A View to an Ochil
Stenhousemuir… it’s one of those names I remember from hearing in the classified results on a Saturday evening. Read out by the late James Alexander Gordon and others. Of course, their opponents today were another team that I remember from the classified results.
Although. not the official classified results unless the BBC Sports team ever called upon the Two Ronnies.
That classic line of “The latest score in from Scotland… it’s East Fife four and so far, Forfar, five” remains with me all these years later.
So, with fantastic comedy lines and even more fantastic Scottish team names in my head, we started our journey.
I hope the title of this paragraph wasn’t as wasted on you as it was on Mrs Hopper, by the way…
Stenhousemuir – Journey and Pre-Game
After dragging ourselves out of bed at 06:00, we caught the 07:05 bus to Newcastle. Arriving about fifty minutes later we called into Greggs to fill up on pastries. We had plenty of time before our 08:49 train, so we sat inside and ate our breakfast.
Joining us in the dining area was a man who seemed to be using the area for an impromptu sleep in one corner. While next to us was a man who had been on security guard duty until 02:00 last night and was due out again after his breakfast. He told us all about it but I have to be honest, his Geordie accent was so broad that I only picked up about 50% of what he said.
Smiling and nodding, we made our way to the train station.
We made it with fifteen minutes to spare and our train arrived on time. After settling in next to a friendly lady from York, we chatted with her most of the way up to Edinburgh.
After arriving in the capital at 10:20, the 10:36 train to Dunblane was already on the platform. We settled in for the final part of our journey and arrived in Larbert at 11:18.
Stenhousemuir is accessed by the adjoining town of Larbert via train. The two towns blend into one area that falls under the Falkirk Town Council. In fact, just four miles separate Ochilview Park from the Falkirk Stadium.
We got off the train at Larbert under a nice blue sky and shining sun. This made a mockery of my fears that the game could be called off after the recent snows and freezing temperatures.
As we walked towards Stenhousemuir, we got talking to two fans wearing Stenhousemuir hats walking the same way as us. They were heading to the Ochilview Bar, while we had decided to try out the Crown Inn.
Our new buddies turned out to be from the Humberside area, although one was an Everton season ticket holder. They claimed to be the East Yorkshire Warriors and promised we would see their flag at the ground later.
I love these random chats and the people we meet on our travels.
Stenhousemuir, The Crown Inn
There is a dearth of places to eat in and around the area of Ochilview Park. For this reason, we had extra breakfast and came to the Crown Inn for a drink. We had also heard that Stenhousemuir supplies an excellent steak and haggis pie, so that was the food plans sorted.
The Crown Inn is situated along the walk from the station to the ground, so you don’t have to go out of your way. There is nothing fancy about the establishment but it is clean, friendly and welcoming.
We ordered a Guinness and a Tennent’s and took a seat.
There was a strange combination of ’70s music and Soccer AM on the TVs on the wall. A dartboard to our left, a pool table at the end of the room and some older guys sat at the bar. The bar slowly started to fill as we drank and by the time we left, there were a decent amount of people in there.
Friendly woman behind the bar, too.
Stenhousemuir – Ochilview Park Exterior
Once out of the Crown Inn, we carried on along the B905 for five minutes.
Hidden away behind a combination of a Tim Hortons and a B&M, is Ochilview Park, home of Stenhousemuir since 1890. It was the first Scottish ground to host a floodlit game when Stenny played a friendly against Hibernian in 1951.
The Ochil Hills
Ochilview Park is so named because you can see the Ochil Hills from the stadium.
The Ochils are a range of hills that run along the northern banks of the Forth Valley and are wedged between Stirling to the west and Perth to the east.
Very picturesque viewing they make, too as you come from Edinburgh to Larbert on the train. I took a hopeful picture of the Kelpies as we came through Falkirk and you can see the Ochils in the background.
Considering it was shot from a moving train and zoomed in, it didn’t turn out too bad.
The first thing you come across as you head to the ground, are the turnstiles.
Both sets of fans gain access to the ground in the same vicinity.
Technically, home fans are located in the Norway Stand and away fans in the terrace at this end of the ground. I say technically because there were as many East Fife fans at the end of the stand where we sat, as there were Stenhousemuir fans.
The main stand at Ochilview is called the Norway Stand.
This was actually bought and paid for by the Norwegian Supporters club. Yes, the Norwegian Supporters club!
There is a comparatively large following for Stenhousemuir in Norway and when Ochilview Park was renovated in the 1990s, the Norwegians stepped up to the plate.
As far as I understand, this love affair with a lower-league team in Scotland is purely random.
Maybe it’s the Warriors’ nickname or the Viking mascot? Or maybe they randomly picked the team for its fabulous name?
Whatever the reasons, in 1992 they picked Stenhousemuir as their team and have strengthened the ties ever since. The club now owns shares in Stenhousemuir and shows no signs of stopping their support any time soon. Terje Eriksen even became the Honorary President of Stenhousemuir until he passed away in 2018.
I love random connections like this. Long may it continue!
Back to the Stadium
After sidetracking to Norway, let’s get back to looking around Ochilview.
We walked past the turnstiles and along the length of the Norway Stand. Beyond it is a little playing area of artificial pitches where kids were playing football, watched by their parents.
This is also where the East Yorkshire Warriors flag was flying on the fence, as our buddies made good on their promise.
The north and east sides of the ground have no capacity for fans and are fenced off. The north side is where the dugouts for both teams are located. Behind them, is a large net and the car park used by players and officials.
I know this because as we walked around the ground, the Stenhousemuir players were getting out of their cars and chatting with each other.
Should We Be In Here?
As we walked along the length of the car park, I realised that we were actually inside the ground and started wondering if we were actually allowed to be there.
Nobody seemed to mind though, so we carried on…
As we neared the other end of the ground, to our right we could make out the Ochilview Bar, which is where we intended to go next. As we walked the corner to get some photos of the covered terrace at that end, the man who had been brushing the artificial pitch on his tractor drove over to us.
Again he was completely unconcerned about two random people being there and started talking to us. We asked him if we were ok to be here as we were taking photographs for a website. He said it wasn’t a problem.
Imagine this at Old Trafford or the Etihad?
When we told him we were heading to the Ochilview Bar next, he gave us a better alternative.
Go through the gate at the end, walk up the players’ tunnel, turn right and you will be at the Wee Bar… it’s cheaper, too! (Wink, wink)Stenhousemuir Groundsman
Well, I wasn’t going to argue and it gave us a good photo opportunity, too. Thank you, sir!
Before leaving our impromptu tour inside Ochilview, we got some photographs of the two main structures.
The end terrace used by away supporters is a lovely throwback terrace that stretches the width of the pitch. It is fully roofed and protects fans from the elements.
The capacity at Ochilview Park is 3,746 and this terrace contributes the majority of that capacity.
The Norway Stand
The rest of the ground’s capacity comes in the shape of the aforementioned Norway Stand. Comprising space for 626 spectators, it is a fully roofed and seated stand. Funded by the Norwegian Supporters Club, it was finished in 1995 as part of the grounds’ renovation.
Perched atop the Norway Stand are two floodlights that reminded me of the one at Arbroath’s Gayfield.
Similar in design but there are two instead of the bigger single floodlight atop Arbroath’s Main Stand.
It houses the inner workings of the club and has a hospitality suite and our next destination – The Wee Bar.
Stenhousemuir – Stadium Gallery
Stenhousemuir – Pre-Game View of Ochilview Park
The Wee Bar
The Bob Hill Wee Bar, to give it its official title, is a little bar set inside the Norway Stand.
It is accessed by walking around the pitch and through the players’ tunnel. At least that’s the way we did it!
Officially, you should probably use the door set into the facade of the back of the main stand.
The walls are covered in pennants from teams all over the place. Most seemed to be English and Scottish clubs but I’m sure if I’d looked closely, there would have at least been a Norwegian club represented too.
We ordered two pints of Tennents costing a very reasonable £6.40.
Thank you again, Mr Tractor Driver.
While we were here we struck up a conversation with some of the locals who joined us at our table. As ever, the people of Scotland are very welcoming to visitors and always curious as to why we are there.
In a way, it’s quite sad that people have such a low opinion of their national sport that they wonder why anyone would come to visit. That said, when attendances are so low around Scotland outside of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen, it is understandable.
I hope in some small way, I can make more people want to visit Scotland’s obscure and wonderful footballing venues.
By the way, I have no idea if anyone can wander into this bar, or if we just got lucky.
If you know, comment below, please.
With time marching on, we left the bar and went out through the correct door, to gain official entry to Ochilview Park.
Officially Inside Ochilview
We bought our tickets via Fanbase, which is the platform Stenhousemuir use for online ticket sales. They were priced at £14.00 each for adults. (£9.00 concessions, £5.00 for a child.)
The tickets were stored in my Fanbase wallet on my smartphone. We showed these to the gateman on the turnstile and he waved us through. Once inside, we joined the queue for a steak and haggis pie. Well, Mrs Hopper had the pleasure really.
I was busy taking photos and videos.
Steak and Haggis Pies? Yes, Please!
Mrs Hopper appeared with a nice hot pie while I was finishing up chatting with another groundhopper who was up for the game. Sorry, I forgot where he said he came from but he was another Englishman.
We took our pies and walked along the front of the Norway Stand looking for a likely spot to sit (seats are unreserved). We walked to the far end before we came across seats that were easily accessible and two together.
This was the point where I realised that it wasn’t just home fans in the main stand. There were black and yellow hats and scarves on show representing East Fife, too. Nobody cares about things like that in a lot of grounds in Scotland though. Segregation is, for the most part, not needed, nor used at these lower-league games.
We sat down and enjoyed our steak and haggis pies.
Thank you for the recommendation, Evelyn Hood!
Of course, Mrs Hopper wouldn’t consider her day complete without spilling a hot beverage. Her day was completed as she sat down and the lid came off her cup of tea before it emptied onto the concrete floor around us.
Stenhousemuir v East Fife – The Game
Coming into this game, both teams are hopeful of securing a playoff position. In what has been a very closely fought League Two campaign, just six points separated third and eighth before play began.
Stenhousemuir sat in third place, while their opponents were in fourth.
There have been very few draws in this division in recent weeks and these two teams personify that stat. Both Stenhousemuir and East Fife have won three and lost one of their last four games.
The first shot at goal came in the sixth minute. A corner for East Fife was headed clear but only as far as Brogan Walls. From about twenty-five yards, he fired a left-footed shot at goal that was comfortably saved by Curtis Lyle in the Stenny goal.
In the 15th minute, a good cross from Adam Brown on the Stenhousemuir left wasn’t dealt with by the Fifers. The ball fell to Stenny’s captain, Sean Chrighton and he put his shot from twelve yards just past the left-hand post.
A big let-off for East Fife.
Twenty-nine minutes in and the home side fashioned themselves another shooting opportunity. The ball was played central from the right to Nat Wedderburn. However, his shot only endangered any pigeons that may have been resting on the roof of the terraced stand behind the goal.
Three minutes later, the previous shot was forgotten as the hosts took the lead through Matty Yates.
Prior to the goal, East Fife had a promising attack of their own that was hoofed clear by Stenny. The resulting attack led to Jonathan Page needlessly playing the ball behind for a corner.
From the resulting corner, the Warriors made them pay dearly for the lack of communication. Ross Forbes caught East Fife off-guard by not swinging the ball across. Rather, he played it low and quick to the near post where Yates had created space for himself.
Without a single defender near him, he placed the ball through the legs of the keeper and into the net. He then wheeled away to celebrate with Forbes on the far side of the pitch.
Great predatory instincts and quick thinking showed with that goal. That was Yates’ twelfth league goal of the season and his fifteenth in all competitions.
East Fife almost pulled level soon after.
With the ball bouncing on the edge of the penalty box, Crighton headed it feebly back towards his keeper. Scott Shepherd seized on it but couldn’t control the ball and Lyle gratefully dived at his feet to gather.
In the 35th minute, Ross Forbes fired a free kick just wide of Allan Fleming’s left-hand post (see video below).
That action brought an end to the meaningful action in the first forty-five minutes.
Half-time – Stenhousemuir 1 v East Fife 0
Stenhousemuir was deservedly ahead at the break and East Fife just didn’t seem to have turned up in that half.
By now, the sun was a memory and a biting chill was back in the Scottish air. Exacerbated by the fact that two sides of the ground are open and lets the wind flow through.
This made me very glad for my investment in a thick parka coat last winter.
The Second Half
As East Fife got the second half underway, it didn’t take long to see that they were going to be better in this half.
There was an immediate sense of more urgency about their game and one or two players looked like they may have just been under a hairdryer of some sort…
A big appeal from East Fife players and fans alike in the 49th minute. Jack Healy was on the end of a nice passing move that saw the ball land at his feet on the left side of the penalty area. He cut past his marker and looked to be almost through on goal when he was bundled to the ground by Jacob Blaney.
The referee waved the protests away but I have to say, it looked like a penalty to me.
Two minutes later and the Fifers forgot about that injustice as they got level.
Not too dissimilar to the penalty claim, Fife approached the area from right to left and found Healy. This time Healy escaped his marker and got to the byline, before putting in a low cross. The ball evaded the melee of players at the near post and it was turned into the unguarded net by Sir Alex Ferguson.
1-1 East Fife Equaliser!
He’s looking very well and sprightly for his age, by the way.
It was also around this time that an announcement came over the tannoy that some stupid person had left their Washington Commanders hoodie in the Wee Bar.
Mrs Hopper was good enough to go and fetch it for her forgetful husband…
Fifty-six minutes in, Mikey Miller headed over the bar for Stenny, before Walls had a shot saved by Lyle at the other end of the pitch a minute later.
It was Ferguson again instrumental in some nice build-up play in the 66th minute. It ended with a Scott Shepherd shot from the edge of the area. Lyle was in a good position to save it though.
Ferguson was involved again in the 75th minute when he conceded a free-kick about thirty-five yards from the Stenny goal.
Ross Forbes stepped up to take it and he looked primed to have a go at goal. Now, when we were in the Wee Bar before the game, one of the guys we were talking to had a friend show us the goal Forbes scored the previous week at Annan.
It was impressive!
Unidentified Flying Free-Kick
He followed that up with this free-kick opportunity and showed that football is a hit-or-miss occupation. His attempted shot at goal went sailing over the bar and was last seen heading towards Falkirk. It was also his last kick of the game as he was substituted soon after.
The winning goal came in the 81st minute and a fine team goal it was, too.
The ball started on the East Fife left at the feet of substitute Aidan Denholm. He cut inside, working his way past two Stenhousemuir players before feeding Ferguson in the middle. Fergie flicked it to Denholm who had continued his run and passed it straight out to the right wing.
Ryan Schiavone was waiting and put in a cross from the right corner of the box. This was met by the head of Walls at the back post and he put his header back across the face of the goal. Shepherd had a simple tap-in and the Fifers had completely turned the game on its head.
1-2 East Fife!
That was pretty much that regarding action, although there was almost a third goal for the visitors at the death. Connor Young, another substitute, won the ball on the right side of the pitch. He cut inside and from the angle of the penalty area unleashed a shot that was caught at the second attempt by Lyle.
The final whistle was blown and there was much celebrating from the away terrace. There was no shortage of happy people around us at the far end of the Norway Stand either, it should be said.
East Fife had a decent following among the crowd of 474.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find an official match report anywhere, so no link to professionalism today.
Full-time – Stenhousemuir 1 v East Fife 2
Attendance – 474
Entrance Fee – £14.00 (Digital ticket)
Programme – N/A (Teamsheet only)
This game resulted in Annan Athletic and East Fife jumping ahead of Stenny. The Warriors now find themselves out of the playoff places and will be looking to force their way back into the picture as quickly as possible.
Annan Athletic have taken their place in third position, while East Fife occupies fourth.
Stenhousemuir – Match Highlights
Next up for the Warriors is a trip up to Scotland’s most northerly League ground at Borough Briggs, home of Elgin City. They will be hoping for a win and three points to keep them in that playoff race.
East Fife, meanwhile, will head south of the Scottish capital and an away tie against Bonnyrigg Rose at New Dundas Park. The Rose are bottom of the table and the Fifers will be hoping to shore up their position in the top four.
Both games will be 15:00 pm kick-offs on the 18th of March.
Stenhousemuir is a very friendly place to visit and it offers much to be proud of.
While it is never going to be a club that disturbs the upper echelons of Scottish football (an occasional cup shock aside), it is a proud community club that welcomes everyone with open arms.
You only have to see how they have embraced the Norwegian Supporters Club to know that is true.
They have one of the best pies I’ve had at a football game and the catering overall is priced very reasonably.
Take note some of the greedier clubs!
Stenhousemuir – After the Game
Following the game, we headed back towards the Wee Bar. I wanted to see if I could get my hands on a programme/teamsheet
Stenhousemuir usually produces a printed programme called The Warrior. They don’t charge a set price but ask for donations. (I wonder how that stacks up financially against clubs who charge a set price?). Unfortunately for us, there had been a problem at the printers before today’s game and there was no Warrior available.
I did manage to get a teamsheet after being told to go back into the main office area (where players and officials were wandering about) and ask for one in there.
A Teamsheet is Better Than Nothing
We said our thankyou’s and goodbyes to the guys we had been speaking to in the bar before the game and headed off back to Larbert train station.
There is an impressive-looking building on the opposite side, called the Station Hotel.
This would have probably made a good destination for lunch if I had noticed it on Google Maps before we set off. Unfortunately, it doesn’t feature as prominently there as it does on the Larbert skyline.
Our 17:42 train arrived at platform one just a couple of minutes late and we left Larbert at 17:45. At 18:30, we were back in Edinburgh’s Waverley station and the 19:00 to Newcastle was already sitting on the platform.
We took our seats and got comfortable and would probably have had a good snooze on the quiet coach… nope!
A group of six or seven predominantly females came bursting into the carriage making about as much noise as six people can possibly make. High-pitched shrieking and “Oh my god! This is the quiet coach, we shouldn’t be noisy!” SHRIEKKKK!!!
I looked at Mrs Hopper’s angry face and mouthed one word… “No!”.
Drama thus averted, I turned my attention to a game on my phone and tried valiantly to shut out the noise that lasted until we got to Berwick, where they got off the train.
The relief was immense, let me tell you. My ears! My poor, poor ears.
I still hear that shrieking in my sleep!
That aside, the journey went smoothly and we arrived back in Newcastle by 20:35.
After a wait of about twenty minutes, we hopped on the bus home and were back through our front door clutching Tesco cakes around 22:00.
Next Up For Hoppers Guide
With the resumption of train strikes next weekend, we are forced to look locally again.
Originally, I had intended to revisit the Gateshead International Stadium as we didn’t get a review up last time. On reflection though, I have decided it’s better to tick off a new ground.
It will be a new league for me this weekend – the Northern Football Alliance, Premier Division.
The ground will be Scotswood Sports Centre, the home of Newcastle Blue Star.
Onto the next!