GOALS, celebrations, iconic moments – key incidents stick in the mind of football fans and players despite weeks, months and even years passing.
Whether it is a last minute goal, derby day delight, giant-killing or something much more personal, there are games which fans can recall every detail from, even years down the line.
In the seventh of our new series – Match of Yesterday – we ask Sean Winter for his favourite game during his time with the Blues. The midfielder enjoyed five seasons at Stranraer, recording 201 appearances and scoring 38 goals to make himself a fans’ favourite.
Q: What is the match?
Sean: Obviously, there are a couple. The big one is the hat-trick I scored at Hampden, in the national stadium (Queen’s Park 0 Stranraer 4 in the Scottish Cup on November 10, 2012).
That sticks with me but I would say my favourite game was against Dunfermline away in the Scottish Cup (Dunfermline 1 Stranraer 3 on December 9, 2014). We knew we had Dundee United in the next round if we got through because the draw had been made the previous week. That was probably, for me, the one I always think of as the most exciting and the best victory.
Q: What other matches did you consider?
Sean: There was also the Dumbarton game (Petrofac Cup game on July 26, 2014) when I had my engagement party that night. I could not have the game going to extra time. I did tell my future wife that it was going to be that way.
We were 2-0 down in that game and big Frank (McKeown) scored two and puts us level with about five minutes to go. I obviously started panicking and started thinking ‘I’m going to miss this party’. Jen would have been absolutely raging but I obviously popped up and scored a bit of a wonder goal about four or five minutes into injury time. A scorpion kick is what it was described as. That was another big moment.
I was able to just run away, straight up to the engagement party and I made it in perfect time. That game and the Hampden game stick in my mind but I think the best feeling I had was from the Dunfermline game.
Q: If we look at the build up. As you say, it was a Scottish Cup replay. What do you remember about the original game down at Stair Park?
Sean: I think Dunfermline had come into that league and they were full time. Dunfermline for me are a team that should be playing in the Premier League. They are one of your top, well organised teams. They have got a massive fanbase, their stadium, everything about the club is a Premier League club. So, they were down there and probably thought they were better than that level, which is understandable and all the players were full time. So, we were part time and probably had the smallest budget in the league against the big giants of Dunfermline.
I always felt that was the way their management seemed to look at the games against us. It always felt like they were looking down on us a wee bit. I got the vibe from the club. Obviously, down at Stranraer, they were the better team and they should have been out of sight but we managed to nick a draw just right at the death (Stranraer trailed 2-0 before goals from Willie Gibson and Craig Malcolm). Then it all kicked off at full time.
I think Neil McCann had got a wee bit irate and he was raging. We were obviously celebrating. Of course we were celebrating. We had scored a last minute equaliser to take us to the replay the next week. He made a few remarks about it being embarrassing that we were celebrating a draw and stuff like that. It was quite condescending the way it was all put across. Craig Malcolm, Barry Russell and myself gave a wee bit back and it all followed into the tunnel as well.
I did not realise that he was going to be so angry about the whole situation. We all got changed, everything had settled down and we went in to the wee room to get something to eat after the game. He came in and started piping up again with Malky, and myself and Malky ended up getting chucked out. We basically just got told to go because it was getting quite angry. I think in the papers they made a few references to the fact we had drawn the game – and Neil McCann said it to us as well – about ‘wait till we get you up there, we will comfortably beat you’ and stuff like that. It riled me, absolutely riled me.
I’ve never been a full time footballer and a lot of the guys at Stranraer were the same. It was just so condescending and basically we had earned that draw. They were the better team but we had earned the draw. They had no right to just talk us down and dismiss us. I felt doing so built the game up, especially for the week after. Also, we drew Dundee United later that evening or on the Monday. We knew whoever was going through was getting a big tie against one of the top teams as well. It all built itself up nicely for the game.
Q: Does it work in your favour that the replay is the next game?
Sean: Yes, because the feelings were fresh. To be honest with you, Dunfermline were a better team player for player. Most of their squad were better than our squad and we were just a small, part time team, with the lowest budget in the league. They were full-time, looking to get back up the league and they should have beaten us but that is the way football is.
We got the draw and we were celebrating and all that stuff happened – it did add extra spice to the game. It gave us probably that little bit of fire that we needed. I think if it never happened and we just took the draw up to Dunfermline the week after, they probably would have beaten us. They were a good side but the fact that it all kicked off, I think every single one of our players were just like ‘we’re not getting beat next week. No matter what, we are not getting beat’ because of everything they said and the condescending manner. You hear about things like that in football all the time. You should not give the other team anything to cling onto and it did. It gave us that wee bit of fight that we needed.
We went up there and I knew with the atmosphere at training all week, which was geared towards everyone thinking they would comfortably beat us and nobody thought about us. That was probably the best thing that could have happened because it gave every single player a wee lift and we were absolutely desperate, I’ve never been so desperate to win a game, just because of what happened. That is probably why it is my favourite game. We went up there and quite rightly so we won the game, pretty comfortably in the end.
Q: Obviously, you got the first goal of the game?
Sean: Again, that is one of the reasons why it is my favourite game. I played on the left and obviously I was mostly playing on the right. I started on the left and I was a wee bit unsure. Andy Stirling, who had been with us and was a cracking player, was on the right hand side. He was directly up against me and he was a good player. I was a wee bit worried at first because I’m not used to playing on the left and he is a cracking right mid. I was thinking ‘I’m going to have to defend a lot here’. I thought they would have had a lot of the ball but we started well.
Probably, five or ten minutes into the game, certainly, it was not long, I scored one of the better goals that I scored for Stranraer. It was an absolute belter. I came off the line and I hit it. I was just outside the box, just at the corner, and I smashed it. It flew past the keeper and I celebrated and went mental.
To be fair, I remember Stevie Farrell, I ran right by their dugout and was giving it all the gestures to the dugout and then I was celebrating with the Stranraer fans in the corner, and Stevie Farrell came up to me and he gave me a bit of gip. He said we are five or ten minutes into the game and you are celebrating like that. He said that I needed to calm it down and there was a long way to go. I think Steven Bell said the same as well but I was raging, absolutely raging!
Once we scored that, we were in full control of that game. There was only one team going to win that game from then on. We ran out quite comfortably in the end. They pulled it back to 2-1 but I think Jammer (Jamie Longworth) came off the bench to make it 3-1. Danny Stoney came off the bench and caused all sorts of problems with his pace. It could have 3, 4, 5-1 to us.
I think we were by far the better team on the day. It was a very, very good feeling. To be honest with you, after that game as well, obviously the manager gets invited into the other manager’s office but they did not invite our manager in, they did not give us any food afterwards, they did not put out any tea or biscuits or anything like that.
They were very, very bitter about the whole thing which made it all the sweeter. They were a big, professional, full-time team and we were the wee minnows that had beaten them and they did not take that well. It was a cracking, cracking victory and always just stays in my mind.
Q: You scored in the first half, it was 1-0 at half time, and then Stephen Stirling scores. Ross Millen pulled one back five minutes later. Was there ever any doubt? When it goes back to 2-1 sometimes the momentum switches back to the other team. Was there ever any doubt that you would see it over the line?
Sean: I just think everything in that game had sort of just set us up. I just had it in my head that we were winning it. Every single player had the same mentality that day.
As you say, we were 2-0 up, then they get a goal and have the home crowd – they always had big crowds in comparison to the teams in the league and when they got one back the dynamics changed a wee bit – but I always felt we were well in control of the game. They scored but, if I remember correctly, it quickly went back to being the same pattern. We were never majorly under pressure for 15-20 minutes. They scored and then it was back to normal.
We were very well organised – Ginge (Stevie Aitken) had us very well organised – and I always felt we were going to nick another goal or possibly another couple. Jammer has obviously killed it.
That was one of the big things for me. Dunfermline’s stadium is a really, really nice stadium. It is a good atmosphere and you do feel as if you are playing at a higher level when you are playing there. I only ever played League One football at best. Obviously, you play Championship teams and Premier league teams as well but to play a team in your own league in a stadium like that, it always feels a wee bit more professional. It was good to play in those stadiums, especially when you do well and pull off a bit of a shock. I always felt like we would win that game.
Q: You mentioned how you played on the left. Willie Gibson had scored to make it 2-1 in the first game but Willie was missing for the replay. Can you remember why he was missing, why you were on the left and who was on the right?
Sean: I’m trying to think – I cannot remember, to be honest. I genuinely cannot remember. I just remember I was on the left, which was fine. I think part of it was because Andy Stirling was on the right. Basically, Ginge had said to me to and Jackson Longridge to double up on Andy.
A lot of the games when you played full time teams they were always going to have a wee bit more possession than us. It sort of took away a lot of my attacking game and he would just say to me to sit and help out the left or the right back. The teams that are full time have always got tricky wingers and that is a big point.
Basically, he said to keep an eye on Andy Stirling. I like Andy and I get on well with him but I remember just a couple of minutes into the game I gave him a right hard tackle. I remember him falling off the side of the park and he was not too happy at the tackle but I won the ball. With players like Andy, I feel you need to do that. You need to let him know that he is in a game straight away. If you just let him get the ball and run at you, he will do it all day.
To be fair, from then, he did not really do much in the game to be honest. He got subbed as well. For me, I think that was one of the reasons for me playing on the left. Just to make sure that Andy was not getting on the ball a lot. I don’t think Ginge expected me to get as high up the park as often as I seemed to do in the game.
Games like that are always good when you are the underdog and you pull them off.
Q: Was there that extra incentive knowing who you were going to be getting in the next round?
Sean: Yes. For me, I’m not playing at the highest level, it was always good. The Scottish Cup was your chance to get a big showcase tie and we got a few of them in my time at Stranraer. We got Dundee United twice, we got Motherwell and we got Ross County and put them out of a cup as well.
That would have been up there for me. You get a chance to play in these big ties. Especially when you draw a game, it is good for a team like Stranraer to see who you are possibly going to get. It can give you that wee bit of an extra lift as well. It is always good when you know you have got a big, big tie.
For me, I knew that if I did not play at a higher level that I wanted to get as many big, big games under my belt as possible so I have always got wee stories to tell. It definitely added that wee bit knowing that was who we had in the next round.
Q: Were Dundee United just a step too far? I think they ran out reasonably comfortable winners on the day?
Sean: I think they were. I think the second half ended 0-0 and it was actually a relatively even game – the second half especially. I think I remember Scott Robertson having a belter of a chance and the keeper made a good save. I put my hands up for the first goal as well. We were in the game and I played a pass to Petts (Craig Pettigrew) and it was nowhere near him. That sent Chris Erskine through one on one with the keeper and he scored so that was my fault.
They were more clinical. When they got their chances, they took them. That was the level they were playing at and that was why they were at that level. There definitely was not too much in the game. I think I was up against their captain Shaun Dillon. I remember he was very good and a very consistent player. He shook my hand and said I had had a good game. I was quite happy with that and I felt I had had a pretty decent game. I don’t think anybody had a poor game but as I say I think they were just that little bit more clinical. They got the job done in the first half and it was then too much of a mountain to climb.
We did play Dundee United another year when we beat Queen’s Park and I scored a hat-trick. They won 5-0 at Stair Park and Johnny Russell scored a hat-trick and Jon Daly scored two, I think. These are big games, they are always good and you always look back on. Although I never played at a higher level, I did test myself at these levels on quite a few occasions. I always felt as if I never disgraced myself.
I think the time we played Ross County and we beat them 3-2, I scored and I won the penalty and got man of the match. They were sitting, I think, fourth in the Premier League at the time. They were absolutely flying. For me, I just did not have that wee bit of extra quality needed to play at the highest level but I always knew, on my day, I could compete at a decent level.
Q: I was going to ask if you keep an eye out for Stranraer results but does it feel like four years that you have been away from Stair Park?
Sean: Up until probably this year, no. This year, for some reason, it just feels like miles away. I was down at Ayr with my son and that was the first time I have been down that drive for ages. I did that drive for five years and it felt as if it had been ages and ages since I had done it. It does make me realise that it was a long time ago.
I talk about games, like the game where I scored the hat-trick, and you are going back five or six years. It is a long time ago. I was there for a long time and I absolutely loved my time at Stranraer. It was my only professional club, if you like. It was brilliant and once I stop playing I am definitely going to make an effort to go back. I do look out for the results and obviously they are my club. They are my lower league club.
Stranraer: Mitchell, Pettigrew, Longridge, Rumsby, McKeown, Aitken, Gallagher (Stoney 77), Bell, S Stirling (Russell 79), Winter, Malcolm (Longworth 77).
Not used: Marenghi and Tobin.
Dunfermline Athletic: Scully, Millen, Whittle, Urquhart, Buchanan, Geggan, Byrne, Thomson (Moffat 63), Falkingham, A Stirling (Chemin 69), Smith (El-Bakhtaoui 63).
Not used: Potter, Forbes, Spence and Goodfellow.