Thursday 3rd August 2017

AS part of Sons 24, we are once again taking an in-depth look at the nine teams who stand between Dumbarton and the points they need to achieve their goal this season.

Similarly to last year, we will take a look at the teams in ascending order of where they finished in the SPFL league structure in the 2016/17 season. We start with Brechin City, who are preparing for life in the second tier for the first time in 11 years. The trip to Glebe Park is always a welcome one with Sons fans, but it’s about more than trips to the Ashvale – it’s about points which will be as important as any for the Championship’s two part-time clubs.

Please note that the views in this article are not necessarily those of Dumbarton FC, its board or any staff.

Dumbarton v Brechin City: Saturday, September 16; Saturday, February 3.

Brechin City v Dumbarton: Saturday, November 4; Saturday, March 17.

Previous meetings with Dumbarton: Last meeting in any competition was in round one of 2014/15 League Cup.

Saturday, August 2 2014 – Brechin City 0 Dumbarton 1

The teams were last in the same league in season 2011/12, the old Second Division. Linked match reports are from SPFL website.

Saturday, August 20 2011 – Brechin City 3 Dumbarton 3
Saturday, January 14 2012 – Dumbarton 1 Brechin City 0
Saturday, March 3 2012 – Brechin City 2 Dumbarton 2
Saturday, May 5 2012 – Dumbarton 4 Brechin City 2

Season 2017/18 so far: Betfred League Cup sectional matches –

Saturday, July 15 – Inverness CT 3 Brechin City 0
Tuesday, July 18 – Brechin City 1 Forfar Athletic 1 (Brechin won on penalties)
Tuesday, July 25 – Stirling Albion 2 Brechin City 0
Saturday, July 29 – Brechin City 0 Falkirk 3

Signings: Sean Crighton and Jordan Sinclair (Livingston); Isaac Layne (Grays Athletic); Ryan McGeever (Queen’s Park); Kalvin Orsi (St Mirren); Euan Spark (Dunfermline Athletic);

First four league games: Queen of the South (A); Livingston (H); Dundee United (A); Inverness CT (H).

The run-in (last four league games): St Mirren (H); Dunfermline Athletic (A); Livingston (A); Queen of the South (H).

Analysis: It is Saturday, April 9 2016, and a late goal by Chris Kane (not that one) for Cowdenbeath has just rooted Brechin City in bottom spot in League One with three games to go. A point behind second-bottom Forfar and four adrift of Stenhousemuir, the Glebe Park men are four and a half hours of football away from playing in the bottom division for the first time since 2001.

What happened in the 13 months that followed that day is the sort of fairytale that gets part-time teams into higher leagues. The next Saturday, Brechin beat Peterhead 5-1 with a hat-trick from Robert Thomson (yes, that one this time) to move into second bottom place. A 1-0 victory over Stranraer then moved them out of the bottom two on goal difference and, by virtue of a 2-1 win at Forfar, the great escape was complete.

For the first half of last season, Brechin defied their close call of the previous campaign by establishing themselves in the race for the play-offs, without seriously threatening Livingston for top spot. But as 2017 dawned came another obstacle – their first win of the New Year didn’t come until the last day of February when they beat Queen’s Park 3-1 at home in a midweek match. Indeed, they only officially clinched a play-off place on the last day when they drew 1-1 at Stenhousemuir, although a 1-0 win at home to Albion Rovers the week before had meant that only an unlikely series of results would stop them.

The play-offs then went the full distance. Raith Rovers looked to eventually have them beaten in the semi-final with an extra time goal before City equalised five minutes from full time. They won on penalties, but having finished 12 points behind final opponents Alloa, would they have enough to see things through a second time? They certainly did. After winning the first leg 1-0, a breathless return leg at the Indodrill Stadium finished 4-3 to the Wasps meaning that this game too was going all the way. After six penalties each, one swing of James Dale’s boot meant that a team who finished with a goal difference of -6 was on its way to the Championship.

Brechin are in the second tier for the first time since 2006 and will find this division a whole new challenge where long winless runs are far less affordable than in League One. However, if the play-off final taught us one thing, it’s that this team will never stop plugging away and will never know when they are beaten. Exactly the kind of spirit that has kept Sons in the division for a sixth consecutive season – and who knows, maybe in the 2022 close season, Brechin will be sitting here preparing for their sixth campaign at this level? The Betfred Cup results were not great, but as with Dumbarton, the real proof will be in the league campaign.

As far as Dumbarton are concerned, City, as fellow part-timers in the division, are the key opponents this season. Yes, we said that about Ayr United this time last year and went on to see Sons take only two points out of 12 against the Honest Men. However, they were able to rely on other teams to take points from Ayr, who went on to finish bottom. That may not be the case this time around. And every single point Sons do take from Brechin, they’ll have had to work hard to earn it. The boys in red will feel exactly the same way about their fellow part-timers, and both teams will view their four meetings with each other as perhaps the biggest of the season.

Verdict: Brechin will be many people’s favourites to struggle, but everybody knows what spirit and hard work can do for a part-time team in the Championship. They are not to be underestimated.

Join the debate @dumbartonfc and #sons24

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