The Quest Continues
Following our first two successful trips into Scotland, we kept the ball rolling and this time headed to South West Scotland and the small town of Annan in Dumfries and Galloway.
The town is situated to the northwest of Carlisle and west of the Scottish border town Gretna Green and has a population of around 10,000 people.
With this in mind, it’s no surprise, therefore, to see Annan Athletic plying their trade in Scotland’s Division Two.
Arguably, it may be true to say, they are doing well to be so high up in the Scottish pyramid?
We bought our tickets for the game between Annan Athletic and Stenhousemuir online in advance of the game via Fanbase at a cost of £12 each.
Annan – Pre-Game
The day began with the usual bus ride to Newcastle to catch the 08:05 train to Annan via Carlisle.
While on the train, we got talking to two elderly gentlemen who I had noticed were wearing Stenhousemuir hats. They were from Newcastle and were ‘Toon’ fans who occasionally go to watch Stenhousemuir games.
The journey went smoothly, much to our relief after last week’s shenanigans (see Heart of Midlothian) and by 10:20 we were pulling into Annan station.
Our two new friends headed off to find a pub and have a few pints before the game. I, being a little more lightweight, prefer to find a pub that sells good food and limit myself to just a couple of pints.
Weak, I know.
Despite the weather being typically wet, cold February, we took a slow meander down to the town centre, with Mrs Hopper admiring the local architecture and the bricks that were used for some of them. Almost a clay red stone, that looked very distinctive to the area and was highlighted by the town hall which had a very impressive clock tower attached to it.
We chose The Anglers restaurant/pub for lunch and it definitely feels more like a restaurant than a pub if that’s your thing. That said, the food was very nice, the service was good and the locals seemed friendly enough.
I chose a lovely bacon and haggis panini which came with a tasty salad and coleslaw on the side. Mrs Hopper went for a chicken and bacon panini, which also had the salad and coleslaw side.
We also had a side bowl of fries with mac and cheese topping between us. We were both of the opinions that this combination didn’t work for us. Everything tasted good individually but as a taste combo, it just wasn’t for us, unfortunately.
Annan – Walk to the Ground
We decided to walk along the river and through Galabank Park, to reach the stadium. Despite being a cold, rainy day, we figured we are only here once, so why not take the scenic route?
I think on a sunny day, this would be a great way to reach the stadium but with the wind whipping the rain into our eyes and splashing through mud and puddles, it was hard to enjoy the scenery and the relaxing gurgle of the river.
At the end of the pathway, the stadium lay on a hill above us and to our right. The only way up was via a muddy path and we carefully made our way up, relieved not to have slid over and left ourselves open to the embarrassment of muddy clothes or hands/faces at the top.
We completed the journey by walking around the car park behind one end of the ground and reaching the main road that runs past Galabank Stadium.
Annan- The Stadium
Galabank Stadium itself consists of two modern-looking stands. One is a low, covered terrace at the left-hand end of the stadium as you look at it from the main road and the other is an all-seated stand on the same side as the park and river below the hill.
The other end is a low terrace which was unoccupied for this particular game, whilst the other side, parallel to the main road, is just a fence with four dugouts for the coaches and substitutes.
One nice touch to note at Galabank, are the gates that have the Annan Athletic crest design on them. They look very smart and there is a picture in the gallery below.
The pitch is another artificial all-weather surface and the second one we have come across on our Scottish travels already, following the one at Livingston.
There was no fan segregation in place for this game and the home and away fans happily mingled, albeit there weren’t many away fans.
Disappointingly, Annan is another club to join the trend of having no printed programme available for the game and the digital efforts just don’t command enough of my interest to even bother looking at them.
I understand why clubs are doing this, especially for teams where money is tight and printed programme sales are waning. The programme is a dying part of the football experience it would seem, but for me is still the best memento for a fan or groundhopper to collect from each game attended.
I feel the least a club can do is give a printed teamsheet to each paying customer so that we can see who is playing.
Or am I being harsh?
Annan – The Game
Going into the game, Annan were the favourites to win and were pushing for one of the promotion places. Stenhousemuir, on the other hand, were plodding along in danger of troubling neither the relegation nor promotion places.
That didn’t mean they weren’t going to give their all in this match though and despite Annan having 58% of possession and double the number of shots and corners that Stenhousemuir had, it was the Warriors who won the match.
In the 31st minute, Stenny striker Thomas Orr put the away side in the lead against the run of play with a shot from the right-hand side of the box that made its way across goal and almost through the goalkeeper, to nestle in the bottom left-hand corner of the net. It stayed 1-0 up to the half-time whistle.
In the second half, there was more of the same. Annan played the better football without really creating any clear-cut chances and it was Stenhousemuir who doubled their lead in the 56th minute through centre-back Nicky Jamieson from a corner.
It was a scrappy match from start to finish and it was no surprise that there were five yellow cards dished out by the match referee. He also awarded a penalty to the home side in the 89th minute and their misery was compounded when midfielder, Tony Wallace, had his spot-kick saved by the keeper.
Not the greatest of matches to watch but I have also seen worse and as I keep saying, it’s more about ticking off another ground than the match itself, which I consider a bonus treat if it’s a good one.
Attendance – 295
Entrance Fee – £12.00
Programme – N/A – Digital only
Annan Athletic – Stadium Gallery
Annan Athletic – Match Highlights and Personal Video
Annan – After the Game
Leaving the stadium in the steady drizzle, we definitely were going to go back via the roads this time, rather than the muddy path down to the park.
It was a nice, easy walk down a straight road back to the main street in Annan and then a simple task to retrace our steps back to the railway station. We arrived to find our two happy Stenhousemuir friends already on the platform where we chatted with them until the train back to Newcastle arrived.
The return journey went smoothly and we were back home by 10 pm for a nice hot drink and feet up by the fire.