Wednesday, May 09, 2007

On the hallowed turf

I shot the Scottish Football League Third Division play-off semi final ties between Queens Park and Arbroath at Hampden Park and Gayfield last week and both games were a treat to photograph. Queens Park went through to the final to be played this week against East Fife. Victory for the only amateur side playing in the Scottish League would see them play Second Division football next season.

I'd shot at Hampden before, the Tennent's Scottish Cup semi final between Gretna and Dundee in April 2006, but there was a more relaxed feel to a Queens Park home match than there had been on that occasion. At a big game at Hampden there are loads of photographers and pretty rigid restrictions on where you are allowed to go, you are basically restricted to behind the advertising boards, but Queens allowed a certain amount of flexibility "You can move around, as long as you don't go into the stands and clamber over the seats" their press officer told me, and all of the snappers shot the match from on the 'hallowed turf' - just a couple of yards from the actual pitch.

Light was good too, as you'd expect at an international venue - the second half was under floodlights and they gave a shutter speed of 1/500th at F4 (ISO 800) at worst.

Hampden turned out to be a fun experience, hard to believe that a 52,000 seater stadium could have a good atmosphere with just under a thousand fans in attendance - but it did, both sets of fans made a fair bit of noise and they had a smashing football match to get excited about. Arbroath were a little unlucky to only be level going into the last quarter of an hour, striker Willie Martin had a nightmare evening in front of goal, missing three great chances including a penalty, but once Queens went ahead then the amateurs could have scored three or four more. I looked like it would end 1-0 but in the last moments striker David Weatherston was downed as he raced in on goal by Arbroath right back John Rennie (pictured) and the Spiders had a two nil lead to take to the second leg at Arbroath.

Four days later on the Angus coast they finished the job with a very professional performance to extend their season by a week and keep alive their promotion dream.

I liked the reaction of these fans in the background as Weatherston celebrated his opener in a 2-1 win.

It was hard on Arbroath who had looked as if they might win the league, and automatic promotion just a couple of weeks ago, only to end the season with the knowledge that they had failed at the play off stage for the second season running.