Beith v The Buffs – It’s Raining Goals

The following post was kindly submitted to us by Gordon McCreath, who is a keen Ayrshire junior football historian.

Fans paying to get into Beith’s Bellsdale Park on 19th January 1952, were probably just glad that there was a game for them to go to.  The wintery weather had left the park covered in a blanket of snow, which would have been enough to have the game called off in 2021. But 70 years ago the authorities were not so concerned about the dangers to players, or the comfort of spectators, and the referee was happy enough to let the game go ahead.

The freezing fans, who had braved the weather and paid their admission money, took their places on the terracing, clutched their warm drinks and pies, and were served up a Western League match that would leave them scarcely believing their eyes. 

Although the match was relatively unimportant as neither club could win the championship, the players of both teams went about their business with an enthusiasm that kept the fans’ minds off the freezing weather.

In a vastly entertaining first half, Beith’s trialist sent in a good cross and McManus darted in to give the home team an early lead. The Buffs retaliated with an equaliser from Murray.  Buffs trialist striker then put the Kilwinning side into the lead only for McManus to score again, making it 2-2.  The Buffs trialist popped up with another goal and Harris completed the first half scoring when he put Kilwinning into a 4-2 lead.

It had been a great first half and the fans had plenty to talk about as they queued to replenish their empty Bovril cups. 

Kilwinning seemed to have sealed the win when their trialist striker completed his hat-trick at the start of the second half.  Not to be outdone, McManus showed there was still hope by completing his own hat-trick.  Kilwinning, however, showed they were still in charge and extended their lead to 6-3 when Harris scored.

But plucky Beith still had some fight in them and pulled a goal back when McKay netted from the penalty spot. Then it was the turn of Kilwinning’s Harris to complete a hat-trick when he brought the score to 7-4.  Still Beith wouldn’t lie down and their trialist netted to make the score 7-5.

And still the goals kept coming. Kilwinning’s McNaughton stretched his team’s lead to 8-5 with a penalty.  Then it was Beith’s turn to get on the scoresheet again when McManus scored two more goals and suddenly it was 8-7 and there was only one goal between the teams.

Was there going to be a seemingly impossible fight back?

Before Beith could grab an unlikely equaliser, Harris notched another goal for Kilwinning Rangers and the score stretched again to 9-7.  But Beith had the last word when McManus scored the last goal of the game to make the final score Beith Juniors 8 Kilwinning Rangers 9.

The Irvine Herald’s short match report included the observation that the snow-covered pitch gave little or no bounce to the ball, which the reporter thought was a much greater handicap to the defences rather than to the forwards of both teams. The final scoreline suggests that the reporter just might have been correct.

The performance of a couple of the trialists on show sparked some signing activity after the game.  The young trialist who played at outside-right for Beith impressed Kilwinning so much that they signed him.  Kilwinning Rangers fielded two trialists in the match – a goalkeeper and a centre-forward.

The forward had given a good performance laced with goals and it was no surprise that they got him to put pen to paper on a contract.  It was reported that the centre-forward, a Largs youth who was in the services, also had talks with a Hibernian representative who had travelled through from Edinburgh to look for potential signings.

After conceding eight goals, it was no great surprise that the trialist goalkeeper was not offered a contract by the Buffs. It was also reported in the Kilmarnock Herald and North Ayrshire Gazette that it was a game neither team deserved to lose: ‘Both sides played entertaining football and it was a pity the goals were not equally shared.‘

It was an incredible game but spare a thought for Beith’s Willie McManus. He achieved the rare feat of scoring a double hat-trick, yet he finished in the losing team.  His goals drew a strange quote from the reporter working for the Kilmarnock Herald and North Ayrshire Gazette: ‘McManus of Beith scored six gals for his team last Saturday but he might as well have scored none for Beith were beaten 8-9 by Kilwinning.’