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    tm4tj

    Inverness CT -V- Ayr United - Play Off2 - Report

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    One down, two to go.

     

    Inverness booked their place in the next stage of the play-offs after a rather uncomfortable 1-1 draw with Ayr United. As expected Ayr came out of the blocks flying and deservedly took the lead through Luke McCowan in the 19th minute. It took until the 79th minute before we eased the pain on the supporters when Coll Donaldson claimed he got a touch on Liam Polworth's inviting free kick into the danger area. It mattered not who scored it, but it was a crucial goal that scuppered Ayr's hopes of taking the tie into extra time.

    Inverness will now play Dundee United on Tuesday night, the return at Tannadice on the Friday night. St Mirren are in pole position to be the Premiership fall guys unless Accies blow a four point lead going into the final two games, Dundee already relegated.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    TICKET PRICES FOR Dundee United  ARE AS FOLLOWS:

    Adult: £15

    Concession: £8

    Tickets can be bought online HERE

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    A noisy crowd in the away end met the teams as they came out on a sunny afternoon at the Caledonian Stadium. Carl Tremarco was still injured and Kevin McHattie started again in a familiar looking side for this crucial second leg tie. Ian McCall had Luke McCowan on from the start and Robbie Crawford was deemed fit enough to take his place in the side. Michael Moffat was on the bench for the Honest Men and top scorer Lawrence Shankland would be the man to keep an eye on.

    Around 2500 watched this one and Ayr started brightly without causing too much concern.

    However, it was Jordan White who had the first couple of attempts. The first was blocked by Ross Doohan in the visitors goal after White was fed through on the right side, Doohan blocking as White tried to dink the ball behind him. The second effort was a shot on the turn from the edge of the box which the keeper gathered with ease.

    From that save, Ayr took the lead when a crossfield pass from Shankland found Declan McDaid scampering down the right flank. His cross took a slight deflection off Jamie McCart's leg but it still found McCowan sprinting across the box to fire high into the net from six yards.

    Ayr were looking slick at this point and their passing game was outdoing the stifled approach from Inverness who looked a little edgy in the opening half.

    White saw an effort saved and Robbie Crawford could have done better than shoot wide at the other end. As Inverness upped the pace heading to wards the break Aaron Doran shot wide and they ended the half on top, but a goal behind on the day.

    Half Time 0-1

    Inverness were dealt a blow ten minutes into the second half as Tom Walsh left the field feeling his hamstring to be replaced by Anthony McDonald.

    McDaid shot wide as Ayr looked to level the aggregate score and Mark Ridgers had to look smart to deny a header from Skankland. McDaid and Crawford were next to go wide as Inverness restricted the visitors to trying speculative efforts, but it was an uneasy spell for the hosts.

    We began to get to grips with the game and Jamie McCart headed wide and a couple of minutes later we were level. Aaron Doran was fouled some thirty yards from goal wide on the left. Liam Polworth curled an inviting ball into the mix and White and Coll Donaldson were left unmarked as they both rose for the ball. There was little doubt where the ball ended up, but Donaldson claimed he touched it with his hair and the relief in the stands was instant as Coll took the plaudits from the North Stand, his first goal this season.

    Ayr almost went in front again just two minutes later as Andy Murdoch unleashed a thumping shot from outside the box but Ridgers was equal to it.

    Ayr ft 1-1.pngTime was now running out for United to take the game to extra time and their frustration showed as they picked up a couple of late bookings as Inverness looked more assured towards the end of a game they had struggled to control for long spells. 

    Not a classic by any manner or means, but that vital 3-1 win at Somerset Park set Inverness up and enabled them to take it easier than they might have done had the match been all square.

    Great contributions from MotM Coll Donaldson with his partner Jamie McCart also playing well as we defended in depth at times. Aaron Doran was the pick of the forwards as he twisted and turned his way down the wing and Jordan White showed his worth once more, using his power and height to good effect.

    All in, not a great spectacle, and Ian McCall seems a bit miffed that his side were the best team over the two legs. I've got news for you Ian, Inverness play Dundee United on Tuesday night and Ayr United's wonderful season has ended.

    So Caledonian Stadium on Tuesday night and Tannadice on Friday night. A schedule John Robertson has voiced his concerns over preferring the option of Wednesday and Sunday. The winners will play St Mirren or Hamilton who meet on Monday night and that could decide who is in the play-off final. 

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Here's the managers speaking to BBC Sport

    Inverness manager John Robertson: "It's a strange situation defending a two-goal lead at home - it's awkward. The players weren't sure whether to go for it or to sit back and we were a bit safe. I thought we looked very nervous in the first 15-20 minutes. Ayr got a beautifully-worked goal and that woke us up a bit. These matches are done over 180 minutes and we've come through it."

    Ayr manager Ian McCall: "I'm very disappointed. I'm very proud of the players and what they've put in over two years and a lot of them will be leaving us for bigger clubs. I thought we were the better team in both games in terms of playing football and passing the ball but ultimately theses games are about getting through.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Not the best performance ever, but this was all about getting through to the next round of the play-off and so far it's mission accomplished with more difficult games to come. Good backing for the Ayr players must have given them a lift when they came on to the park and the moved the ball around better with Inverness looking edgy trying to protect that two goal cushion. Anyway, job done so far.

    Here's the goals from yesterdays game. No doubt about the Ayr scorer, but difficult to see who got the final touch although Donaldson is claiming the Inverness goal.

    Here's Johnny...................

     


    Date: 11/05/2019  Venue: Caledonian Stadium Attendance: 2323 Referee: Steven McLean 
     
    Inverness CT: 1

    • Lineup:  Ridgers; B Mckay (Rooney 63), Donaldson, McCart, McHattie, Walsh (McDonalld 54), Trafford,
    • Polworth, Chalmers, Doran, White.
    • Subs (not used):  C Mackay, Harper, MacGregor, McCauley, Austin.
    • Scorers: Donaldson (79 maybe)
    • Booked: McHattie (89)
    • Sent Off: none

    Ayr United: 1

    • Lineup:  Doohan; Smith, Muirhead, Rose, Harvie, Crawford, Murdoch, Kerr (Cadden 83), McDaid (Miller 77),
    • Shankland, McCowan (Moffat 65)
    • Subs (not used): Hare-Reid; Forrest, Ecrepont, Docherty.
    • Scorers: McCowan (19)
    • Booked: Muirhead (29), Smith (45+1), Harvie (83), Shankland (87)
    • Sent Off: none

    a

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  • Blog Entries

    • By Scotty in Across the Pond
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      For the second home game in a row TFC went down 2-1, this time to the Philadelphia Union, albeit with a little help from rookie referee Ramy Touchan. Despite having the better of the opening 25 minutes, TFC found themselves 1-0 down when Chris Mavinga got the last touch on a Fabrice-Jean Picault effort.  The reds equalised early in the second half with another audacious chipped free-kick from Alejandro Pozuelo which Carlos Coronel got a hand to but couldn’t stop. That’s his 5th of the season.
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      Jonathan Osorio Goal

       
       
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    • By hislopsoffsideagain in Narey's Toepoker
         0
      Four years ago Falkirk were preparing for a Scottish Cup Final against Inverness Caledonian Thistle.


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      Falkirk's relegation to the then-First Division in 2010 led to a big emphasis on bringing through youth. First Steven Pressley and then Gary Holt were unable to get them promoted - they finished third in the table four consecutive times - but they did develop an impressive group of academy graduates: Blair Alston, Botti Biabi, Ryan Blair, Jay Fulton, Tony Gallacher, Stephen Kingsley, Conor McGrandles, Stewart Murdoch, Craig Sibbald and Murray Wallace all went on to leave for bigger and better things and often for a decent transfer fee (Blair, Fulton, Gallacher, Kingsley and Wallace for six figure sums, McGrandles for a reported £1m). Luke Leahy, Peter Grant and Will Vaulks were youngsters plucked out of nowhere and developed into very decent players.

      Holt left in the summer of 2014 to join Norwich City's coaching team. The appointment of the much older Houston seemed on the face of it to be a change of direction but he continued the work of his predecessors. Getting to another cup final was a considerable achievement. So too was beating Hibs in the playoffs the next season (before the defeat to Killie) and finishing ahead of Dundee United in the league the year after. 
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      Houston was replaced by Paul Hartley, who had won the Championship with Dundee back in 2014. In the meantime the Bairns had picked up their first league win of the season under caretaker management. They would not win again until 30 December. Bottom spot was never a realistic possibility - Brechin City's record-setting incompetence made sure of that - but a relegation playoff spot was a real worry. Thankfully things clicked in the new year. Falkirk picked up a very respectable 33 points in the second half of the season, compared to 14 points from their first 18 games. That was still only good enough for eighth (it would have been enough for fifth this season!) but it offered encouragement to the board that Hartley was on the right track.

      That'll be why they let him sign sixteen players last summer.


      The overhaul was carried out with the assistance of Richard Mitchell, formerly head of recruitment at Ross County, who was brought in to scout players primarily from England's lower leagues and find some cheap rough diamonds to polish. Ideally the youth academy would have produced some too...but in December 2017 the club closed it with virtually no prior warning. Despite the impressive output of previous years, it was claimed that it cost too much and that, unless players were sold for significant money each season, it was too much of a risk. The club also stated that the money could be used to concentrate on the first team.

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      In mid-September a rather bullish Q&A with the chairman was published on the club website. "We have been in the Championships too long. Playoffs and finishing second are not good enough", it was stated. As for the current campaign, "the playoffs remain our aspiration".

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      Next was a Tuesday night trip to Dumfries. With the match goalless after 90 minutes, Falkirk won a stoppage time penalty. Davis Keillor-Dunn converted it and raced towards the away support, sparking a pitch invasion which took a few minutes to clear. Keillor-Dunn was shown a second yellow card and dismissed. There was sufficient time added on that Queen of the South got a soft penalty of their own and nicked a draw, robbing the Bairns of two precious points. Queen of the South would finish the season ninth, above Falkirk on goal difference.

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      It is easy to see how this happened. The board made poor managerial appointments in times of crisis. Those managers in turn recruited appallingly, looking for quick fixes to their crises. It seems like the panic button was pressed in the autumn of 2017 and the finger was never lifted.

      And yet it would not be hard to see the Dunfermlines, the Partick Thistles, the Invernesses of Scottish football suffering similar fates. Being in a ten team league where ambitions are high and patience is low and money is tight means there is rarely if ever time for a blueprint for the future to be drawn up, let alone seen through. It's quite possible Falkirk will not be the last full-time club to meet this fate.

      As for their fans, there is some solace to be found a little further along the M9. Livingston were relegated to League One in 2016. Two years later they completed back-to-back promotions, and this year they are a comfortable ninth in the Premiership. Maybe the only way is up?


      Lawrie Spence has ranted and spouted his ill-informed opinions on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007.  He has a life outside this blog.  Honestly.
      View the full article
    • By hislopsoffsideagain in Narey's Toepoker
         0
      I like to think that the lack of outrage I've received over my choice of keeper and back four suggests that I've got it right...but it probably means that nobody gives a s***.  Oh well...

      Here, to try and wind folk up further, is the midfield and attack.


      CENTRAL MIDFIELD: CALLUM MCGREGOR (CELTIC), DAVID TURNBULL (MOTHERWELL)
      Honourable mentions: Graeme Shinnie (Aberdeen), Peter Haring (Heart of Midlothian), Stevie Mallan (Hibernian), Alan Power (Kilmarnock)

      Even at left-back against Rangers McGregor looked pretty decent. If anything, he - and Celtic - were at their best this season when Scott Brown was unavailable and he had to drop into a deeper role. He deserves his place on the Player Of The Year shortlist. Where did Turnbull explode from? He'd only started two games for Motherwell before this season , but the 19 year old has 12 goals and counting from centre mid in 2018/19. Excellent at free kicks, nerveless and penalties and a terrific engine too; this boy is going to go far.

      If this was Shinnie's last season in Scotland for the time being, he earned his move to the English Championship and Aberdeen will have a heck of a job replacing his tenacity. Haring seemed limited by injuries as the season went on but has a remarkable instinct for winning second balls. Mallan had his share of quiet days but at his best his passing was deadly and his goals spectacular. Power meanwhile has become even more influential at Kilmarnock since Youssouf Mulumbu left and has been consistently excellent.


      ATTACKING MIDFIELD: JAMES FORREST (CELTIC), RYAN CHRISTIE (CELTIC), RYAN KENT (RANGERS)
      Honourable mentions: Gary Mackay-Steven (Aberdeen), Greg Stewart (Kilmarnock), Steven Naismith (Heart of Midlothian), Daryl Horgan (Hibernian), Scott Arfield (Rangers), Matty Kennedy (St. Johnstone)

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      Mackay-Steven was having his best season since his Dundee United days until the injuries stacked up. Stewart deserves mention for his spell at Kilmarnock (but definitely not for his time at Aberdeen!). What on earth happened to him over the winter break? Hearts were so much better with Naismith on the park as much for his leadership as his ability. Despite missing half the season he still scored twice as many league goals as any other Jambo. Horgan has really pushed on since Paul Heckingbottom arrived at Easter Road and I expect a big season from him next year. Arfield often seemed the only Rangers player able to find space between the lines, and had even more influence when moved to the right flank. Kennedy was a real find for St. Johnstone and did well even though too often opponents identified him as the Saints' only threat and snuffed him out accordingly.


      STRIKER: ALFREDO MORELOS (RANGERS)
      Honourable mentions: Sam Cosgrove (Aberdeen), Odsonne Edouard (Celtic)

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      It seems ironic that Aberdeen have taken a step backwards despite finally coming up with a regular goalscorer. If Cosgrove can become more composed in front of goal he could be even more dangerous next season. Edouard may well be the most talented centre forward in Scotland but never seems to stay fit enough to start more than a few games at a time. He still ended up Celtic's top scorer though.


      So here's the XI for you in all their glory...





      I look forward to the usual constructive criticism...


      Lawrie Spence has ranted and spouted his ill-informed opinions on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007.  He has a life outside this blog.  Honestly.



      Edit - here's some of that constructive feedback...




      What can I say? I'm clearly a popular guy...

      View the full article
    • By tm4tj in Football adventures with James Rendall
         0
      The six venues chosen for this summer’s U21 European Championships in Italy is a curious mix, strandling two countries too! The North East pairing of the Friulian cities of Udine and Trieste are quite a distance from the other four. Reggio Emilia and Bologna form the “central” pairing, but it is the appointment of fourth tier stadiums at Cesena and San Marino, acting as the “southern” venues that might have been the surprise picks! Part of this article was penned for Football Weekends embellished with anecdotes of my travels to the latter duo for football.
      CESENA
      Had Cesena (pronounced ch-zane-A) been hosting last summer, the town might have been a little gloomy in outlook as AC Cesena went bust having been party to an inflated transfer fee scandal in an attempt to balance the books. A two league demotion, and the subtle alteration to Cesena FC later, the club are on the way back, promoted as Champions from the fourth tier. They were once held in highest regard, perceived to be well run with a conveyor belt of talent youth system, but it will take time to remove the tarnished reputation outwith the local area.
      The town has a population of just under 100,000, but given it is host to a sizeable part of the University of Bologna’s curriculum, it can have a distinctly youthful and busy feel. The quaint Piazza Popolo is the centrepiece of the town. Here you will find restaurants, a bar and an ice cream parlour. One side of piazza has a high wall which is the periphery of the Rocco Malatestiana, accessed through the arched tunnel on the piazza near the fountain, then up and up to the hilltop fortress.
      The Stadio Dino Manuzzi is named after a famous son of Cesena calcio from yesteryear. Having hosted Serie A football less than a decade ago, the Manucci was always going to be too big for Serie D with its 23,900 capacity, but the fans stayed loyal throughout a troubled year. It is a fabulous stadium, one worthy of International occasions, albeit with an artificial pitch. It is about a twenty to thirty minute walk from the railway or bus station, as they are opposite each other. From the road outside the railway station, turn left and follow it a few hundred yards to a small roundabout where the road  goes slightly left, but you want to turn right, and head up in this direction for half a kilometre or so. You will eventually come to a busy thoroughfare crossing your path, here you want to turn left and follow it until the stadium appears, complete with a sizeable seahorse, the clubs emblem in the middle of a grassy roundabout just outside. In the vicinity you will find two or three small bars and a cafe or two as well. When Cesena are at home catering vans appear to add alternatives to the grub available, but as to whether they will be on hand for these games I am unsure.
      The Seahorse is a curious emblem for a landlocked town and club, but Cesenatico, some 10 kilometres away is considered the beach extension of Cesena. There is no railway link between the two, and if using such transportation Cesenatico is easier reached by train from Rimini, about 25 minutes away. It is a fine resort, with wonderful restaurants on the river side that runs through the town and doubles up as the harbour for its fishing fleet too, so guess what is very fresh and in abundance! At the Cesenatico railway station you will find a wonderful museum to the great Italian cyclist Marco Pantani, a local lad. Cesenatico have their own team, but in mid-June only the conclusion of the third tier play offs might still be rumbling on from the domestic game!
      Cesena traditionally make periodic appearances in the top flight and were last promoted to Serie A in 2010 which was a fourth promotion to the top table for a club only founded in 1940! The high point was in 75/76 with a 6th place finish in Serie A being good enough to qualify for Europe, where they suffered a round one exit in the UEFA Cup against then East German side Magdeburg, losing 4-3 on aggregate but they gave it a real go having lost the first leg away 3-0! They became only the second Emilia side to play in Europe, and 40 years on, only Parma and Sassuolo have been added to that roster!! But the aforementioned sides have perhaps rumbled Cesena’s status as once being the second team of the region behind Bologna!
      I first stepped off a train in Cesena in June 1987 to see the “Seahorses” play, it was my first game in Italy, and one of the first clubs in the country for whom I had a passion! If Como were the first, by virtue of being in the city the night Italy won the World Cup, Cesena were second, an intriguing name at the bottom of the clubs in the Subbuteo catalogue for white top and black shorts, listed under West Germany, Derby, Hereford and Ayr, but of course I was going to be drawn to Cesena!! Thinking back, it was incredible we got tickets but having arrived 6 hours before kick off we went straight to the stadium to get our briefs as promotion to Serie A was on that day! The stadium was absolutely full, the last game in the ground with the enormously high and bouncing temporary stands, before it was very quickly reconstructed to its magnificent present day look! A 2-1 win versus Catania didn’t get them up automatically that day as other results hadn’t all gone their way, but they did make it up via a convoluted three way play off, with a “final” play off win 2-1 against Lecce in San Benedetto del Tronto!
      I have had the pleasure of four subsequent matches in Cesena over the intervening years which capture the see-saw fortunes of the club. I earned my stripes with third tier action v Pro Sesto (2008), Serie B versus Bari (2006) and Serie A v Inter (2011) which saw another full house and a very memorable match! Cesena were leading right until the end, when two late strikes from the visitors broke the bianconeri hearts! In April 2017 Brescia were in town for a mid week league fixture, and while both clubs have Serie A pedigree,  they were both struggling to make it clear of the relegation zone. I know Brescia is a fair distance from Cesena for a midweek game, but it was surprising to see no away fans, after all, these two clubs have “fan” friendship! Indeed, the local Ultras were operating a first half protest of their own, with their “zone” empty and no singing. Cesena played relaxed and well to the polite applause of a sizeable crowd, and deserved the lead at the break. Protest over, the tape was removed and the Ultras banners were swaying and the atmosphere returned to normality, but oddly their first ditty was “Brescia, Brescia”, an acknowledgement of their absence friends! Brescia had upped their game and were much more menacing and got the equaliser. Cesena pressed for a winner and despite some terrific near things that came and went, we all trotted out after a 1-1 draw!
      The sad footnote to all of this was the clubs involvement in an accountancy scam with Chievo Verona, where an inflated transfer fee, subsequently rumbled it created a cataclysmic sized debt. They have waded their way past Forli and tidily Santarcangelo in derby matches en route to the third tier next term, where Imolese, Ravenna and Rimini will be lying in wait for derby games too, a far cry from the once great regional top derby, Cesena v Bologna, which is still a few seasons off yet, sadly!
      SAN MARINO
      The inclusion of San Marino on the roster of venues is a wonderful touch, and a boost for the Most Serene Republic of San Marino as the hilltop state can be known! The country is named after a stonemason from the island of Rab in modern day Croatia! Saint Marinus moved to Rimini with his chums, but his sermons were continually being persecuted so he fled to nearby Mount Titano, where the Republic founded as early as 301!! Gradually surrounding areas joined and the land area grew, albeit it is still a miniscule country with a very small population of just 33,300, and flat land is very much at a real premium.
      Right up at the top of hill is the “city” of San Marino, and what a wonderful place it is too. This is the real tourist hub of the country, as well as its economic and governmental powerhouse. It’s tight streets are full of souvenir shops, as well as San Marino labelled goods similar those you’d get elsewhere but at a fraction of the cost, and probably a lesser quality too. Bars and restaurants abound as you wind up to the very top, the fortress, Guaita at the summit of Mount Titano. The views from here on a clear day will allow sight of Rimini and the Adriatic Sea as well as the surrounding, distinctly flat lands of Emilia-Romagna.      
      The San Marino national side have hit rock bottom, now allegedly the worst International team in the world, but are they really worse than Guam, or American Samoa? Pleasingly they have abandoned their dark blue kit, and reverted to the classic light blue original, having given up on the notion that the darker shade would mean they’d be taken more seriously!
      One of the last areas to join the Republic just over 500 years ago was Serravalle. This area at the base of the hill, almost the first place you come through after the border, and before the winding route to the top. If you are coming to San Marino by public transport, you need to catch the Bonelli Bus Company bus from Rimini. There stop is just across the road from the railway station, 50 yards to the right, but the first of a variety of bus stops lined up on that side of the street. The majority of the tourist on the bus will be going to the final stop right up at San Marino town, but if you are merely going for the game and don’t fancy a lengthy walk down the hill, make sure they let you off at Serravalle. The stadium is just off the road to the right, hidden behind trees down in a hollow. I stayed in a hotel just above the stadium when I was at a game here in 2007, so local options to stay are available.
      The ground is now known as the San Marino stadium, essentially it is just two stands running the length of the pitch with a running track around it. With a capacity of just 6,664 it is by some distance the smallest stadium hosting U21 action. Aside from the national side, San Marino calcio, the Italian fourth tier league side also play here, as well as some big matches from the local league. It is debatable as to whether the locals will embrace this tournament, but I hope they do, as it is a rare opportunity for San Marino to host such an event, and for them to perhaps see goals scored by both participating International teams for a change!   
      My sole endeavour to watch a game in San Marino was in May 1991 but it turned out to be a bit of a disaster! I thought I was doing the right thing, checking into a Serravalle hotel for two nights either side of an International with Bulgaria, positively glowing having seen Ancona beat Ascoli in the big Marche derby 2-0 at a jam packed Stadio Dorico before heading north. The night before the game I strolled down to stadium, pretty much a one stand arena in those days, but it was all locked up, and no posters were visible suggesting the kick off time. These were the days long before “apps” that would resolve such a query immediately, and on game day I became more and more perplexed, no one in the hotel or any given establishment in the town had a clue when the kick off was scheduled. I suspect a lot didn’t even know there was an International! The only plausible explanation came from a chap who had a perfectly valid theory! Inter Milan were playing Roma in the UEFA Cup Final that night at 8,45pm, so a 6pm kicked off down in Serravalle would allow everyone to get home in time for that final. I bought it, and ambled down the winding way from San Marino town to the ground. I arrived about 5,45pm and surprisingly it was a case of just walking in, no one was looking for cash! A few hundred people were already in the ground, and shortly after taking a seat, the teams trotted out. Maybe ten minutes later something struck me, they hadn’t stood for the National Anthems, and an enquiry of a chap behind me brought the news, this was the second half, with Bulgaria already leading 2-0!! It wasn’t much more than a training exercise, you’ve seen the film, San Marino sitting deep and hoping for the final whistle without being humiliated. They merely lost a third from the penalty spot, but against Stoichkov, Kostadinov and Letchkov a 3-0 loss was a bit of a result!
      I am staying in Rimini for two weeks over the next International weekend in June and I had hoped that I could have added a full 90 minutes to my San Marino CV, but it transpires they are away for both fixtures in order to prepare the stadium for hosting the U21 Championships. Thankfully this takes place after we have departed as otherwise Rimini might have been busier in June than one would wish for a quiet, relaxing holiday!  

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