2018 Through The Big Lens (part 2)
Join me for part 2 of my review as I look back at the last six months of the year as seen through a big lens on fast shutter.
July: Matches 3, Goals 9. Race Meetings 2
It's fair to say my favourite weekend of the year is usually when the British Superbike Championship comes north of the border for its annual visit to Knockhill. BSB is widely acknowledged to be the best domestic championship in the world, and the only downside is that they only have one round a year in Scotland. Friday is practice day, Saturday is when the qualifying sessions take place and Sunday is race day. Action takes place across six classes, spanning a range of machinery, but without doubt the main attraction are the two Superbike Races. Jake Dixon took the victory in race 1 on his RAF Kawasaki ZX10-R. Danny Buchan finished second, but was penalised one place for over taking under yellow flag conditions, handing second spot to eventual champ Leon Haslam. Haslam went one better in race two, pipping Dixon by a quarter of a second after a breathtaking scrap, with Buchan again in third making it another all Kawasaki podium.
At the end of the month it was the turn of the Scottish championship riders to show what they could do around the tight wee track. The Scottish summer took its toll, with a few races being cancelled thanks to some liquid sunshine. Once the action got underway it was the Gilfillan brothers who dominated the weekend with two Superbike wins for Greg and one for Sean. In the Formula600 class, the glory was shared a bit more evenly: Rory Skinner, Sam Munro, Willie Monie and Lewis Paterson all scoring podium finishes across the weekend. James McLaren also grabbed a podium in his first weekend on the bigger bikes.
It was a busy month for me, as the football season also kicked off. I made the short dash from Knockhill to Kelty to see the home side beat local rivals Cowdenbeath 2-1 in a pre-season friendly with goals from Brian Ritchie and new signing Matty Gay. I managed to squeeze in a quick holiday in Portugal with the family, making it back just in time to catch unfurling the Championship flag in their first Lowland League game - a thrilling 2-2 draw against Dalbeattie Star to start the campaign. There was just enough time to squeeze in a midweek fixture on the last day of the month, Hill of Beath losing 2-0 at home to a very handy looking Bonnyrigg Rose side in the group stages of the East of Scotland Cup. Phew!
August: Matches 6, Goals 40
If July was busy, there was no let up in August. The action started on the 3rd with a Friday night match at Broadwood Stadium - my first time shooting in a stadium environment. It was a cracking match, Kelty coming from behind to take the lead thanks to goals from Chalmers and Nimmo. It all went wrong in the dying minutes though, Cumbernauld drawing level, before Coleman snatched a late winner for the home side. The game was also memorable for the wrong reason though, Kelty midfielder Ross Philp carried off in the second half with damaged knee ligaments that has pretty much wiped out his season. A quick charge of the battery overnight, and I was off again on Saturday to Kier's Park to watch Hill of Beath dismantle Stirling Uni 9-1 in the EoS Cup. It was a high scoring month and just a few days later I made my first trip to Ballast Bank in Inverkeithing, where a rampant Linlithgow Rose hammered home side Hillfield Swifts 10-nil. Two ten goal matches in just over a week not a bad return, despite the strain on my shutter finger. Also in the month there was another win for Hill of Beath (3-1 over Dunbar), a 2-all draw between Kelty and Edinburgh Uni and my first trip to Jeanfield in nearly 20 years to watch them run riot in a 6-1 win over Preston Athletic.
September: Matches 8, Goals 30. Race Meetings 1
This was my busiest month of the year, averaging a game every 4 days, as well the final visit of the season to Knockhill for the final round of the championship. It was also the most diverse month for competitions, taking me to games in the Lowland League, East of Scotland League, 4 different cup competitions and my first visit of the year to Hampden for Scotland's Nations League win over Albania. There was a new ground for me to visit - Victoria Park, Innerleithen - home of Vale of Leithen, where I had a go at filming the action for Kelty Hearts' YouTube channel. Although I managed to capture most of the action in the visitors 4-0 win, some trouble with microphone meant it was strictly a silent movie. Safe to say, I'll be sticking to stills from now on! Kelty made it 14 goals in 3 games with an 8-0 win over Edinburgh United and a 2-0 victory over East Stirlingshire in their biggest Lowland League match to that point. Elsewhere there was a win and a defeat for Hill of Beath and a narrow defeat for Dundonald at home to LTHV, before Kelty rounded the month off with a 3-1 over Dalbeattie in their first ever Scottish Cup tie at New Central Park.
This month also saw the Knockhill Motorsports Club and Scottish Championship season draw to a close with final round of the year. In the Superbike class, the Gilfillan brothers once again dominated, winning four out of five races between them, enough for Sean to be crowned KMSC Champion, and Greg to take runner-up spot ahead of John Dean in third. Dean got his hands on the Scottish Championship title though, ahead of Calum Grigor and Greg Gilfillan. In the F600 class nobody could get the better of Rory Skinner who took the win in all five races. Sam Munro, Lewis Paterson and Willie Monie were left to pick up the remaining podium places. It wasn't enough to stop Monie keeping top spot in the standings though, being crowned both KMSC and Scottish Champion. Jodie Chalk copied the feat, winning both KMSC and Scottish Championship in the CB500 class, while Scott Campbell took the Lightweight crown and James McLaren the 400cc title.
October: Matches 3, Goals 13
Thanks to an impromptu family holiday, October was the quietest month in terms of the number of matches, with only two competitive games and one friendly. Before I headed off to the sunshine, I caught Hill of Beath's fine 4-0 win over Peebles in the East of Scotland League, goals coming from Elder, Adamson, Reid & Smith. I was back in time to see Jeanfield's 6-1 friendly demolition of Crossgate, the highlight of which was a Rhys Davies hat-trick. But the real drama all happened off the park, starting with the shock news of Kelty manager Tam Courts resignation from his post. With the club sitting top of the Lowland League just 4 months after winning promotion, there was much speculation around the reason for his sudden departure, with no public explanation ever coming from either party. The drama ramped up even further, with a text message I received from the club's general manager whilst lying on the beach, asking if I was available to take some photos the following when the unveiled their new first team manager. I was pretty stunned when I saw who it was, and I didn't really believe it until saw him with my own lens. Barry Ferguson is one of the biggest names in the Scottish game, having been one of the most talented players of his generation, as well as being no stranger to the odd controversy. Luckily I was home in time to do the photoshoot as well as see his first home game in charge - Cargill and Chalmers scoring the goals that got him off to a winning start against Gala Fairydean Rovers.
November: Matches 5, Goals 18
Although Ferguson's reign got off to a winning start, November started with the first dropped points of his tenure after a 1-all draw at home against Spartans in my only Lowland League fixture of the month. The new manager was still trying to get to know his team and a mid-week friendly against Crossgates gave him the chance to have a look at some of his fringe players. Willis Hare got on the scoresheet in a rare start, but it was first team regular Scott Dalziell who stole the show with a first half hat-trick. Ross Mutch made a substitute appearance in the second half and notched the final goal in a 5-nil win - my 99th goal of the season. Number 100 came the following Saturday at the Riverside Stadium in Perth where Jeanfield Swifts hosted Stirling University in the Challenge Cup. The ton goal was a little scrappy, Eachainn Miller putting the visitors in front from a corner kick. It turned out to be one of the best games of the whole year and had a little bit of everything: heroics from 16 year old keeper Sam Townsley; a Connor McLaren hat-trick, and an extra-time winner for a very good Uni side. This time of year isn't easy for shooting action shots - the dark afternoons and high shutters speeds need high ISO settings, which can result in grainy images. So I was glad of an early kick-off at Kier's Park when Hill of Beath took on Musselburgh - going down 2-0 for their first home league defeat of the season. I rounded the month off with my first ever trip to Blairwood Park to watch Oakley and Leith play out a very entertaining 1-1 draw. The visitors will feel a bit hard done by though - Garvey having two goals ruled out before finally grabbing the equaliser.
December: Matches 6, Goals 18
The festive season is traditionally a busy football period, and with six games in the month, this year was no exception. Four home games for Kelty brought a mixture of results starting with a comfortable 4-0 win over Whitehill - goals from Cargill, Nimmo and two from Chalmers doing the damage. The wheels came off a bit the following week - 2 red cards in a 3-0 defeat by BSC Glasgow one of the lowest points of their year. Seven days later and waterlogged pitch saw their away game postponed, giving them a chance to get back on track with 3-2 friendly win against Dundonald, but only after going 2 down in the first half. Winger Ross Mutch, on loan to Dundonald, came on in the second half for his parent club and turned the tide with a goal and man of the match performance that led to his loan being terminated for him to return to New Central Park. With only nine days of the year left, I saw my first nil-nil draw when Kelty failed to make the break through, despite creating more than 20 chances against a determined Vale of Leithen. There was a bit of a change of surroundings on Boxing Day, when I enjoyed a hospitality visit to Ibrox, where Rangers hosted Hibs. No photos from the game, but the complimentary bar made up for that. Alfredo Morelos put the light blues in front, making the most of a mistake in the Hibs defence. It looked like that would be enough for the points, until a late McGregor equaliser left us drowning our sorrows with free booze. And so to the final game of the year, another Christmas cracker at the Riverside between Jeanfield and Blackburn. Holden gave Swifts the lead, but they quickly went down to 10 men and Blackburn came back to take the lead, before McLaren's injury time penalty earned the hosts a point.
And so that was the story of 2018 as seen through the big lens. Thanks for joining me throughout the year, and I hope to see you back here when the action resumes in the New Year.