After a spectacular ride on the Settle-Carlisle train I caught the Virgin Trains express to Glasgow Central. Over twice the speed of my first train, around 100 mph. I was heading for a match at Fir Park, Motherwell but Virgins no longer stop there and we flashed past on the non stop service. So, I went into Glasgow and back out on the slow stopping train, adding 90 minutes to my journey.
Anyway Craig Brown, former Scotland team manager, the last to beat England at Wembley, was now in charge of The Steelmen, with his trusted assistant Archie Knox. Both had been brought out of retirement following a dreadful run of form at the end of 2009. They had stopped the rot and were up to 5th place in the Clydesdale SPL and a place in the Europa League to look forward to.
'Keep Fir Park Smoke Free' says the giant banner the length of the opposite stand. The Bairns from Falkirk F.C, were the visitors, and they prop up the whole league. However, on a pitch like Scotch porridge the Bairns turned into Gladiators. They took a well deserved lead through Ryan Flynn half way through the first half and never looked back. Darren Barr and the rest of the Bairns defence in their navy blue, didn't give an inch, and 'Well couldn't create space and get any decent shots off.
The referee Craig Thomson and his assistants stood out like ripe tomatoes in their bright uniforms. Afterwards I was entertained by Craig and his staff in the coaches lounge but it was not the best display and followed a 3-0 defeat at Dundee United last weekend, and with a trip to Celtic coming up, it will be backs against the wall going into the 'splits' where the top six play-fof, as do the bottom six. www.motherwellfc.co.uk
The next day I am off to Kilmarnock in Ayrshire as 'Killie' take on The Dons of Aberdeen at Rugby Park. The city is the home to Johnnie Walker, the whisky distillers and the stadium is very modern with four huge stands. Prior to kick-off I am welcomed in the Press Room by Sharon, and try THE BEST PIE EVER. "Say 'Aye to a Killie Pie". "Get stuck into a Killie Pie when you know the opposition is pure mince". They are made by Britain's Baker of the Year-Brownings, and are a delight. Just the right size, warm and delicious.
The crowd of 4,600 is about the same as the day before, but both sets of fans were more vocal on a bright sunny day. The Dons have lots of Scottish names on the team sheet such as McDonald, Kerr, Young, Duff, McClean, Fyfie, Mackie, Stewart - and Omatsone 'Sone' Aluka-born in Birmingham, England!. 'Killie' are second from bottom, but you would not have thought so. In the 24th minute David Grassi scored into his own goal and Allan Russell scored with a brilliant header 40 minutes later-final score 2-0.
'Hello, Hello, We are the Killie Boys' sang the home fans and 'Nutz' the huge blue and white squirrel mascot was a happy animal. You could but replica 'Nutz' in the Club Shop in different sizes. £12 for a large 12" one. Manager Jimmie Calderwood could go home for Easter dinner in a good mood, and I enjoyed the miniature Easter eggs and another Killie pie with a cup of tea in the press room before Craig Brown, who was doing the BBC Radio broadcast, dropped me off at the train station. www.kilmarnockfc.co.uk.