Dumbarton Football Club - Sons of the Rock 1872

Irvine Meadow XI (2) v Dumbarton (3)

Saturday 23rd July 2022, Kick Off 12.30pm

Pre-season friendlies

BEFORE the Red Arrows even left a trail of blue, white and red in the sky above Meadow Park, everything was pointing to this being a difficult afternoon for Dumbarton.

Barely had anybody settled into their space on the terraces or in the stand, each team was off the mark in a game arranged to mark the milestones they are reaching this year.

Sons are of course marking 150 years and took the lead through Declan Byrne. But with 125 years on the horizon, Meadow wanted to make a go of the game and did not take long to level through Callum Graham.

And when Neil Slooves' deflected shot put them in front, it was no fluke. The West of Scotland Premier Division outfit had been, and continued to be, the better side in the first half.

But changes at half time by Sons had the desired effect, at the ground where Jim Meechan and Garry Fleming, amongst others, earned their spurs before becoming Dumbarton players.

Ally Love equalised early in the second half, and Finlay Gray's hugely positive start to his Sons career continued with the winner after 78 minutes.

It was by no means a flawless afternoon. Despite dealing better with the home side's threat in the second half, Sons remained vulnerable and survived a shot off the crossbar.

However, the improvement after the restart got the reward it merited, and sent Dumbarton into the new league season off the back of a positive day, even a positive week.

The notes of the piper who greeted the teams on to the pitch were hanging in the air when Sons took the lead. Love sent a low ball into the box from out wide, and Byrne swept it home.

But Irvine wanted a result on a gala occasion at their ground, and it was not long before they were level, Graham heading home from close range.

Connor Boyd and Ross Smith could each have put the home side in front, while Love looked to play Byrne in again, but he just missed the assist.

When Slooves' shot found the net with the aid of a deflection, though, it was the least Irvine deserved. They were well on top.

Indeed, had Brett Long not been on form with a couple of chances, the half time scoreline could have been very unedifying, friendly or not.

The other highlight of the half was a fly-past by the Red Arrows - not organised by Meadow, but by organisers of a music festival taking place nearby.

But after players were swapped round at half time, the two players involved in the first goal also traded roles for the equaliser.

Byrne did fantastically well to keep the ball in play after tussling with a defender, and cut it back for Love to fire home.

The first half tide was now being held back by Sons, but Meadow continued to threaten. Keir Milliken homed in on goal but shot across it and wide, while Graham's shot rebounded from the crossbar.

Those apart, things were more positive from Dumbarton, and after Meadow were not allowed to clear their lines from a corner, the ball fell to Gray on the edge of the box.

His shot made no mistake, and for the first time since the very early stages of the game, Sons led.

It was a lead they did not relinquish for the rest of the afternoon, although they travelled back up the A737 knowing they had been in a game.

Now for the league.

Irvine Meadow XI: Waters; Lyle, Byrne, Wharton, Gow, Slooves, Urquhart, Smith, Graham, Boyd, Milliken. Subs: A Trialist; B Trialist, Faulds, Wallace, Kearney, Holland, Findlay.

Dumbarton: Long (Broun 46); Wylde, Carswell, Orsi, D Wilson (Blair 46), Love, Lynas, McKee (C Wilson 55), Byrne (A Trialist 60), B Trialist (Gray 46), McNiff. Sub: Buchanan.

Referee: Ross Birrell.