years, the season gets underway in Scotland earlier than anywhere else so it was another trip north of the border. The league challenge cup (this season sponsored by a pawnbroker) is usually first off the mark and once the draw was made back in June there was only one choice of destination for me.

The league decided to invite the top two Highland league teams (Buckie Thistle and Deveronvale) into the competition and Deveronvale were lucky enough to get a home tie, versus Stirling Albion, so it was 427 miles north to Banff I headed.

What didn't help matters is that it was a 1pm kick off as the Vale goalkeeper was getting married, so the Bino's agreed to an earlier kick off to allow the rest of his team-mates to get to the evening reception. This meant an even earlier start!

Luckily I was there in good time and even had the luxury of being able to visit the local GBG entry, The Ship Inn, for a quick half. For all you film buffs out there, the bar scenes of the 1983 film 'Local Hero' were shot in this pub and whilst I was there some fans entered the premises and had their picture taken behind the bar. Some people are really geeky!!!!!

There was a reasonable attendance of around 400 at Princess Park, but that was not as many as I anticipated. There was a subdued atmosphere as the game got underway and the home crowd never really found their voice. In absolutely freezing, windy conditions (I was wrapped up as if it was winter) the home side made the early runnings and hit the post after 10 minutes but once Lewis Bonar scored from the penalty spot after 20 minutes, the result was never going to be in doubt.

Bonar added his and Stirling's second just after the break before Mike Mckenzie blasted home a thunderbolt free-kick to bring Vale back into the game. However this didn't prove to be the catalyst and soon after Gavin McPherson added the Bino's third to comfortably put them into the next round.

The pitch in the foreground is the home of Deveronside FC

Lewis Bonar gives Stirling the lead from the penalty spot

Saturday 23rd July 2011
Scottish League Challenge Cup 1st Round
Deveronvale 1-3 Stirling Albion

Attendance: 400