Thursday 29th December 2016

ANOTHER calendar year of football comes to an end on Saturday.

There are, of course, still 90 minutes left of the action as Dumbarton face Dundee United aiming for a second victory over the Arabs this season.

However, regardless of tomorrow’s outcome, there has still been plenty to make 2016 a year to remember for Sons.

Here’s our countdown of our 10 favourite DFC moments in 2016 (so far).

10. Garry Fleming’s winner against Queen of the South which ended a 24-year wait – Saturday, January 9

THE Scottish Cup was never Dumbarton’s priority last season. They would need exceptional luck to win it.

But something was quite special about the way they negotiated their fourth round tie at home to Queen of the South with their first win, and goals, of 2016.

The last time the Dumfries side were beaten by Sons in Dumbarton, Disneyland Paris hadn’t even been opened.

The Cheaper Insurance Direct Stadium was also another eight years away from becoming a reality. Saturday, February 1, 1992, to be exact.

But when Garry Fleming gave Dumbarton the lead for the second time in the day, the wait to end that sequence was ended.

It gave Sons a fifth round tie at home to Dundee or Falkirk, which eventually proved to be the former. After a goalless draw, the Dens Park side were 5-0 winners in the replay on their own pitch.

9. Sons almost spoil Rangers’ title party – Tuesday, April 5

A DEFEAT? Well, yes, on this occasion.

To some, Dumbarton were in an impossible position. They were going to Ibrox needing to win to stop Rangers from clinching the title they had led the chase for from the start.

For many outside G82, G83 or G84, it was a case of how many they would get away with from the champions elect.

When they had lost 6-0 to Rangers when the sides last met, and absorbed the same scoreline in their last away outing at Queen of the South, it seemed an easy prediction.

In the end, while the Ibrox club did end the evening celebrating the title, Dumbarton came away from Glasgow with their heads held high.

The only difference was one lapse in concentration which allowed James Tavernier to score the solitary goal early in the second half.

There were, of course, as expected, other chances for Rangers, and during his long-ish career, Jamie Ewings can’t have enjoyed many better performances in goal.

It was an evening which, although ultimately fruitless, put Sons in a deserved positive spotlight.

8. The equaliser, and eighth goal of the day, at Ayr – Saturday, December 24

WORK started on this article before the Christmas Eve trip to Somerset Park. We should have known this would happen.

Dumbarton know they are going to need plenty of never-say-die spirit for their goal of staying in the Championship to be achieved. This game defined it.

On another day, their situation of two goals down with five minutes left of the first half may well have been that.

With six minutes played of the second half they were level, but another curveball lay in store. With Andy Stirling sent off, Ayr made it 3-2 from the penalty spot.

Even after another equaliser by Sons, the Honest Men regained control with five minutes left and against 10 men, would have been sure they could hang on.

One goalmouth frenzy from a corner later, Ryan Stevenson wrested a point back out of Ayr’s grasp.

A man down, Dumbarton had gained a result to ensure that, at the season’s halfway point, they were definitely out of the Championship’s bottom two.

7. Garry Fleming scores penalty against Falkirk – Saturday, March 12

ANOTHER one about spirit.

Down to 10 men, a goal down via a disputed penalty and having had two goals wrongly disallowed. It seemed easy for Dumbarton to throw in the towel.

But the BBC Alba cameras were showing this game to the nation, and the push for a point (the first-ever gained by Sons in a live televised ordinary league match) lasted to the end.

One final hopeful ball came into the area and, in going for it, Christian Nade was clattered by Bairns keeper Danny Rogers.

It rested on Garry Fleming to gain a point which was, to say the least, deserved. The thing was that he faced Rogers knowing that the Irishman, from their days training together with Sons, would know what he was about to do.

Once the laces went through it, that was no longer a concern. The points were deservedly being shared.

6. Mark Docherty corner goal against Livingston – Saturday, January 30

HE had previous. He just had to do it in a game of this magnitude.

Twenty-six days from the end of 2015, Mark Docherty had scored directly from a corner to put Dumbarton ahead at Alloa in a game they won 2-0.

Thirty days into 2016, a vital game against Livingston, who were toe to toe with Sons for survival, was meandering along with nothing between the sides well into the second half.

Whatever gave Docherty the inspiration to repeat the corner trick, it worked. His set piece went to the back post and dropped perfectly.

It was the only goal of the game and meant a major boost to Sons’ battle with Livi, which of course they ultimately won.

Had this goal not been scored, the fight may well still have ended in victory. But it may not have been good for the nerves.

5. Christian Nade hat-trick against Alloa – Tuesday, March 8

BY the time Christian Nade rolled up at Dumbarton the day after the above game against Livingston, his potential impact in Scottish football was legendary.

Hearts, Dundee and Raith Rovers had already had the benefit of the big striker’s prowess. This was the night where he really showed it for Sons.

His first goal was a close range finish. His second was a header so ferocious it took ages to register it had hit the net, having crashed off the post first.

But if you’re going to score the club’s first hat-trick on its own pitch for nearly three years, you do it in style.

And the emphatic volley he crashed home to seal a 3-1 victory early in the second half ensured that he did just that.

It wasn’t all he did in a Dumbarton jersey during his five-month stay, but if the striker still needed endeared to anybody, he ended that need on this night.

4. Garry Fleming scores penalty against Queen of the South – Tuesday, April 12

THIS was a night for Dumbarton to make a real statement about their intentions to stay in the Championship at the end of last season.

It was their game in hand over Livingston, who they already led, and if they were to win this game, they would be in a strong position.

Trailing 2-1 at half time, Sons needed a big performance after the restart. By the early stages of the second half they were well on their way, flipping the scoreline to 3-2 in their favour.

But it wasn’t until the dying embers of the game where a vital victory could finally be celebrated.

After a foul on Gregor Buchanan in the area Garry Fleming, not for the first time this year and certainly not the last, converted the penalty.

With only four games left, a place in the 2016/17 Championship really was Dumbarton’s to throw away – or keep.

3. Mark Docherty scores penalty against Dundee United

FOR the second consecutive season, Dumbarton’s second league assignment was to show the newly-relegated club that the Championship is no breeze.

And for the second consecutive time, they delivered. Where St Mirren were beaten last season, Dundee United were this time around.

Ahead of the game, the talk was Martin Mooney, 1995 and all that. Could a famous victory be repeated?

It could, courtesy of a so-far relatively undiscovered penalty taker. Having scored two consolations from the spot at Dunfermline the previous week, Mark Docherty fancied his chances after Gregor Buchanan was fouled in the box.

Again, no mistake was made, and just as they did 21 years earlier, Dumbarton deservedly held on to beat Dundee United.

Garry Fleming has since resumed penalty duties, but a challenger to his title has been established.

2. Darren Barr makes it 3-0 against Hibernian – Saturday, February 27

DUMBARTON three, Hibernian nil. Who would ever have thought that scoreline possible, especially in the season when the Easter Road club won the Scottish Cup?

The first two instalments had already hit the net in the first half, courtesy of Kevin Cawley and Christian Nade. However, an early goal in the second half could change everything.

Another goal did arrive early in the second half – for Dumbarton, when Darren Barr charged in to head home a corner from the right.

It did, of course, go on to finish 3-2 as Hibs pulled two goals back. Nerves were utterly shredded over the 18 minutes when Sons led only by a goal.

But for the second time in the season, as one of the favourites for promotion and eventual Scottish Cup winners, the Leith side left G82 with nothing.

1. Garry Fleming’s goal against St Mirren which sealed survival – Saturday, April 23

QUITE simply, anything else would be wrong.

There is really only one achievement by Dumbarton this year that stands out above all others. Ensuring that as a part-time side, they could stay in the SPFL Championship for at least a fifth season.

And it was all the more special for it to be sealed with the technique and style which made up Garry Fleming’s goal against St Mirren.

It was the moment which defined a #SurvivalSaturday which had every emotion possible, having started with Sons knowing that a win over the Buddies, and any failure by Livingston to win at Queen of the South, would mean the goal was achieved.

Kick-off was delayed by 15 minutes, followed by which Calum Gallagher gave St Mirren an early lead. Worse news was to follow at Dumfries where, of all players, Sam Stanton gave Livi the lead.

An own goal by Keith Watson brought Sons level against St Mirren, but with Livingston still ahead going into their second half, even a win against the Buddies would not take Dumbarton over the line.

However, early in the second half, Derek Lyle ensured that Queen of the South were doing their bit by equalising against Livingston. Now it was over to Dumbarton.

With nine minutes played of the second half, Fleming controlled the ball on the edge of the area and thrashed home a magnificent volley.

Queen of the South then added two more goals to lead 3-1, and kept their part of the deal. Fifteen minutes later, with no further scoring in Dumbarton, season number five in the Championship was confirmed.

It was, without doubt, the greatest moment for Dumbarton of 2016. At least until the final fixture of the year takes place against Dundee United on Saturday…

Andy Galloway

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