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The long road to victory

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Chris Jardine | 17:19 UK time, Thursday, 17 March 2011

We've had a fantastic last week at Annan Athletic with three wins in seven days.

Two hard fought single-goal victories against Stranraer and Elgin were followed by our biggest win of the season when we defeated East Stirlingshire 5-1 at their own place.

It's put us in a great position as we approach the business end of the season and with three of our next four games at home we have an excellent opportunity to strengthen our position even further.

As much as I would like to talk about our victories I decided last week that I would give you an insight in to our long trek to Elgin last Saturday and I'll stick by that, so here goes.

The bus was due to leave Galabank at 0645 GMT which meant me and Jack Steele had to be at Moffat for 0715 GMT.

I struggle to jump straight out of bed when my alarm goes off so it was set for 0530 GMT to allow me an extra half an hour with the snooze button.

My bag was packed the night before so all I needed to do was get a quick shower and get the club tracksuit on, while my breakfast would be consumed on the bus.

The bus is normally buzzing by the time it reaches us; the music is on and the players are fighting for a seat at the only two tables before the card school begins.

As it pulled up all we could see were pillows against the windows with the players spread about so they could have two seats to themselves.

I think the only player that spoke was Andy Aitken.

I never really sleep when I'm travelling anywhere so it was a read of the papers for me with the headphones on listening to music.

By the time we picked the rest of the boys up at Strathclyde the snow had already started.

The weather wasn't looking too clever so we started a sweep to see how far we would get before we found that the game was off and we had to turn back.

Every time Alan Irving's (the club secretary) phone went off we would all look up to see if we were in the money.

The snow never really let up as we travelled further north, but it got worse from Perth to Inverness and we really began to worry that our journey could be wasted.

As it turned out Elgin must have been the only place in Scotland not to have been hit by the snow.

Before we reached Elgin we stopped at a hotel in Inverness for some lunch where the boys filled themselves up with chicken and pasta.

On arriving at the ground we found the pitch to be quite firm as it had been cold the night before but sleet was also beginning to fall.

We concentrated the team talk on making sure we made a good start to the game.

The last time we had been there we lost two early goals and never recovered and we wanted to make sure this didn't happen again.

It seemed to work and we were by far the better team in the first half and went in to the break 2-0 in front.

We were comfortable, and I never saw any other result than an Annan win; although I thought it would have been more comfortable than it was to turn out.

The game changed completely when we lost Andy Aitken to a straight red card minutes in to the second half.

From there on in it was backs to the wall as Elgin came at us and quickly got back on level terms.

Craig Sommersgill made a great save to keep us in it before we were very fortunate to get the win with a late own goal.

I think we deserved the win due to our first half performance when we should probably have been more than two goals up.

Being down to ten men changed the game and I'd like to think Elgin wouldn't have caused us as many problems if we had continued on a level playing field.

It was a very loud and happy changing room and I make no apologies for that.

Victories away at Elgin always seem that little bit sweeter and it's purely because of the journey and nothing to do with having a dislike for Elgin or their players.

Nobody looks forward to the journey but when you achieve the three points it certainly makes the return that little bit more pleasant.

We were quickly on to the bus and headed straight to Tesco to stock up on some refreshments for the way home.

You know you've had a good day when the chairman pulls you to the side to tell you not to buy any beer because he is sorting the boys out.

A few of us enjoyed one or two beers on the way home but we were sensible because we knew we had another game on Tuesday night.

The snow had started during the game and continued down the road until we reached Perth.

There were worrying moments again as the snow got pretty bad in places but the two drivers did us proud and got us through, albeit at a very slow speed.

It took us so long to get back that we finished watching two movies before we even reached Glasgow; one of them was 'Gladiator' - and that's about three hours long.

I eventually got back through my front door just short of midnight - so I had been on the go for 18 hours.

As I said before, it's a journey no-one really looks forward to and I'm glad we don't have to face it again this season.

Fingers crossed we won't be making it next season either.


  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.

    #1 Makes an interesting point...????
    I will resort to the old cliche that "hitting form at the right time" is key so let's hope you can continue.

  • Comment number 3.

    A long day indeed Chris, and not helpful in preparing for a match, I would have thought. So congratulations on the result and just one question, if I may:

    Would you be in favour of regionalising Divisions Two and Three?

  • Comment number 4.

    3 good wins and we've worked our way into a decent position once more. Good character shown at Elgin followed by an outstanding performance against East Stirlingshire. Thought the small travelling support backed the team well and the players responded in emphatic style. Hopefully this momentum will carry us into the play-offs.

    Shamelessly promoting my FourFiveOne blog again but feel free to check out my latest article in the aftermath of Annan's win at 'Shire looking at some of the joys of clocking up the miles to follow your team.

  • Comment number 5.

    Can't comment on #1 as it was removed before I seen it, however thanks to you all for the comments.

    markrp - I'm not too sure about the regional divisions if I'm honest and it's mainly due to the promotion and relegation. How do they decide what is the top division and what happens to the promoted and relegated teams? It would be a step to reduce costs for lower league clubs in terms of travel but then a club wins the "SFL 2" to join, I would assume, "SFL 1", surely that means they would be facing much longer journeys every other week. I'm not completely out but I'd like to find out a bit more before committing either way!

  • Comment number 6.

    Good blog this week.
    I'm a big supporter of regionalization of the lower divisions.

    I think it could easily be achieved by inviting 10 new teams into the League giving a 3rd Div North and 3rd Div South. Travelling time and costs would be reduced and there would be more local matches with bigger crowds. The two champions would be promoted automatically and the two bottom teams in the 2nd Div relegated. Play-off places would also be available.

    I know nobody wants 10 more League teams but the new teams would add more than they take if selected properly. Buckie Th, Linlithgow, Glenrothes, Bo'Ness, Pollok, Irvine Meadow etc would generate much larger crowds than current 3rd Div ones.
    Also, when a pyramidal structure does happen there would be less likelihood that current Football League teams would be relegated.

    Feel free to pick my suggestion apart.

  • Comment number 7.

    I do not understand the English mentality! They show fantastic services but at crucial moments, they show 30% less than they can. Whether rugby, football or whatever. Instead of enjoying his great abilities and to reach the top covered with joy, they anxiously into himself and throw away the success without hardship. such as how a 1500-meter runner who has 200 yards from the finish line 20 meters ahead and instead of Joy to run to the finish and to enjoy the victory, he looked anxiously around, he says must "catched" continue and will always be slower, it can be cramped and centimeter pass before the finish. Sorry but that is stupid! Although I know that the English have something left for tragic stories but that must not be true.

  • Comment number 8.

    Chris, we are following with interest your blog and team performance from sunny Benidorm. I am Ken Scott, the sports presenter of the Saturday afternoon show on Cool FM. I read your blog out live on air yesterday about your trip to Elgin while we all basked in the sun. Great stuff and another good win yesterday. You can listen on line (if you get a Saturday off) between 2-6pm every Saturday.

  • Comment number 9.

    Thanks for your answer Chris.

    Piorek, I agree with you that regionalisation would have to be accompanied with proper promotion and relegation from and to the leagues below (which I - and I'm sure Gala, Spartans, Preston Athletic and many others - would love to see).

    I guess the main problem with promotion and relegation in a regionalised structure would be a situation like Annan and Queen of the South finishing in the bottom two positions of the division immediately above the regional divisions. Then the system would indicate that one of them would have to go into the nothern division, which obviously wouldn't work. I guess you'd have to shift whoever's furthest north in the regional division into the northern one to accommodate them both.

    The other argument against it that I've heard is clubs saying they want to play in a "Scottish league" rather than a southern or northern league. But then I guess that's another incentive to get promoted, which, in theory, is when they can afford to travel...

  • Comment number 10.

    Hi Chris,

    Cheers for posting that up, really enjoyed the read and find your blogs interesting although I've not commented before.

    I'd be all for regionalisation as I played junior football for a few years and I think that some of these teams are held back in the current structure. Especially those with a great infrastructure and club houses that mean they are well sustained. Although I'd hate another club to be able to go down the Gretna route again.

    I think the English pyramid system is great and if done here would stop teams like East Stirlingshire from being able to sit at the bottom of the pile so the league is constantly freshened up.

    At least then, if you're having to travel the distance of the country for a game of football, you're hopefully playing for a club with the funds to at least put you up in a hotel the night before.


  • Comment number 11.

    Perhaps the biggest obstacle in terms of regionalising the lower leagues is that in the main clubs and fans are opposed to it! I appreciate for Chris and his fellow players it's quite an undertaking to travel from Annan to Elgin and back in the same day but that is one of the more extreme trips in the lower leagues. From my own experience fans really enjoy the further flung away days and want the SFL to remain 'National'.

    Regarding the point about junior teams being in favour of a regionalised SFL and bringing bigger crowds it's not as simple as that. Junior sides have shown no appetite at all to join the SFL and I doubt a regional setup would make a huge difference. Would they bring bigger crowds anyway? At the moment they are top dogs in their organisation, competing for cups and leagues on a regular basis and charging perhaps £5 to get in against £10 (up to £15 in Division 2)or so in the SFL3. I doubt the crowds would hold up so well were the Juniors to go up to the SFL.

    Ideally I would like to see the SFL itself remain on a national basis. Underneath the non league seniors (Highland League, EOS and SOS) could merge with the Juniors (who already have a regionalised North,East and West setup_. At the end of each season the 3 winners of each region could play-off with the bottom side from the SFL for a league place. This also solves the issue of a relegated SFL club having no league to drop into. If the non league side did not want to step up they could opt out. Many would also need to develop their grounds to step up.

    Unfortunately this is very unlikely to happen due to the logisitical headache of encouraging the different non league setups to come together. People often throw the self preservation charge at the SFL when in comes to the lack of a pyramind but ultimately the same can be said for the non league setups with their refusal to come together and put forward a genuine workable pyramid.

    Just an aside somebody had a wee dig at East Stirlingshire being able to sit at the bottom of Division 3. A little unfair as the Shire were for many years deliberately run down by a rogue owner who wasn't interested in the football side but rather selling the ground from under them.


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