99 And Counting
The story of my season, so far...
There was nothing too remarkable when young Ross Mutch scored for Kelty in a midweek friendly against near neighbours Crossgates last Tuesday. Sure, I was a memorable moment in his fledgling career: his second goal for the first team in only his fourth appearance, a goal he took well for such a young kid. But there was over the top celebration. No Klinsmann dive into the puddle, no Henry slide on his knees and, dare I say it, no Gascoigne dentist chair. It was just a run of the mill goal.
For me though, it was a step closer to a milestone that's been building since 07 July 2018. It was you see, my 99th goal of the season. That is to say, the 99th goal that I've seen scored this season. So far.
A journey that started way back on a blistering summer day when Kelty midfielder Brian Ritchie opened the scoring in a pre-season friendly against another local side, Cowdenbeath, and continued to a freezing cold evening in early November, taking me to 10 non-league grounds in and around Fife on the way. Oh, and one trip to Hampden.
It's actually taken a relatively short time to rack up 99 goals - almost exactly 4 months, 122 days to be precise, and just 22 games, making an average of 4.5 goals per game. I'd like to say I have a photo of every single goal - I'm supposed to be a sports photographer after all - but unfortunately I don't . I've missed a fair few scribbling in my note book or blethering to the friends I've made around the grounds. I've been a bit too slow on a few occasions and been in the wrong place on more than a few. Poor technique means I've got loads of goal shots that are out of focus, blurred or just plain crap. But I have managed to capture my fair share.
The ground I've visited most often this season is New Central Park, home of the world famous Kelty Hearts. I'll make no bones about it, Kelty are my team and will always be my first choice. If they have a home game, chances are that's where I'll be. I've been to NCP 9 times this season, and watched Kelty 11 times in total. No surprise then that they top my scoring chart with 33 goals - a healthy average of 3 per game.
Having just 'fessed up to being a Kelty fan, it might seem a bit strange that my second most visited venue of the season is Kiers Park, home of their oldest rivals, Hill of Beath Hawthorn. Trust me, I get plenty of stick from the Kelty boys whenever I post a pic from a Haws game. I've seen the Haws six times, and they've scored 20 goals, a slightly better return of 3.3 goals per game. Nine of those goals came in one game - an incredible 9-1 victory over Stirling University FC back in August - the joint highest scoring game I've seen this season.
The other the highest scoring match was an even more one-sided affair on my first ever trip to Ballast
Bank, Inverkeithing where the home side were thumped 10-nil by a very slick looking Linlithgow Rose.
Since the re-construction of the East of Scotland League in the summer, I made the decision to watch as much as I could of all three conferences to see how the old junior sides got on against the established teams. So far, they've been pretty dominant, with some impressive performances and racking up some big scores. One of the best looking sides I've seen has been Jeanfield Swifts. On my first visit to their new home at Riverside Park, they outclassed Preston Athletic for a comfortable win and are my dark horses for a Conference C title challenge.
The highest scoring competition I've watched this season has been the Lowland League, accounting for 24% of my 99 goals, mainly thanks to Kelty. Conference C is close behind, but that mega 10 goal win for Linlithgow skews the stats a little there. Surprisingly, despite only three of the 22 matches being friendlies, these account for 15 goals of the 99 (12%), although two of these were pretty one-sided affairs: a 6-1 win for Jeanfield and a 5-0 win for Kelty. Bizzarely enough, both of these were against Crossgates Primrose. The only other time I've watched the Primrose this year, they lost 2-0 to Haws, so I don't think I'll be getting an invite to Humbug park any time soon.
I'm pretty lucky in that I get to watch a lot of my football for free, thanks to media pass from Kelty, and a few generous individuals as some of the other clubs I visit. But football at this level is not an expensive day out - you can expect to pay about £6 entry fee at most clubs. If I had paid my way to all the games, it would have cost me in the region of £147, which means it would have cost me about £1.48 for each of my 99 goals. Again, there is a slight statistical anomaly here, as the trip to Hampden for the Scotland v Albania game cost me a bit more than £6 (and only returned 2 goals). Take that out of the equation and you can expect to pay about £1.26 per goal in the Scottish Football pyramid structure, which is pretty damned good value.
For anybody who has never been to a game in the pyramid structure, you would be pleasantly surprised by the quality of football on show. If you're looking for Messi, Ronaldo or de Bruyne then you should probably stay in front of your telly. But if you've had enough of millionaires rolling around in agony at the slightest contact maybe this is for you. I haven't seen a 0-0 draw all season long and an average 4.5 goals per game, means you're guaranteed to see plenty of action. I've watched 7 hat-tricks, including 2 in one game, just 3 of the 99 have come from penalties and only 1 was an own goal (ironically in the international fixture).
So with a scoring rate like that, I won't be turning up to my next fixture wondering if I'm going to see goal number 100, I'm just hoping that I'm quick enough to catch it on camera. And with 7 months of the season left, I could very easily make it into the treble-ton of goals before my summer holidays.
You can see my photo galleries and match reports from all of the season's games HERE. Please like, comment and share on your chosen social media platform, and be sure to keep coming back each week for more.