The Lowland League returns to Shielfield on the last Saturday in September for the first time since the last day of August and the disappointing home defeat and performance against Civil Service Strollers. Since then we've drawn at Gala, lost at Tranent in one of the cups and lost to East Kilbride. A mixed bag of performances garnering varying reactions - the draw at Gala a bit unfortunate in a game we dominated and with some dubious decisions going against us, the defeat at Tranent an atrocious performance where we got exactly what we deserved on the day and going by reports (I wasn't there so can't comment) a defeat but a much improved performance at Kilby. So who knows what we will get this week. This could well prove to be the hardest week of the season with games against Spartans and Barry Ferguson's Kelty Hearts to follow. A week that could have the prophets of doom out in full force.
We welcome first time visitors to Shielfield on Saturday in the shape of Cumbernauld Colts. The Colts are based in the familiar environs of Broadwood Stadium where the BF of BFKH initially plied his managerial craft to no great effect. Some describe Cumbernauld as sharing with Clyde but I would have thought it was the other way round with Clyde being the interlopers.
Colts are another of the new breed of teams in this league only forming in 1969 and were very much a youth team during the early part of their history - the most famous products of their youth team are Derek Whyte and Jackie bloody McNamara (with York City as my English team I'm not sure I can forgive them for producing him). However, the 80s and 90s saw the club in steep decline with teams disbanding.
During this period there is little doubt who the most popular and well known club in Cumbernauld were, they had an outstanding goalscorer/playmaker but were badly let down by their feckless goalkeeper who had moved from outfield to make way for the talent.
Dee Hepburn and John Gordon Sinclair (or is it Gordon John Sinclair? I can never remember and he keeps changing it) in the fabulous Gregory's Girl, filmed in Cumbernauld.
In 1999 the club was reborn under the banner of a single youth age group team and was built back up to where it is now - possibly the biggest in the central region. they now have a thriving academy catering for boys and girls at all ages with hundreds of members. They also deliver community programmes to all ages. A look at their Facebook or Twitter pages show just how engaged the club are with the local community. They joined the SFA and the Lowland League in 2015 finishing fourth in their first season, sixth the next two and seventh last season.
Colts currently sit in ninth place in the league on 12 points after 8 games. They have had a real mixed bag of results with wins at Gala on the opening day and at home to BSC Glasgow as well as inflicting the only league defeat on BFKH; they took part in an extraordinary 4 - 4 draw at the Uni of Stirling - coming back from two nil down to lead 4 - 2 only to concede two late goals and had a goalless draw at Gretna. Their only two defeats came at home to the leaders Bonnyrigg and away to Spartans. In their last league game they drew 2 - 2 at home to Kilby. However, last week they took an absolute thumping at home in the Scottish Cup at the hands of East of Scotland side Penicuik Athletic, losing 5 - 1. No doubt they will be looking to bounce back strongly from that.
Colts are co-managed by Craig McKinlay and James Orr who joined the club in 2015 from Dunipace United and who have been in charge throughout their time in the Lowland League.
In the summer they signed Marty Wright from Bo'ness United, Wright had been top scorer there last season despite having missed games through injuries and coming of the bench in a lot. Wright has continued where he finished last season having hit the back of the net six times so far this. I saw them on the opening day of the season at Gala and initial impressions of Wright were that he was a real moan and a bit of a lump - as is often the case these proved only half (w)right, he is without a doubt vociferous and a right moan but he is also a decent player with good movement and he knows how to work a defence frequently pulling wide and creating space in the middle for attacking midfielders. He was good at collecting and holding the ball and moving it on and is clearly good at taking his chances.
Their other main goal source has been Stephen O'Neill with five goals so far this season. He was the other player who impressed on the opening day, getting down the left wing and linking up well with Craig Holmes. He also created the second goal that day with a sublime pass. I was also impressed with the two Craigs - Murray and Holmes.
On that day I felt they were a bit shaky at the back and in goal but it turns out they some injuries and players playing out of position. However, the fact that they have conceded 13 so far this season suggests they are vulnerable a bit at the back. I'm also beginning to think that goalie is a dodgy position for a lot of teams at this level.
This will hopefully be the first chance for home fans to see loan signing Joao Balde in a Dream Team shirt. Reports from those at Kilby suggest that he could prove to be a decent signing, with Ricky Miller back in defence last week it is to be hoped he'll be there again this week as Colts pose a threat going forward and we will need to be at out best at the back. Up front Healy has been steadily improving and finding his goal scoring touch. With what looks like a full squad to pick from it is to be hoped that we may start to see a bit more of a settled team. Yet again this feels like a big game but I think a lot of fans have gone into this run of fixtures expecting to get nothing. As we enter winter though we need a sign of improvement, to get a sense of where we are going and to have some hope. We have played well for periods but need to sustain it for a whole match, we need to stop the silly mistakes and we need to stop picking up pointless cautions for silly things like dissent as we don't want to lose influential players later on from what is still a fairly slim squad (yes, I do mean you Euan Smith and Lewis Barr).
One other thing for home fans to watch out (or more appropriately listen out) for may be the CC young team with their drum and megaphone. They kept up a constant background noise at Gala which considering there were only two of them and they are just kids was in my view highly impressive. No doubt some of the older torn faces will moan if they are their but give them a break - they're just kids having a good day out.