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On The Up (The Country Lad Challenge)


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This is my attempt at Educated Hick’s Country Lad Challenge. I am running CM0304 with the English and Scottish Leagues selected and I have chosen Gretna to be my starting team. Gretna Green is a small village in the Scottish borders with a population of around 3,000. It is best know as a place where eloping couples from England could be married without parental consent.

Gretna (http://www.gretnafootballclub.co.uk/) play in the Scottish Third Division and, in common with most clubs in Scotland they are Semi-Professional. They play at Raydale Park, which has a capacity of 2,200 with 385 seats. The facilities are pretty awful but I was surprised at the size of the playing squad. They have almost 50 players on their books and the wage bill runs at over £8,500 a week, a huge amount for a club of this size so that needs to be trimmed.

Behind the scenes I have an Assistant Manager, a Physio and a Scout so whilst I will be cutting back on the playing front I need to build up the backroom team. The transfer budget has been set at £35K for the season but I have no immediate plans to bring in any new players until I have properly evaluated the current squad. But a quick look at the player’s contracts shows up two particularly high earners – midfielder Stephen Cosgrove is on an extraordinary £2K a week and his colleague Lee Maddison is on £1,200. Getting these two off the payroll would bring us under budget overnight so they are both immediately made available.

It is also an easy decision to allow former player/manager Rowan Alexander to leave – a 42-year-old striker has no part in my plans and his coaching attributes leave a lot to be desired too. Assistant Manager Davie Irons, another 42-year-old player/coach, won’t be lasting too much longer either if I can find a decent replacement. I quickly bring in two coaches, a scout and another physio and establish a new training schedule.

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This is my attempt at Educated Hick’s Country Lad Challenge. I am running CM0304 with the English and Scottish Leagues selected and I have chosen Gretna to be my starting team. Gretna Green is a small village in the Scottish borders with a population of around 3,000. It is best know as a place where eloping couples from England could be married without parental consent.

Gretna (http://www.gretnafootballclub.co.uk/) play in the Scottish Third Division and, in common with most clubs in Scotland they are Semi-Professional. They play at Raydale Park, which has a capacity of 2,200 with 385 seats. The facilities are pretty awful but I was surprised at the size of the playing squad. They have almost 50 players on their books and the wage bill runs at over £8,500 a week, a huge amount for a club of this size so that needs to be trimmed.

Behind the scenes I have an Assistant Manager, a Physio and a Scout so whilst I will be cutting back on the playing front I need to build up the backroom team. The transfer budget has been set at £35K for the season but I have no immediate plans to bring in any new players until I have properly evaluated the current squad. But a quick look at the player’s contracts shows up two particularly high earners – midfielder Stephen Cosgrove is on an extraordinary £2K a week and his colleague Lee Maddison is on £1,200. Getting these two off the payroll would bring us under budget overnight so they are both immediately made available.

It is also an easy decision to allow former player/manager Rowan Alexander to leave – a 42-year-old striker has no part in my plans and his coaching attributes leave a lot to be desired too. Assistant Manager Davie Irons, another 42-year-old player/coach, won’t be lasting too much longer either if I can find a decent replacement. I quickly bring in two coaches, a scout and another physio and establish a new training schedule.

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August 2003

Our pre-season preparations are pretty low-key as I cancel most of the friendlies that had previously been arranged leaving just two on the calendar. Both are home games against higher league opposition and both produce good wins – Airdrie United are defeated 2-0 and Falkirk are sent home with three unanswered goals against them. Several of our younger players have showed up well in the warm ups and we face the season opener, a Challenge Cup match at Queens Park, full of optimism.

I want to employ a fairly simple formation so I set the team out with a 4-4-2 lineup but with the midfield operating in a slight diamond. One central midfielder will play more of a holding role, guarding the defence, and the other will push up when the opportunity presents. Despite losing two defenders to injury during the game we gain a 4-2 win with our two best players on the pitch getting the goals. Central defender David Holdsworth scored our third goal and looks well-equipped for this level. The 34-year-old has many years of top-flight experience behind and his previous clubs include Watford, Sheffield United and Birmingham amongst others. But the star of the show was 19-year-old Gary Cohen who grabbed a hat trick on his first competitive outing for the club. The youngster has pace to burn and his lightning fast breaks from midfield caused out opponents all sorts of trouble. The boy is raw and has a lot to learn but he’s one of the quickest players I’ve ever seen and he has a good level of stamina too. With his sheer pace he could be troubling Third Division defences all season.

On the injury front the loss of right back Mark Birch is a blow as he was looking like making that position his own but he will be benched for a month with a broken arm. On-loan defender Richard Robb is less seriously damaged, a neck problem will keep the 20-year-old out for a week.

Before our opening league game of the season at Peterhead, Celtic complete a comfortable 4-1 aggregate win over Swedish club Djurgarden in the Champions League 2nd qualifying round. On the transfer front we receive a few enquiries. Boston United get in touch regarding reserve midfielder Douglas Taylor and I suggest that a fee of £6K would be enough to part with him. Unfortunately that is more than they want to pay so no joy there. But the other calls are less welcome. Alloa and Airdrie are both asking about 18-year-old forward Gary Harding but they are rebuffed. Another little speed merchant, I want to keep him as a backup for young Cohen. I receive firm bids from Dumbarton and Alloa for young striker Dean Douglas but he showed some promise in pre-season so they are both firmly rejected.

We get our league campaign off to a fine start with a 2-0 win at Peterhead with strikers Ian Stevens, an experienced campaigner who has been in the game for almost 20 years, and young buck Dean Douglas both finding the net. Barely two days later we are back into Challenge Cup action, facing a game at Second Division East Fife. Partly through choice but mainly through necessity, I shuffle the team around completely for this game. I have to say that very few of the fringe players coming in did much to catch my attention in a positive fashion. Veteran keeper David Wylie was particularly awful and his nightmare performance was a major factor in our 7-3 defeat. The £3K received in prize money gave some consolation but it was a really disappointing display.

Later that week I complete a deal that sends defender Adam Thwaites to Hamilton for a £2K fee – just in case he hits the big time I include a 20% sell on clause but I won’t hold my breath. Our first home game of the season sees Cowdenbeath visit Raydale Park and 1,500 happy souls witness a fine win. It’s like night and day compared to our midweek debacle as we run out 5-1 winners. Strikers Stevens and Douglas get one apiece and Cohen helps himself to another hat trick, his second in two appearances.

We continue to get a few offers through the door – Aberdeen and Bristol Rovers are interested in young Gary Wills but we are a little light on the left of defence so he is staying put for the time being. Veteran midfielder Danny Lennon has half a dozen clubs chasing him but his experience is vital in our young team so no deal there. For the trip to Albion Rovers for our next league game I keep an unchanged side but we don’t reach the heights of last weekend. Our attacking play is good and Cohen and Douglas both get on the scoresheet again but we defend poorly and concede a late goal to lose 3-2.

Celtic make it through to the group stage of the Champions League, coming through a tough tie against Galatasaray 3-1 on aggregate thanks to two goals from Henrik Larsson in Turkey. Rangers aren’t so lucky, losing an enthralling encounter against Marseille 5-4 overall. In the UEFA Cup Dundee have a field day in their qualifying tie with Metalurgs of Latvia, winning 9-0 on aggregate.

Our final game of the month is at home against struggling Elgin and once again we excel in attack. The strikers are on target as Douglas scores twice and Martin Cameron gets one but once again Cohen stars with his third hat trick in 5 starts. The 6-0 win takes us to second place in the table, a point behind Stirling and ahead of Albion Rovers and Cowdenbeath on goal difference. Gary Cohen deservedly takes the Player of the Month award with Dean Douglas winning the Young Players equivalent.

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Thanks Terek

September 2003

With just a couple of days rest before our first game of the new month I have to make changes to the starting lineup for the visit of Airdrie United in the League Cup. To my great relief history doesn’t repeat itself, partly because I tried to keep a few key players in the first eleven. We put in a sterling performance and keep our impressive home record well and truly intact. Our strikers all look like they have goals in them and this time Martin Cameron scores two and Shaun Milligan opens his account. Gary Harding shows his potential with a terrific hat trick before being replaced by Cohen just before the break. The man himself rounded off the scoring in the second half as we blew Airdrie away with a 7-1 scoreline.

Although the transfer window is now closed for the rest of the year I have agreed that reserve winger Nick Robinson will move to Dumbarton for £5K when the window re-opens in January.

Scotland’s qualifying campaign for Euro 2004 got a boost with a fine 5-0 defeat of the Faroe Islands at the weekend. But they undid that good work in midweek, losing 3-0 in Germany after a tame performance. Surprise package Iceland head the group with Germany second and it looks like Scotland will miss out on a playoff place.

We follow our excellent cup win with a solid win at struggling East Stirling with yet another Cohen hat trick the centre point of our 4-1 victory. As I suspected it might his sheer pace is proving too hot to handle and he is being touted in the local press as “the poor man’s Craig Bellamyâ€. Celtic start their Champions League group with a 1-1 draw at home to Arsenal thanks to a late equaliser from Henrik Larsson.

Visiting Queens Park provide stiff resistance as we try to keep our 100% home record on track with keeper Chris Lamb in fine form. But goals from Cohen and Cameron finally give us a 2-1 win that takes us to the top of the table.

It’s Cup action next as we travel to Second Division Dumbarton for a League Cup 2nd Round tie. Winger Ryan Baldacchino inspires us to an excellent 3-0 win, setting up two of our goals. Central defender Paul O’Neill opens the scoring early on with Dean Douglas getting the second before half time. Strike partner Martin Cameron adds the third after the break as we totally dominate play.

The month ends with a top-of-the-table clash at Stirling Albion. They are unbeaten in the league thus far and sit just a point behind us. An even first half ends scoreless but we step up the pace in the second period and Shaun Milligan found the net twice with Dean Douglas also on target to give us a fine 3-0 win.

We end the month 4 points clear at the top of the table with young winger John Hore winning the Player of the Month award and myself being recognised as Manager of the Month.

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October 2003

In the Champions League Celtic lose their second group game 1-0 at Dinamo Kiev and were it not for keeper Magnus Hedman they would have lost by a much bigger margin. We get the month underway with a visit from Montrose. We don’t look convincing early on but Gary Cohen breaks the deadlock on the stroke of half time and goes on to claim two more. Substitute Gary Harding also scores to round off an easy 4-0 win.

During the week Boston United come in with a bid for reserve midfielder Ian Cummersky and I am happy to let the 17-year-old go for a mere £1K but Oxford’s enquiry about Gary Harding is quickly rejected. Scotland finish off their Euro2004 campaign with a 4-0 demolition of Lithuania at Hampden but just miss out on a playoff place. Germany win the group and Iceland finish runners up. In the UEFA Cup Hearts come through the 1st round with a 3-1 aggregate win over NAC Breda and Dundee complete an impressive 7-3 defeat of Malatyaspor but Rangers are eliminated on away goals by Hertha BSC.

The first managerial casualty of the season is announced as Berwick Rangers part company with Paul Smith. After our weekend off we are back into action at home to Stranraer. The pace of young Gary Cohen continues to terrorise the hapless Division Three defences and in this game he scores 4 times in our 5-0 win with Dean Douglas getting the fifth.

In an enthralling match Celtic fight back from 2-0 down to secure a 2-2 draw against PAO in Athens. They lost Henrik Larsson to injury in the first half but recovered through goals from captain Paul Lambert and Stilian Petrov. At the halfway point in their group they lie 3rd but are still in with a chance of qualification.

Our final league game of the month sees highlanders Peterhead make the long trip south to Raydale Park. We lose left back Lee Marshall to injury just 15 minutes into the game but this doesn’t seem to upset our rhythm. Paul O’Neill and Ryan Baldacchino give us a 2-0 lead at half time and Gary Cohen, Dean Douglas and Martin Cameron complete a 5-0 victory after the break.

Raith Rovers of Division One win the Challenge Cup with a narrow 2-1 win over third Division Stirling Albion. The Fife side needed extra time to overcome Stirling’s spirited resistance.

We end the month with one of the biggest games in the club’s recent history – a visit to SPL side Dundee United in the Third Round of the League Cup. We go into the game without key midfielder Gary Cohen as the 19-year-old has a niggling training injury and isn’t quite fit enough to play so Gary Harding takes his place. The game turns out to be quite an epic full of action and incident. Less than 20 minutes into the match Harding limps off injured and is replaced by James Allan. Within seconds Martin Cameron puts us into the lead and 4 minutes before half time Allan makes it 2-0. But after the break Dundee United come back strongly and Charlie Miller scores a stunning free kick to pull a goal back. With 15 minutes remaining Derek McInnes gets an equaliser but two minutes later Cameron scores his second to put us back in front. Five minutes later Cameron also departs injured so on comes Ian Stevens. With less than three minutes left on the clock veteran striker Billy Dodds scores to send the game into extra time. Five minutes into the extra period Dean Douglas scores to put us 4-3 ahead but then winger John Hore has to be taken off. We manage to hold out for another 10 minutes before Mark Kerr squares the game once more. With no further scoring the match is decided on penalties and Richard Robb is the unlucky man who misses, striking the crossbar with our 4th spot kick. The boys are exhausted after their efforts but the people of Gretna can be proud of their team – they ran their hearts out tonight. We do receive a nice £20K in prize money, which softens the blow somewhat.

On the awards front we manage a clean sweep of the October prizes – Cohen wins Player of the Month, O’Neill Young Player and myself Manager.

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November 2003

Our first game of the month involved a trip to Cowdenbeath. With a lot of the players still very tired after their heroic failure in midweek quite a number of fringe players made the starting lineup. Within 10 minutes of the start we had our first problem – striker Dean Douglas having to come off injured. Without an out-and-out striker on the bench the overpaid Stephen Cosgrove was sent on to play up front and earn his money for a change. On the half hour we went a goal behind but on-loan Baldacchino equalised from the penalty spot just before the break. We had the better of the second period but failed to convert any of the numerous chances that came our way. The home side took the lead once more with 15 minutes remaining and as we entered stoppage time it looked like a defeat was on the cards. But then the boy Cohen saved the day three minutes into added-on time with a deserved equaliser.

In the Champions League Celtic played out their 3rd draw in 4 group games, this one a 0-0 stalemate at home to PAO. The group is still wide open though, but the Bhoys need to get a win under their belts to have a change of progressing.

The day before our important league match at home to second place Albion Rovers we lose defensive stalwart David Holdsworth, out for two months with a groin strain. Now I may be a little biased but I’d say that this is a good a performance as we’ve put in all season. The visitors were brushed aside during our 4-0 win. A Cohen hat trick was the highlight but players like Baldacchino, who scored the opener, and Cameron were instrumental in the win.

The transfer market is a funny thing - we continue to receive enquiries for players that we don’t want to sell whilst the no-hopers on the transfer list are steadfastly ignored! Good news this week from a couple of our pensioners - aging Player/Assistant Manager Davie Irons and creaky old defender Keith Knox have both decided to hang up their boots at the end of this season.

We have a weekend off because of the Euro2004 playoffs. I am vaguely interested to see that the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Croatia, Turkey and Spain all qualify for the finals in Portugal.

Back into league action now and the trip to struggling Elgin, in 9th place with only 4 points, should not trouble us too much – aside from the length of the journey of course. It’s a bloody long way on a coach, especially when you suffer from travel sickness as badly as yours truly. Now maybe the players were a bit travelsick too but we started very poorly, allowing the home side to take an early lead with virtually the only shot they had on target all afternoon. Baldacchino scored a good equaliser midway through the half as we started to assert ourselves. After a brisk half time team talk the boys really knuckled down and spent the next 45 minutes pounding Elgin’s goal but failed to beat an inspired keeper. It is quite beyond me how a goalie that has conceded 23 goals in 7 games can suddenly transform himself into Superman but that’s what Martin Pirie did. 1-1 the final score and two points thrown away.

Draw specialists Celtic do it again, coming back from Arsenal with a 1-1 scoreline thanks to a late John Hartson penalty. They are now bottom of the group and may even struggle to land a consolation place in the UEFA Cup. Hearts and Dundee both excel in the UEFA Cup. Dundee come back from a 3-0 defeat in Spain to beat Celta 3-0 at home and then win on penalties. Hearts also eliminate Spanish opposition, getting the better of Valencia on away goals after a 2-0 win at Tynecastle.

Our last action of the month sees the whipping boys of Division Three, East Stirling, pay a visit. Now I shouldn’t make rash predictions after last weekend but if we fail to beat a team that has a record of one win and 12 defeats then I’ll eat my hat. Well thankfully it won’t be necessary for me to eat any headgear as we made up for last week’s debacle with a thumping 11-0 win. God they were bad – if the Shire was a horse it would be shot as an animal would never be allowed to go through that much suffering. It says a lot that their best player on the pitch was their keeper Chris Todd. Our goalscorers were Cohen (4), Cameron (3), O’Neill, Baldacchino, Lennon and Douglas.

So at the end of November we are still top of the table, 9 points clear of Albion Rovers. Gary Cohen once again was voted Player of the Month with myself modestly receiving the plaudits on the Managerial front.

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December 2003

The first game of the month is a Scottish Cup first round tie at non-league Annan. We may have been a little complacent early on as we allowed the home side to take the lead inside 10 minutes. But that was soon put right as goals from Gary Cohen and Martin Cameron gave us the lead. An unfortunate own goal on the half hour stretched our advantage and in the second half Cameron completed an exemplary performance by scoring twice more to claim an excellent hat trick.

Celtic completed their Champions League campaign with yet another draw and the scoreless stalemate at home to Dinmao Kiev allowed the Ukrainians to take third place in the group and gain the consolation UEFA Cup place.

What will be a very busy month continued with a midweek trip to Queens Park for a league match. A few players were rested for this game and we weren’t quite at our attacking best. The first half finished scoreless but the three points were secured after the break when winger John Hore scored what proved to be the only goal of the game.

We were soon back into action again as third place Stirling Albion came to town with the starting lineup shuffled once again to allow some recovery time to various players. We started strongly and dominated play with Gary Cohen underlining his value with two goals in the first half. He completed his hat trick in the second half to finish off a fine 3-0 win as we stretch our lead at the top to nine points.

But we have no time to rest on our laurels as we have another midweek game, travelling to Airdrie United for a Scottish Cup 2nd round tie. Having soundly beaten today’s opponents earlier in the season in the League Cup they will no doubt be looking for revenge. There must be something about playing Airdrie that this team like as, far from evening up the score, the home side suffered another heavy defeat. A Martin Cameron hat trick, plus a strike from Dean Douglas, gave us a comfortable half time lead. Airdrie managed a consolation goal early in the second half but we continued our demolition regardless. Cameron scored two more and Gary Cohen grabbed yet another hat trick as we ran riot with a 9-1 win.

For the weekend trip to Stranraer I rested most of the first team and brought in a lot of untried players. They were more than good enough to comfortably beat a poor home side 7-0. Strikers Martin Cameron and Shaun Milligan scored two apiece with substitute striker Dean Douglas also featuring. Midfielder Douglas Taylor and central defender Gary Brown were also on target in an easy win.

Midfield star Gary Cohen is coming towards the end of his current contract and I was just about to start talking about a new deal when my Chairman suddenly comes over all patriotic and insists that we will only sign Scottish players. So our English superstar will not be offered a new contract and that’s the end of it. I blame Mel Gibson myself, that bloody “Braveheart†movie! Given that more than half of our squad is English we are going to see a lot of changes in the future.

Our final game of the year involves a Friday night trip to Montrose. The home side had obviously been well briefed on the danger that Cohen represents as within 25 minutes they had kicked the youngster off the park. His replacement, the almost as speedy Gary Harding, looked like giving us the last laugh with a goal in the second half but our hosts struck back with a late goal of their own and we left with a 1-1 draw.

Alloa manager Terry Christie is given a lovely Christmas present, being sacked by the board. Once again we feature strongly in the end of month awards with Martin Cameron voted Player of the Month. Modesty does not permit me to reveal the name of the Manager of the Month. So at year-end we sit at the top of the Third Division, 8 points ahead of Albion Rovers in second place and a further point ahead of Stirling Albion.

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January 2004

For our first match of the year we would face a daunting trip all the way up to Peterhead. As we can’t afford to pay for overnight stays this involves a ridiculously early start in the small hours of Saturday morning and a long coach journey so it’s no great surprise that the players aren’t exactly at their best. But loaner Ryan Baldicchino gives us an early goal and we reach half time in the lead. But then in the second half we loose central defender Gary Brown to injury and then minutes later the home side equalise. Events take another downturn when Cohen backchats to the referee after a booking and gets a second yellow to reduce us to 10 men. But perhaps as a way of evening things up, the somewhat erratic ref gives us a fairly soft penalty, which Baldicchino converts to give us a 2-1 win.

The Monday after the game I am very surprised when the Chairman seeks me out to tell me that Third Division Leyton Orient have asked for permission to talk to me about their vacant managerial position. I decline their kind offer, preferring instead to stick with Gretna (at least for the moment).

After 4 consecutive away matches it was nice to get a home game, and what a game it was – against Aberdeen in the 3rd Round of the Scottish Cup. With midfield dynamo Cohen suspended it would be up to Gary Harding to perform defence-shredding duties. Aberdeen didn’t get off to the best of starts when keeper David Preece was injured after just 10 minutes. Just before the half hour mark it looked like Harding had opened the scoring as he latched on to a neat flick from Martin Cameron but his effort was ruled out for reasons that only the referee will understand. But 10 minutes later we did take the lead, Cameron volleying home from a Baldicchino cross. We came under increasing pressure after the break but always looked dangerous on the break and came close to scoring a second. But the defence finally cracked with 8 minutes remaining and the visitors squared the game. There would be no further scoring and the 1-1 draw meant that we faced a replay at Aberdeen in 4 days time. It was a very good performance by the lads but there were some seriously tired legs at the end of the game and we will certainly have to make some changes for the return.

In the days leading up to the replay we made our first signing of the season as 29-year-old midfielder Alex Grace joins from Stranraer for a modest £1K. He has plenty of experience and is strong and fit with a good team ethic. With the imminent departure of Cohen I am hoping that he will prove to be an effective replacement.

For the replay itself we are without central defender Gary Brown, out for 3 weeks with a groin strain. Harding isn’t fit to play either so new boy Grace makes an early debut, despite being severely short of match fitness. We were under the cosh from the kick-off, having to survive wave after wave of Aberdeen attacks. We rode our luck for most of the first half thanks in part to some wild finishing by the Dons but then 5 minutes before half time central defender Paul O’Neill elbowed striker Scott Booth and off he went. I took off the tiring Grace and brought on David Holdsworth, the influential defender now back in full training but not yet match fit. We made it to the break still scoreless and ten minutes after half time we caught Aberdeen on the break, Baldicchino managing to latch on to a long ball to fire home. This served as a wake up call to the home side and within minutes Scott Booth, who caused us problems all evening, found an equaliser. Five minutes after that he scored again to put our hosts in front. We continued to absorb pressure, trying to hit our opponents on the break, a task made all the harder by being a player short. As the clock ticked down Aberdeen struck again in injury time and it was all over. The 3-1 defeat was not unexpected and we certainly gave them a good battle. The £50K prize money that we receive will make a big dent in the overdraft as well.

With a visit to Albion Rovers for a key league match coming just three days later, there were a number of changes made to the playing personnel to get some fresh legs on the pitch. Despite the best efforts of Gary Cohen who scored twice in each half, we fell to a 3-2 defeat in a tight and exciting contest.

In the days leading up to our midweek game at home to Cowdenbeath we secured zippy forward Andy Scott on loan from Stranraer. The 22-year-old has a good work ethic to complement his speed and he could prove to be useful. In addition to this Gary Cohen’s contract expired. The youngster is fully aware of our Chairman’s position and realises that he will not get a renewal but by the same token he is reluctant to leave the club. He has therefore decided to stay on with no contract in place and play on a month-to-month basis. Now not being one to look a gift horse in the mouth I am very happy with this arrangement and he can stay at Gretna until he finds a contract elsewhere.

In the match itself we don’t get off to the best of starts. Inside 5 minutes striker Cameron limps off injured and we fall a goal behind. But it doesn’t take us too long to get back on even terms, veteran Danny Lennon scoring a rare goal after 12 minutes. Baldacchino puts us ahead before halftime and after the break we really get into our stride. Dean Douglas and Gary Cohen score twice each as we dominate the second period and run out 6-1 winners.

With the transfer window about to close shortly we manage to offload a player – 21-year-old Englishman Steven Rooke moving to Berwick for £2K. A busy month on the playing front continues as we entertain cellar-dwellers Elgin in the league. The poor Highlanders had no answer to our aggressive attacking play and fell to an emphatic 7-0 defeat. Their defence was ripped to shreds and all in all they were really dreadful. Andy Scott scored a hat trick on his debut and Alex Grace managed three as well. Danny Lennon was also on the scoresheet having obviously decided that he liked this scoring lark.

The next day Elgin boss David Robertson was unceremoniously booted out and with his team bottom of the table with one win in 22 games I can’t say that I’m too surprised. St. Jonhnstone boss Billy Stark is also looking for alternative employment as he pays the price for a poor season. The Fifers are in 8th place in the First Division, just 1 point above a relegation place.

On the eve of the transfer deadline we manage to unload another Englishman with backup defender Gavin Skelton moving to Berwick for £2K. A very hectic month is brought to a conclusion by the visit of Queens Park. Andy Scott proves to be the match winner with a second consecutive hat trick. His performance is such that I am amazed that he was languishing in the Stranraer reserves before we took him on loan. The 3-1 win means that we end the month with a 10-point cushion over second place Stirling Albion and are looking pretty good for promotion. In the monthly awards Ryan Baldacchino is recognised as Player of the Month for his recent fine form.

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February 2004

The shortest month of the year gets underway with a trip to Stirling to play the Albion. Without wishing to be premature this could well be billed as a title decider as a win over our nearest rivals would put us in a strong position indeed. The lads certainly rose to the occasion, outplaying the home side and recording a 4-0 win. Cohen was on target twice as was Dean Douglas. The only downside was that winger John Hore suffered a broken arm and will be out for a month.

There is news of another managerial sacking as Inverness Caledonian dispense with the services of John Robertson. Currently in 7th place in Division One the Highlanders are not having the best of seasons and clearly feel that a new man at the helm is required.

The trip to struggling East Stirling should not cause us too many problems although I have no expectations that we will repeat our 11-0 demolition earlier in the season. As it turns out we had enough chances to come close to that scoreline as the home side offered little resistance. But two goals from Cohen and another from Baldacchino was enough for a comfortable 3-0 win.

After weeks of speculation, Stranraer finally parted company with manager Neil Watt. The 3rd-worst team in Division Three have had a poor season and poor Neil has now paid the price.

Our preparation for the visit of Montrose has been disrupted slightly by a few training injuries but nothing too serious. The visitors get off to a flying start with a goal inside 5 minutes but we respond well and strikes from Cameron, Cohen and Scott take us to the break 3-1 ahead. If anything we play even better in the second half. Cameron completes his hat trick, no doubt celebrating his new contract extension. Cohen gets his second and substitute Douglas, on for the injured Scott, also finds the net to complete a 7-1 win.

The UEFA Cup is back in action and the 3rd Round draw threw up a couple of Scotland v. England ties. Dundee got the better of Southampton 1-0 and Hearts had a fine 3-1 win over Manchester City.

Managerless Stranraer are the next team to visit “Fortress Raydale†as we seek to extend our perfect home record in the league. A first half brace from Andy Scott puts us on track as we establish a stranglehold on the game. In the second period the floodgates opened as Cohen gets a hat trick and Cameron scores twice. Our second 7-1 win in 7 days gives us 14 wins out of 14 at home and opens up an impressive 20-point lead at the top of the table.

Our fine February form sees a clean sweep of the monthly awards – Cohen and O’Neill taking the playing honours and myself the managerial award.

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March 2004

There was UEFA Cup success in the Scotland v England contests. Hearts lost 1-0 at Manchester City but won 3-2 overall and a scoreless draw at Southampton was enough for Dundee to go through.

A hat trick of home games was completed by the visit of Peterhead. Despite almost constant pressure the visitors defended bravely in the first half and looked destined to reach the break on even terms until Andy Scott broke the deadlock in stoppage time. The pattern was repeated in the second half with much the same result until Cameron doubled our advantage near the end. The 2-0 win extended our excellent home record in the league and it would take a spectacular collapse in form to derail our championship bid now.

In the UEFA Cup 4th Round Hearts fought out a battling 1-1 draw at home to Monaco and Dundee managed a narrow 1-0 win over Wolfsburg thanks to a last-minute penalty.

The league programme continued with a trip to Cowdenbeath. Going into the game I realised that if we won and Stirling Albion lost then such was our lead that we would win the title. Goals from Scott and Cohen gave us a half time lead and we were looking comfortable. A second from Scott and a strike by Cameron wrapped up a 4-0 win. Back in the changing rooms we got news of the Albion game – they had lost 4-3 at Queens Park and the title was ours.

The Old Firm met in the League Cup Final at Hampden Park and Rangers came out on top, beating their fierce rivals 4-2.

As it happens our next game is at home to Albion Rovers. There was no danger of us losing our unbeaten home record as two goals from Cohen and one from Cameron took us into the break 3-0 ahead. We could afford to relax in the second period and Andy Scott added a 4th goal near the end for an easy 4-0 win.

In the UEFA Cup both of the Scottish teams secured 0-0 draws in their away legs. Unfortunately for Hearts this meant that Monaco went through on the away goals rule but for Dundee it was good enough to progress with a 1-0 aggregate over Wolfsburg.

Once again we managed a clean sweep of the monthly awards with Cohen, O’Neill and myself all picking up the prizes.

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April 2004

At the start of the month winger John Hore’s contract expired and due to an accident of birth (he’s English) I can’t offer him a renewal. But, at least for the moment, he seems to be prepared to stay on without a contract in place.

On the playing side we open up with a trek up to the wilds of Elgin. It took a little while for the boys to run off the stiffness of the long coach journey but goals from Cohen, Cameron and Baldacchino see us through to a 3-0 win.

Dundee continue to punch above their weight and in the UEFA Cup Quarter Final they come back from Parma with a fine 1-1 draw.

The month continues with a visit by hapless East Stirling. They are bottom of the table with just three wins all season and I can’t see their luck changing much today. But the visitors put up some plucky resistance in the first half, finally going behind from the penalty spot in stoppage time, Baldacchino coolly converting. They ran out of steam somewhat in the second period though and two goals from Cohen and one from Scott saw us run out 4-0 winners.

Dundee’s brave UEFA Cup adventure was finally ended as they lost 2-1 at home to Parma. The visitors scored in the first half but Dundee struck back with an equaliser to take the game into extra time before finally losing out.

The Chairman tells me of another approach that he has had for my services, this time from struggling English Second Division side Colchester. Once again I decline the offer, preferring to stay where I am for the time being.

A trip to the seaside is next as we journey to Montrose for our next game. Scott and Cohen take us into the interval 2-0 to the good but shortly after the restart Cameron and Baldacchino both need to be replaced. This does little to cramp our style as substitutes Dean Douglas and James Allan are quickly into action. Douglas gets a hat trick, Allen scores one and Cohen gets his second as we complete an impressive 7-1 win.

A day in Glasgow is next on the agenda as we travel to play Queens Park at the magnificent Hampden Park. The quality of the football doesn’t quite match the grandeur of the surroundings but we get a decent win nonetheless. Two goals from the prolific Cohen plus one apiece from Scott and Baldacchino is more than enough to get the points.

In the monthly awards Gary Cohen once again picks up Player of the month with the managerial plaudits going to yours truly.

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Thanks D_S. Stay tuned and you may find that the Shire's fortunes improve slightly.

May 2004

We have just two games remaining this season and our final home game is against promotion-chasing Stirling Albion. They are 3rd in the table behind Albion Rovers on goal difference and will be desperate to get a result. The visitors are nothing if not determined and they approach the game with a very physical style of play. Their robust approach deprives us of the services of Cameron and O’Neill, both of whom retire injured in the first half. To rub salt into the wound they also take the lead after 25 minutes. But ultimately their over-enthusiastic display is at the root of their own downfall as we are awarded two penalties, both converted by Baldacchino. As they start to chase the game they are caught on the break, Andy Scott benefiting with two late goals to make the final score 4-1 in our favour.

Despite having a decent run in Europe the domestic form of Hearts has been poor and manager Craig Levein pays the price with his job.

Our season comes to conclusion with a trip to Stranraer. We are unusually profligate in front of goal, missing a slew of chances and the game is finally settled by a penalty converted by Andy Scott to give us a 1-0 win.

So a marvellous season concludes with a rather low-key win but nothing can take away the satisfaction of having won the Third Division title in such convincing style. Our dominance was reflected in the send of season awards. Gary Cohen was hailed as Player of the Year and along with team mates Martin Cameron and Danny Lennon, was given a place in the Team of the Year. I modestly accepted the Manager of the Year award, thoughtfully restricting my acceptance speech to a rather brief 45 minutes.

Celtic completed a fine domestic season by securing the League and Cup double with Rangers having to settle for the League Cup. Partick Thistle were relegated from the SPL with Division One champs Falkirk taking their place. Ross County and St. Mirren drop to the Second Division with Morton and Airdrie United replacing them. Dumbarton and Berwick drop to Division Three and Albion Rovers join us in moving up to take their place.

Elsewhere Manchester United won a historic treble for the second time, clinching the domestic double and adding the Champions League title and Liverpool lifted the UEFA Cup.

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June 2004

As we move towards the summer break the first of an inevitable set of changes to the squad starts to take place. Veterans Ian Stevens, Davie Irons, Keith Knox and David Wylie all leave as their contracts expire. The chairman finally cottons on to the fact that I have kept a couple of non-Scots players on a month-to-month basis and insists that they must be given their marching orders so the brilliant Gary Cohen and John Hore also depart. Striker Andy Scott really impressed during his loan spell so I make the move permanent by agreeing a £1K fee with Stranraer.

As we continue preparations for life in the Second Division it is clear that the club’s finances are still not in great shape but the board has still made £30K available for transfers. We finally manage to get rid of overpaid skiver Stephen Cosgrove as we agree a free transfer to Chesterfield. Another English player is let go at the end of his contract as Mick Galloway leaves the club.

Wit a combination of transfers and loans we are gradually bringing some new blood into the squad. On the loan front we get forward Stewart Jack (22) from Queens Park, winger Michael Dunnet (20) comes from Ross County and central defender Keith Melville (19) from Forfar. Defensive midfielder Chris Kerr (25) joins from Ayr United for £5K and midfielder Paul McHale (22) comes from St. Mirren on a free transfer.

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July 2004

We lose another “foreign†player as reserve striker Wayne Gordon is released at the end of his contract. We still have 19 English players on the playing staff but we are gradually chipping away at them.

We have received several offers for friendly matches this month, some of which were very surprising indeed. We have accepted several of them in the hope of bringing in some extra cash and the first is against Partick Thistle of the First Division. This didn’t really work as planned with less than 150 spectators bothering to come along. We did get a good 3-1 win but lost hat trick hero Andy Scott for a month with a groin strain.

Our next friendly was against none other that Dutch giants Feyenoord – why on earth they wanted to play us I have no idea but I wasn’t going to turn down an offer like that. We were doing pretty well until right back Mark Birch got himself sent off and we struggled from there on. We finally lost 5-2 but Martin Cameron played out of his skin to score twice. At least we had a decent attendance for this game and managed to make a few bob in gate receipts.

Our final friendly was another big one as Newcastle visited Raydale Park. Once again I have no clue why the Mags arranged this game – perhaps they didn’t want to travel too far. We went behind early on to an Alan Shearer goal but we managed to hang on fairly well and finally suffered a respectable 3-1 defeat. Cameron was on target once again but we had another player sent off and keeper Mathieson picked up an injury.

So all in all the friendlies were a complete waste of time really. We made a little money but nowhere enough to put a dent in out debt and we will go into the first game of the season with three players suspended and four injured!

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August 2004

Our first competitive match is at Montrose in the Challenge Cup and a pretty dire performance sees us suffer a 5-2 defeat. It is hard to single out anyone who did well but strikers Harding and Cameron at least scored a goal each. Reserve keeper Vince Parker was dire – let’s hope it was just nerves rather than a complete lack of ability.

The league campaign opens with a visit by Alloa and a few changes are made to the starting eleven. We put in a much better performance and goals from Stewart Jack and Alex Grace gives us a 2-0 win and a fine start to life in Division Two.

During the next week we see a few changes to the squad. Experienced winger Allan Grant is signed from Stranraer on a free transfer, we offload Englishman Simon Ruddick to Macclesfield for £2K and we loan a young attacking midfielder called Brian Vaughn from Charlton for the season.

In the Challenge Cup perennial strugglers East Stirling achieved one of the biggest wins in their recent history, disposing of First Division St. Johnstone 3-2 at Firs Park. Both teams had a player sent off in a lively encounter but the Third Division side triumphed in the end.

Rangers gave themselves an excellent chance of reaching the group stages of the Champions league with a 4-2 win at home to KF Tirana of Albania.

Both of our new boys were in the side for the trip to St. Mirren and the duo made decent debuts. We played excellent attacking football and achieved a fine 4-0 win. Our opening goal came from central defender David Holdsworth before two penalty awards, both converted by Gary Harding, gave us a comfortable 3-0 lead at the break. Martin Cameron added the 4th after the interval and his excellent performances have attracted a great deal of interest recently.

At the end of the month we welcome the visit of Forfar and could field an unchanged side. The game turned out to be a bit of a thriller as the visitors came back from two goals down to force a draw. Two goals from Gary Harding gave us a 2-0 lead at half time but Forfar pulled a goal back with 20 minutes remaining. We struck back quickly with Allan Grant scoring his first since his arrival but then conceded two goals in the last 4 minutes and had to settle for a 3-3 draw.

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September 2004

Rangers secured their place in the Champions League groups with a 1—0 win in Albania to record a 5-2 aggregate defeat of KF Tirana.

Our opening game of the month at Arbroath could only be described as a game of two halves. We gave away a penalty to fall a goal behind after 5 minutes, 10 minutes later Holdsworth limped off with an injury and on the half hour defensive partner Paul O’Neill also came off injured. With just one central defender on the bench Danny Lennon had to drop back from midfield to play as an emergency centre back. But in the second half Gary Harding finally woke up and scored a good equaliser and then in stoppage time at the end of the game Cameron fired home the winner with a powerful free kick.

Just three days later we were in action again, welcoming Albion Rovers in the League Cup and I changed the team around completely to rest the first choice players. A close first half finished scoreless and 10 minutes after the restart we spurned a golden opportunity to take the lead when Andy Scott missed a penalty. Then with 15 minutes remaining we fell behind and looked down and out. But with Scott tiring rapidly I brought on Martin Cameron and he squared the game within minutes of his arrival on the pitch. Full time was reached with no further scoring but Cameron completed his hat trick with two goals in the first period of extra time to take us through 3-1.

We had a weekend off because of International fixtures and Scotland started their World Cup qualification campaign with a 4-1 demolition of Greece at Hampden Park.

As coincidence would have it our next league game was a carbon copy of our last match, a visit by Albion Rovers. This time it took the visitors 8 minutes to open the scoring although it would have happened sooner had Paul O’Neill not been in the right place to clear off the line a few minutes earlier. Cameron scored an equaliser after 25 minutes and then 5 minutes before half time we took the lead when Harding converted from the penalty spot. Three minutes later it was all square but then Cameron struck again in first half stoppage time and we went into the interval with a 3-2 lead. But within 5 minutes of the restart it was even again as the visitors scored and then just before the hour they took the lead from the penalty spot. But the excitement wasn’t over yet. On 67 minutes Gary Wills found an equaliser, 4 minutes after that Harding slotted home his second penalty to put us in front and with 15 minutes remaining Alex Grace was on target to make the final score 6-4!

Rangers opened their Champions League group with an excellent 2-1 win at home to Milan. New signing Jason Euell scored the decisive second goal to secure the win. Celtic were less fortunate, suffering a narrow 1-0 defeat at Shakhtar. On the same evening East Stirling’s hopes of glory came to an end when they were defeated 4-2 by Clyde in the Challenge Cup Semi Final.

In a change to my usual approach I decided to field a weakened team in the league in preparation for a cup game. The side that would travel to East Fife had a number of fringe players selected as our League Cup game in midweek involved a trip to SPL side Dundee United and I didn’t want to take a real beating in that game. A particularly poor performance saw us lose 2-0 and we also lost first choice keeper Mathieson, out for 2 weeks with a twisted knee.

The gamble of saving the first team for the cup game pays off big time as we play superbly at Tannadice and come away with a 2-1 win. Allan Grant got us off to a great start with a goal after just 5 minutes. We give as good as we get for the rest of the game but are finally pegged back on 78 minutes when goal hero Grant deflects the ball past keeper Parker. But two minutes from time we complete our giant killing act when Harding latches on to a knockdown from Cameron to fire home.

On the same evening Aberdeen and Kilmarnock are both in UEFA Cup action. The Dons beat Partizani of Albania 3-1 at home and Killie have an impressive 3-0 win in Finland at MyPa.

At the end of the month we sit in 3rd place in the table and our star player Martin Cameron is voted Player of the Month. We also find out that our next opponents in the League Cup will be another SPL side as we will travel to Kilmarnock.

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  • 2 weeks later...

October 2004

After our triumph in Dundee we have no time to rest on our laurels as three days later we have to travel to Second Division leaders Ross County. The highlanders are unbeaten so far with 5 wins and a draw from their 6 games played. I have to make a couple of changes to the lineup but I can still field a decent side. A poor start sees us two goals behind inside the first 30 minutes. But we show great resilience to recover from what looks like a hopeless position. Cameron pulls a goal back just after the restart and Harding equalises from the penalty spot with 15 minutes remaining. A minute later veteran midfielder Danny Lennon puts us in front and a late goal from Cameron wraps up a 4-2 win.

In the Champions League midweek games Celtic gain an excellent 1-0 win at home to Inter and Rangers return from Monaco with a goalless draw. The chairman also informs me of another approach for my services, this time from English Division Three strugglers Huddersfield, but I politely decline the offer.

Our next league action sees a visit from Hamilton. Harding gives us an early lead before we lose Cameron to injury. Winger Michael Dunnet puts us further ahead just before substitute striker Andy Scott also has to be replaced, James Allan coming on to play up front. There is no further scoring and I am more than happy to settle for the 2-0 win.

With a weekend off due to World Cup qualifiers we are able to watch Scotland return from Denmark with a creditable 1-1 draw.

In the UEFA Cup Kilmarnock complete a fine 5-1 aggregate defeat of Finnish side MyPa and Aberdeen progress with the same overall scoreline against Partizani.

Suitably refreshed after our break we get back into action with a trip to my old stomping ground of Stenhousemuir, where I went to senior school. The home side set about us with a vengeance and for the second game in succession we lose Cameron early with a knock. An incident-packed game sees us go a goal behind but Dunnet finds an equaliser. We fall behind once more before half time but centre back Melville squares the game just after the restart. The Forfar loanee then puts us in front only for Stennie to score their 3rd with 15 minutes remaining. We are grateful for keeper Vince Parker who makes some good stops to keep us alive and secure a lively 3-3 draw.

In the Champions League Celtic suffer a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Benfica in Glasgow and the much-hyped encounter between Rangers and Manchester United ends scoreless.

Just before our final game of the month at Alloa I hear that Swindon, struggling near the bottom of the Second Division, would like to engage my services but I am not prepared to leave Gretna just yet. Full back Ryan McGuffie gives us the lead but within 5 minutes the game is tied as the home side equalise. As time ticks away it seems that we will settle for a draw but substitute Brian Vaughan scores deep in stoppage time to give us a 2-1 win. We end the month sitting in first place in the league, a point above Ross County.

The first domestic trophy of the season is decided when Clyde lift the Challenge Cup, beating Morton 2-1 in a very tight contest.

In the monthly awards Kevin Mellville is honoured as Player of the Month.

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November 2004

As we start to move into winter our opening game of the month is a midweek trip to SPL side Kilmarnock to contest a League Cup 3rd round tie. We have to face them without the excellent Mellville who is sidelined for 3 weeks with a shoulder injury sustained in training. With three other centre backs either injured or suspended Marc Cleeland has to play as an emergency defender. We don’t have the best of starts, conceding an early goal and then losing Harding to injury. We fall further behind in the second half before Gary Wills pulls a goal back from the penalty spot. But we couldn’t complete the recovery and exit the competition with a 2-1 defeat. The shock of the round was the elimination of Glasgow giants Celtic by Division Two minnows Alloa who won a penalty shootout after a 1-1 draw.

We had to put the disappointing defeat behind us and prepare for the imminent visit of St. Mirren. The Paisley side have been in abysmal from in the league and are in one of the two relegation places. I have to make a few changes to the team to rest some tired legs but we still manage to get a decent 2-0 win. Cameron gives us a great start with an early goal and Shaun Milligan secures the points with a penalty just before the break.

There is more Champions League action with Rangers triumphing in the visit to Manchester United, gaining an excellent 2-0 win leaving the English giants in real danger of elimination. Rivals Celtic are not so fortunate, coming back from Benfica with a 1-1 draw. In the UEFA Cup Aberdeen are drawn against Everton and record a magnificent 4-0 win in the home tie but Kilmarnock suffer a 4-2 defeat at home to Bordeaux.

We are back to league action with a long trek north to play Forfar. Harding puts us ahead virtually straight from the kickoff but the home side get an immediate equaliser. Harding gets his second of the game before the break but just after the restart we lose full back McGuffie when he gets his second yellow card of the game. But even with ten men we score again, midfielder Douglas Taylor finding the net to give us a 3-1 win.

The visit of bottom side Arbroath proves to be interesting as we dominate the game but with an hour on the clock we only have a Ryan Errington goal to show for our efforts. The visitors stun us with a breakaway goal to tie the scores but fortunately we come good in the end, goals from Grace, Taylor and Milligan giving us a 4-1 win that was no more than we deserved.

Young forward Gary Harding is now out of contract and although I am forbidden to offer him an extension due to his extreme Englishness, he seems to be in no hurry to leave and stays with us on a month-to-month arrangement.

We end the month with a trip to Albion Rovers and a lacklustre display allows the home side to extend their unbeaten league run to 9 games with a 1-0 win. Despite that setback we still occupy first place but are now just one point clear of Ross County.

In the Champions League Celtic suffer a devastating 3-0 defeat at home to Shakhtar and Rangers slump to a 2-0 defeat in Milan. Both teams need to win their final matches to have any hope of qualification. Despite losing 2-0 at Goodison Park, Aberdeen progress in the UEFA Cup but Kilmarnock are eliminated.

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December 2004

The month opens with a convincing 4-0 defeat of East Fife, our task made all the easier by the home side having a player dismissed in each half. Harding was on target twice, fellow striker Cameron added one and winger Dunnet also found the net.

We open our Scottish Cup campaign with a home tie against East Stirling from the Third Division. A Harding hat trick plus a header from Kevin Melville gives us a comfortable 4-0 win.

A goalless draw against Monaco at Ibrox is not enough for Rangers to progress in the Champions League and they finish in 3rd place in their group. Rivals Celtic pull off a superb 2-1 win at Inter to finish above the Italians as runners-up and go into the knockout stages.

We go straight into midweek action with a tough game at home to promotion contenders Ross County. Two excellent strikes from distance by Alex Grace put us in the driving seat but the visitors pull a goal back just before the interval. The inspired Grace completes his hat trick just after the restart and Cameron scores our 4th late on. A stoppage time strike from the visitors gives them some consolation but I am delighted with the fine 4-1 win.

I have to rest some tired legs for the visit by Stenhousemuir but goals from Harding and Cameron are enough for a 2-0 win and three more valuable points.

A hectic month continues with a midweek visit to Ross County as we try to extend our Scottish Cup run. It is first blood to the home side but Taylor finds an immediate equaliser and we reach halftime all square. Taylor scores his second of the game to put us ahead and Cameron makes it 3-0 five minutes later. A penalty from Harding kills off our demoralised opponents and we progress with a 4-1 win.

Before we make the trip to Hamilton I offload a couple of our English players with Kyle May moving to Swansea and David Hewson joining Torquay, both on free transfers. A rather below-par performance sees us end the month with a 2-0 defeat. Despite the loss we enter the New Year three points clear of Ross County at the top of the table. Cameron is voted Player of the Month with Harding winning the Goal of the Month.

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January 2005

On New Years Day we welcome the visit of Alloa and goals in each half from Grace and Cameron are enough for a 2-0 win.

A trip to Love Street follows to take on St. Mirren. We fall behind after 20 minutes but full back Mark Birch squares the game before Cameron puts us ahead before half time. A further strike by Cameron extends our lead before the home side pull a goal back. However we score two more through Grace and Grant to return with a 5-2 win. Unfortunately we suffer a couple of injuries – Harding will be out for a fortnight and loan winger Dunnet will miss the rest of the season, a real blow as he has been playing well for us. I rather cold-heartedly decide to terminate his loan deal and see if I can pick up a replacement elsewhere. Within a few days I secure the services of Stirling youngster Chris Geddes for the remainder of the season.

Our Scottish Cup campaign continues with a visit from First Division Brechin. Everything goes our way in this game. We take the lead through an own goal, the visitors have a man sent off, Ryan Errington scores a hat trick and we win 5-1, Grant getting the other goal.

We come back from our trip to bottom club Arbroath with a 3-0 win. Grace put us ahead from the penalty spot and centre backs Melville and O’Neill were both on target in the second half.

A hectic month continues with a visit from Forfar. Following a scoreless first half we hit top gear after the break with Harding and Vaughan each scoring a brace and Geddes joins in the fun as we rack up a 5-0 win.

The month ends with another away game as we visit East Fife. The sparse crows enjoyed some attacking football from both sides with the goalies kept very busy. The home side went into the break a goal to the good but we scored twice in the last 7 minutes through Grace and Cleeland before conceding a stoppage time equaliser to end with a 2-2 draw.

We stretch our lead over Ross County to 9 points and look very capable of securing promotion. Winger Allan Grant is recognised as Player of the Month in the January awards and I win Manager of the Month.

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February 2005

The moth begins with a long trek north to face title-rivals Ross County. We are awarded two first-half penalties, both converted by Gary Harding, and reach the break well in control. The home side reduce the deficit but Cameron ties up the 3-1 win ten minutes from time.

Our Scottish Cup adventure continues at First Division St. Johnstone. We thoroughly outplay the home side and gain a fine 1-0 win, Kevin Melville scoring the only goal of the game late on with a powerful header from a Geddes corner. We can even afford the luxury of a missed Harding penalty minutes later.

Next up we have a midweek visit from Albion Rovers and we dominate possession but don’t make the most of our opportunities. A Cameron goal after 65 minutes is cancelled out ten minutes from time and we have to settle for a 1-1 draw.

There is little time for rest before our next league match, a visit from Hamilton but we secure a 2-0 win with goals from Harding and Geddes. Unfortunately central defender Melville picks up a knock and will be out for at least a week.

A trip to Stenhousemuir closes out the month and sustained first-half pressure sees us reach the break 3-0 ahead thanks to Cameron, Vaughan and Harding. The home side pull a goal back after the restart but centre back Gary Brown, in for the inured Melville, restores our three-goal lead and we finish with a 4-1 win.

Another good month on the pitch sees us extend our lead at the top of the table to 12 points and I scoop the Manager of the Month award.

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March 2005

European competition restarts this month and in the Champions League knockout stage Celtic make the relatively short trip to London but are beaten 2-0 by Arsenal and have a lot of work to do to stay in the competition. In the UEFA Cup Rangers also face domestic opposition, beating Manchester City 1-0 in Glasgow whilst Aberdeen draw 1-1 at home to Bordeaux.

We start off with a visit to Alloa and the home side go in front with less than ten minutes played but a Grace penalty evens the score before the interval. We outplay them in the second period and further goals from Harding, Errington and Cameron see us run out 4-1 winners. The bad news is that keeper Vince Parker will be out for 3 weeks with a calf strain.

In the UEFA Cup, a scoreless draw in Manchester is enough for Rangers to progress. Aberdeen draw 1-1 in France and the game is decided on penalties with the Dons winning the shootout 5-4.

In possibly the biggest game in the Club’s short history we travel to Livingston for the Scottish Cup Quarter Final and we are without key defender Melville who picked up a knock in training. The SPL side are immediately on the attack and score virtually straight from the kick-off. We refuse to be intimidated though and within ten minutes Cameron finds an equaliser. Unfortunately our key striker has to leave the field injured shortly before half time. Errington puts us in dreamland with a goal on 52 minutes and we are able to hold on for a historic 2-1 win to reach the Semi Finals.

We barely have time to draw breath before we are back in action once more with St. Mirren the visitors and Cameron, Harding and Grant all score in a fairly comfortable 3-0 win.

Celtic bow out of the Champions League, losing 1-0 to Arsenal at Parkhead for a disappointing 3-0 aggregate defeat. In the UEFA Cup the domestic matchups continue with Aberdeen suffering a comprehensive 3-0 defeat at Middlesbrough whilst Rangers have to settle for a scoreless draw at home to Marseille.

A trip to Forfar soon follows and we gift them an early goal straight from the kick-off. Stewart Jack is making a very rare start as we rest Cameron and the loanee scores twice in the second half but we concede another sloppy goal near the end and leave with a 2-2 draw.

The first major trophy of the season is decided with Kilmarnock beating Aberdeen 2-0 in the League Cup Final.

Before our next game we unload another unwanted Englishman as Richard Prokas goes to Fleet Town for a nominal £1K.

Our final game of the month sees the visit of bottom club Arbroath. Little goes right for us in the first half as we lose Melville to injury and see Vaughan blast a penalty high over the bar. But things improve after the break and goals from Grant and O’Neill give us a 2-0 win. Once the dust has settled and the other scores are in it becomes clear that we have upset the odds and secured promotion to the First Division.

In the UEFA Cup Aberdeen were unable to recover from their first leg defeat and were eliminated but Rangers went through on penalties after a scoreless draw in Marseille.

We make a clean sweep of the monthly awards with Allan Grant and Gary Harding scooping the player’s awards and yours truly getting the managerial plaudits.

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April 2005

We had no competitive action in the first weekend of the month as World Cup qualification continued. Scotland had an impressive 4-0 win in Latvia to maintain second place in their group. This was followed by a creditable goalless draw at home to group leaders Holland.

The lads may have been preoccupied with the forthcoming Semi Final as their performance at Albion Rovers was not the best and we suffer a 2-0 defeat.

In the UEFA Cup Quarter Finals Rangers are involved in a 6-goal thriller at home to Club Brugge, the game ending 3-3.

The big day arrives and we travel to Hampden Park to face First Division Partrick Thistle in the Scottish Cup Semi Final. Kilmarnock have already booked their place in the Final with a 2-0 defeat of Motherwell a day earlier. Our opponents are riding high in their division, battling out the single promotion place with Clyde, so it will be far from easy. I risk playing a less than fit Melville in central defence and hope that he will be able to stand the pace. The boys are fired up and set about their opponents with a vengeance, having the better of the first half but unable to find a goal. The deadlock is broken 10 minutes after the break by Alex Grace with a well-crafted goal. On the hour mark Allan Grant is on hand to prod home a rebound and we have one foot in the final. With time running out Grace seals a fantastic win with his second goal of the game. The lads all played above themselves as Thistle seemed to freeze and Grace and Grant, our most experienced players, were both outstanding. Melville didn’t last the 90 minutes but his performance was also important at the back.

There is precious little time to celebrate, as we are straight into midweek action with a visit from East Fife. A few players are rested but we still get a 2-0 win with goals from Cameron and Grace. The win also seals the championship as Ross County can no loner overtake us.

Rangers bow out of the UEFA Cup, losing 2-0 at Brugge for a 5-3 aggregate defeat.

As it happens our next game is at home to Ross County but with the title wrapped we are playing just for pride but they are seeking to secure promotion. My main concern on the playing side is another injury to Melville and we will be struggling to get home fit enough for the Cup Final. The game ends goalless which is probably a fair reflection of the balance of play.

For our final game of a momentous month we travel to Hamilton. Grant gives us the lead in the first half but we concede twice after the break to lose 2-1. My main concern now is to keep all of our key players fit and available and we get through the game injury-free. Ross County tie up second place and promotion and Arbroath are relegated.

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May 2005

The month begins with bad news on the injury front as loanee Brian Vaughan sustains a torn groin muscle. I feel very sorry for the lad as he will now miss the Cup Final and I send him back to Charlton with a heavy heart. He has been an important player for us this season and it is sad to see him leave in these circumstances. Striker Shaun Milligan will also be unavailable, as a back strain will keep him out for 4 weeks.

Our league campaign ends with a visit from Stenhousemuir and goals from Cameron and Grace give us a 2-0 win. Melville was fit enough to sit on the bench and he came on for the second half and is looking fit and well. St. Mirren take the second relegation place in the division after they lost 4-3 at relegated Arbroath and fail to overhaul Alloa.

Cameron, Grace and Harding are all selected for the Second Division team of the Year for their excellent play throughout the season. Cameron was also recognised as the Player of the Year, Harding was runner-up in Goal of the Season and I won the Manager of the Year award.

Club Brugge are shock winners of the UEFA Cup, beating Inter on penalties after a goalless encounter in Marseille.

The day before the Cup Final we suffer a severe blow as Alex Grace is ruled out after he fractured his jaw in an unfortunate accident on the training ground. The game itself took place in a far-from-packed Hampden, with less than 35,000 spectators reflecting the unglamorous nature of the finalists. An even first half ended scoreless and we looked fairly comfortable in our steady 4-4-2 formation with keeper Parker not having to make save in the first 45 minutes. Kilmarnock applied increasing pressure in the second half and with 15 minutes remaining Paul Di Giacomo came close to a breakthrough but his shot came back off the post. Then with less than 10 minutes remaining Allan Grant was brought down in the area by Emerson and 20-year-old Gary Harding stepped forward to fire us in front. We withstood an onslaught for the remainder of the game but held firm to achieve the impossible – we won the Scottish Cup. In 90 minutes we had made history as never before had a Second Division team achieved such a feat.

The prize money alone wiped out our debt and gave us a considerable amount of money in the bank to rebuild the team. With 6 or 8 of our English players all approaching the end of their contracts there would need to be some serious rebuilding before next season.

A momentous season was brought to an end with the Champions League Final and Arsenal triumphed with a 2-0 defeat of FC Bayern.

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June 2005

As soon as the season officially ended the changes in the playing staff began. Billy Barr and David Holdsworth both retired, Ryan McGuffie made a pre-arranged move to Stirling and Lee Marshall went to Farnborough. Stewart Jack, Kevin Melville and Chris Geddes all finished their loans and returned to their clubs.

Scotland’s World Cup campaign took a blow with a 2-1 defeat at home to Denmark and they slip to 3rd place in their group.

With no less than 8 English players now out of contract the Chairman puts his foot down and insists that they all leave the club. This means that star striker Harding, club captain Paul O’Neill and winger Ryan Errington all depart. The others were fringe players at best but those three will really be missed.

When I meet with the Chairman to discuss the plans for the forthcoming season I am not too impressed with what I hear. He has no plans to invest in the stadium or the training facilities and despite having the best part of £700K in the bank I am allowed just £120K in transfer funds. We now have a total playing strength of 19 players, most of whom are rubbish, we are facing a relegation battle in the First Division and will be playing the UEFA Cup and I go into all that with a pitiful transfer budget and a god-awful stadium. I will be giving serious consideration to my future at the club I think.

I put those thought to one side for the moment and begin to look around for players that the Chairman will accept (this means Scottish and cheap!).

I decide to bid for Kevin Melville and a fee of £2K is agreed with Forfar and he joins the club.

July 2005

I start to look at loan signings and agree to bring in Michael Dunnet from Ross County. He was with us last season until he sustained an injury and he did well for us. Former Celtic youngster Stephen McManus comes in on trial and does well enough to be offered a permanent deal. A number of other trialists come and go and we pick up a few decent looking lads including goalkeeper J. C. Hutchison (20), striker Michael Lau (20), winger Robert Campbell (20) and midfielder Lewis Sloan (17). We also get a couple of experienced campaigners on free signings as well. Central defender Jim Lauchlan has years of SPL experience behind him and full back Duncan Jupp has played in the EPL for Wimbledon.

I accept a couple of surprising invitations for pre-season warm-ups. Hearts are first to visit Raydale Park and are sent packing with a 2-0 defeat but Liverpool fare better, winning 1-0.

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August 2005

I turn to the loan market to further strengthen the squad with defender Shaun Molloy (20) joining from Dundee United for the season.

All too soon it’s time for our first competitive game of the season, a trip to Queen of the South. With half a dozen new faces in the team things will take time to gel so I am not too unhappy with the 2-2 draw. We fell behind twice, coming back each time to square the game and strikers Cameron and Lau were both on target to open their accounts.

In the Champions League 3rd qualifying round Rangers have a severe setback, losing 2-0 at Slavia Prague. The next evening we participate in another historical event when we play our first ever game in European competition. We travel to Bulgaria to face Neman Grodno, a totally unknown quantity as far as I am concerned. It takes less than 20 minutes for the home side to score but we show some spirit and force their keeper into action on several occasions. The Bulgarians score twice more in the second half but a late gaol from substitute Robert Campbell gives us a glimmer of hope for the return leg.

The next day we complete the signing of another former loan player as midfielder Brian Vaughan joins from Charlton for £80K. Imagine my reaction when the first thing he does is suffer a serious injury in training, requiring surgery and a 6-month layout to rectify the problem!

Our next league match is at home to Inverness Caledonian, the result being another 2-2 draw. We recovered from a goal behind to score twice through Cameron before the visitors tied the game.

We are into cup action next with a home game against St. Mirren in the Challenge Cup. Goals from Lau, Cameron and Grace give us a comfortable 3-0 win as the visitors offered very little threat coming forward.

We are soon back into league action with a visit to St. Johnstone and a solitary goal from Cameron gives us our first win of the season.

A 1-1 draw for Rangers at Ibrox fails to repair the damage of the first leg and they crash out of the Champions League.

We end the month unbeaten on the league and in 3rd place in the table.

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September 2005

Our first game of the month is the return leg of our UEFA Cup tie. We are chasing a two-goal deficit but a goal from Michael Lau midway through the first half gets us part way there. Then with 20 minutes remaining Alex Grace calmly converts a penalty to tie the aggregate scores. Less than 5 minutes later Cameron gets a third and we survive some late pressure from the visitors to record a historic victory.

In the first round of the League Cup East Stirling of the Third Division rack up an incredible 7-0 win at home to Division One side Inverness Caledonian, one of the biggest results in the club’s history.

Scotland take a big step towards a World Cup Playoff place with a fine 3-1 win in Greece.

Our next game is a Challenge Cup match at Cowdenbeath and a second-string selection wins a marathon penalty shootout after the game ended 2-2. No less than 13 penalties from each side were required to decide the contest. On the same evening Scotland beat Latvia 3-1 to virtually assure the runners-up spot in their group.

Our first league game for some weeks involves a trip north to play Ross County and goals from Lau, Cameron and substitute Andy Scott give us a good 3-0 win.

We find ourselves facing Queens Park in the Challenge Cup Semi Final and an extra-time goal from Stephen McManus is enough to take us to the final. On the same evening Celtic have an excellent 3-1 win at home to Manchester United in the opening game of their Champions League group.

I am concerned about a lack of cover in central defence with only three decent centre backs in the squad so I agree a fee of £80K to bring the experienced Scott Walker from Alloa. The 30-year-old will join when the transfer window opens in January.

A poor performance in our next game allows bottom club Partick Thistle to go home with a 2-1 win.

As we prepare to face Steaua Bucharest in the UEFA Cup full back Mark Birch suffers a dreadful accident in training, fracturing his skull, and he will be out of action for at least 6 months. In the game itself we play quite superbly and win 2-0 with goals from Dunnet and Lau. There were 5 other Scottish teams in action on the same night. Hibs drew 1-1 at Brondby, Kilmarnock lost 3-2 at Club Brugge, Rangers won 2-0 against Grasshopper in Zurich, Hearts won 2-0 at Hajduk and Aberdeen lost 4-0 at Parma.

At the end of the month we sit in 4th place in the table just three points behind leaders Dunfermline. In the monthly awards Martin Cameron is voted Player of the Month.

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October 2005

A home game against Ayr gets the month going and both sides serve up some attractive attacking football. The visitors go ahead twice but each time we are able to respond, first through Lau and then through Cameron and the game ends 2-2.

Celtic suffer a reverse in the Champions League, losing 1-0 in Milan.

Our next game is a midweek visit from Dunfermline and two goals from Cameron gives us a comfortable 2-0 win.

On our visit to Raith Rovers the strikers are on target again, Cameron with a brace and Lau grabbing a hat trick in our 5-1 win.

World Cup qualifiers give us a weekend off and we can enjoy a wonderful 2-1 win for Scotland in Holland that secures the runners-up place in the group and a place in the playoffs.

We journey to Bucharest to see if we can keep our European adventure alive and despite having some injury problems we defend valiantly until the 88th minute when Steau take the lead. But a stoppage time goal from Grant makes the game totally safe and the fairytale continues as we win 3-1 on aggregate. Hearts, Hibs, Kilmarnock and Rangers all manage to progress too although Aberdeen are well beaten.

It is a tired group of players that face visiting Brechin but we still have more than enough quality to get the win. Goals from Lennon, Grace and Cameron give us a 3-0 victory and three more points.

Celtic suffer another Champions League defeat, losing 2-0 in Shakhtar.

At the end of the month we have a chance to win another trophy as we face Third Division Elgin in the Challenge Cup Final. We prove to be far too strong for the Highlanders and run out easy 4-0 winners with Dunnet, Grant, Grace and McHale providing the goals.

We end the month holding second place in Division One and Martin Cameron is voted Player of the month.

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November 2005

Despite all of Gretna’s success on the pitch since I arrived at he club, my relationship with the Chairman has been increasingly fraught. I was very unhappy with the transfer budget made available after our triumph last season and the Board’s refusal to even contemplate improvements to the training facilities or start any planning for a stadium expansion has highlighted what seems to me to be a lack of ambition. I have a core of fine players in the squad but without the full backing of the board the club will not be able to sustain the success that we have achieved so far.

After yet another fruitless Board meeting I was feeling increasingly frustrated when I heard that Stirling Albion had sacked manager Allan Moore and on an impulse I called the Chairman. We quickly agreed a deal and I immediately resigned from Gretna. The response from the players and supporters was one of great shock and surprise and I felt a pang of guilt about walking out on them. But I needed a new challenge and I felt that the Stirling Board would offer me the type of support that I needed.

But after a few days in the job I did wonder if I had been a little hasty. The team was bottom of the Third Division with only one win so far this season and the club was saddled with over £500K of debt. On the playing front the club had 32 players on their books and were some £2.5K over their wage budget. After a couple of training sessions it was obvious that there wasn’t a whole lot of quality in the squad so some serious rebuilding would be necessary. But the first priority was to get a steady 4-4-2 formation established, sort out the wheat from the chaff and get some points on the board.

(Author’s Note – I am now entering Stage 2 of the challenge and my objective is to get Stirling into Division One)

My first game in charge was a trip to Elgin and a fairly solid performance ended with a goalless draw. Young right winger Dougie Wilson put in a good display and striker Barry Elliot looked like he could be effective. Both of them had been languishing in the reserves for some reason.

In the Champions League Celtic revived their hopes with an excellent 3-0 win at home to Shakthar.

I was delighted to see Gretna rack up an incredible 5-2 win at home to HSV in the UEFA Cup. Hearts and Rangers both won away from home but Kilmarnock and Hibs suffered defeats.

Our visit to Arbroath gave us our first win under my control. We played well with our speedy young wingers Dougie Wilson and Chris Geddes both starring. Geddes scored our opening goal and striker Elliot added one after the break for a 2-0 win and the three points lifts us off the bottom of the table.

Scotland make a great start in the World Cup Playoff, winning 3-2 in Croatia and a 2-2 draw at Hampden sees them qualify for the Finals.

Our final game of the month is my first match in charge at home and a crowd of some 1,500 see us beat Berwick 3-1. Elliot scores twice and Wilson gets the other in a good win.

Celtic lose 2-0 at Manchester United in the Champions League and will probably need to win their last two games to progress beyond the group stage.

We have now climbed up to 6th place and Elliot and Geddes were both recognised in the monthly awards.

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December 2005

I was crushed to hear that Gretna lost 3-0 at HSV to go out of the UEFA Cup on away goals. They were joined by Kilmarnock who went out to Parma, conquerors of Aberdeen in the previous round. Hearts had a comfortable 8-1 aggregate win over Shamrock Rovers and Rangers overcame Albanian opposition 8-5. But the best result of the night was a 5-0 win for Hibs at home to FC Copenhagen to overturn their 4-0 loss in the first leg.

We were thoroughly outplayed by the home side on our trip to Montrose, losing 1-0 but experienced keeper Myles Hogarth played a blinder to keep the score respectable.

We make an early exit from the Scottish Cup, blowing a two-goal lead courtesy of striker Scott Bannerman to lose 3-2 at Peterhead.

By coincidence we face the Highlanders again in a midweek league match at home. Bannerman scores once more as we avenge our earlier defeat with a cracking 5-0 win. Midfielder Craig Brown, defenders Jamie Smith and Calum Hill and striker Elliot are also on target.

In the Champions League Celtic blow their chances of qualification with a 2-0 defeat at home to Milan and they are now playing for a UEFA Cup place.

For our next game we make the short trip to Falkirk to play East Stirling and return with a 3-2 win. Brown scores a brace and Bannerman is on target once more.

We end the month with a Boxing Day visit from promotion-chasing St. Mirren and a ding-dong battle ensues. We finally triumph 3-2 with Dougie Wilson scoring twice and Bannerman getting the winner.

Another decent month results-wise sees us in 4th place in the table, just 4 points outside a promotion place. My main concern is our dreadful financial position, which is making it almost impossible to bring in new players and renew contracts. The big problem is that defender Jimmy Jackson is paid a ridiculous £3,900 a week – I cannot believe that the club agreed to a contract like that. I do manage to bring in former Celtic youth Chris McCormak as we are desperately short of central defenders.

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January 2006

We start the year with a good 2-0 win at home to Dumbarton with Wilson and Bannerman scoring the goals.

Scott Bannerman is in unstoppable form at present and he opens the scoring in our home game against Elgin. Elliot adds the second in a 2-1 win that keeps our excellent form going.

Our trip to Stranraer ends all square with the overpaid Jackson’s strike cancelled out late on for a 1-1 draw.

Despite playing with ten men for most of the second half after Dougie Wilson is sent off, a brace from Bannerman is good enough to beat bottom club Arbroath 2-0.

We close the month out with a trip to Berwick and the home side score all of the goals in their 2-1 win, giving us the lead with an own goal but fighting back to get the win.

Montrose head the table on 41 points with East Stirling, ourselves and St. Mirren all tied on 34 points.

February 2006

The month begins with a showdown at home to league leaders Montrose. Strike pair Elliot and Bannerman each find the net in a two-minute spell in the first half. The visitors pull a goal back near the end but midfielder Craig Brown secures the points with a goal in injury time to give us a good 3-1 win.

Alex Grace and Allan Grant, two of my favourite players from Gretna, have been sitting on the transfer list for some time and the club accepts my offer to take them both off their hands for free. To my surprise they both accept the pittance of a wage that I can offer and they will join in the summer transfer window.

After a weekend off we are back into action with a trip to Peterhead. Elliot opens the scoring but we concede twice in the first half and lose 2-1, a real let down after beating the league leaders in our last game.

Our next match sees us on the road again travelling to 3rd place St. Mirren for a crucial promotion tussle. Elliot keeps his excellent scoring run going with the opening goal but once again we fail to defend our lead. The home side square the game before half time and then get a late winner to condemn us to a 2-1 defeat. Such is the competitive nature of the division that we drop from 2nd to 6th in the table. We also lose right-winger Patrice Napoli for the remainder of the season but fortunately youngster Dougie Wilson is now fit again.

We end the month with a visit by near-neighbours East Stirling and an uninspiring display sees us slump to a 2-1 loss.

Having worked hard to climb the table it is galling to suffer three consecutive defeats, all by the same 2-1 scoreline, and fall 6 points behind the second promotion place. It was no real consolation that midfielder Craig Brown was voted Young Player of the Month, although he was pleased with the recognition.

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March 2006

We travel to Dumbarton hoping to get back to winning ways and having made and missed a host of scoring chances in the first half we finally take the lead through a penalty tucked away by defender Stephen Swift. Substitute Kieron Durkan doubles our advantage before the home side narrow the gap but we are able to hang for a 2-1 win.

Our run of away games continues with a trip north to Elgin. Bannerman puts us in front in the first half but we are pegged back from the penalty spot before the break. Fortunately Elliot gets a late winner to give us a 2-1 victory.

Another Bannerman goal gives us the lead at home to Stranraer but then we have centre back Calum Hill sent off for two bookable offences. With time ticking away we then lose another centre back as Chris McCormack succumbs to injury. With no further defensive cover we are playing two makeshift centre halves and we finally concede a late equaliser for a 1-1 draw.

Celtic have a comfortable 4-0 win over Aberdeen in the League Cup Final to secure the first domestic trophy of the season.

We end the month with another road trip, this time to struggling Arbroath. A goal from winger Chris Geddes is the high point of an otherwise poor display and despite the best efforts of keeper Myles Hogarth we concede twice to lose by another 2-1 scoreline.

In the UEFA Cup, Celtic make an exit, losing 2-1 to Spartak Moscow on aggregate but Rangers fare better, defeating PSV 3-2 overall.

Our rather patchy form is compensated to some extent by the competitive nature of the division as all of the promotion contenders are taking points off one another. This means that at the end of the month we sit in 4th place, just three points off second place.

April 2006

The visit of bottom club Berwick Rangers brings us some success as the Bannerman-Elliot strike pairing both find the net in our 2-0 win.

Rangers gain a good 1-0 win at Anderlecht in the first leg of their UEFA Cup Quarter Final.

An abysmal performance at league leaders Montrose sees us suffer a 4-1 thrashing and our chances of promotion are looking increasingly slim.

A vibrant 3-3 draw at home to Anderlecht takes Rangers into the Semi Finals of the UEFA Cup.

A trigger-happy referee issues half a dozen yellow cards in our 2-1 defeat of Dumbarton, Dougie Wilson scoring both of our goals.

Rangers are drawn against Liverpool in the UEFA Cup and the first leg ends in a 1-1 draw at Ibrox.

If we are to have any hope of promotion then we have to beat Peterhead in our final game of the month. An inspired first half sees us reach the break three goals to the good, Elliot, Bannerman and Hill the men on target. The second half produces no further scoring and we gain a crucial 3-0 win.

Another win for Montrose confirms their promotion leaving four teams fighting for the second place with just two games remaining. St. Mirren are 2nd on 54 points, we follow on 53, just above Peterhead on goal difference, with East Stirling 5th on 51 points.

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