There was a glow amid the dark of Midlothian on Friday night. Bonnyrigg Rose Athletic’s new floodlights had blinked awake for the first time. They shrouded a prowling, cantankerous sky in promise and light.
It was as if, in the old colliery county, the ghosts of a thousand miners had come up for air, lamps and lanterns dazzling anew in the inky black.
These were not replacement pylons and neon, nor the trappings of bomb the past renovation or relocation. They were New Dundas Park’s first-ever floodlights. In an age of wrecking balls, of history erased and the fetish of the blanket new, it was novel to see a cherished old home cultivated. Here was the welcome and warm feeling of being at a Christening rather than a funeral.
Floodlights make those who love football go weak at the knees. The words “night game” render us misty and bewitched; this is the language of romance and folklore. Floodlight beams transform our beloved stadiums. They offer a scene change, upgrading a pleasing spectacle to a crackling instalment of theatre. The pitch is greener, the players more urgent, and our singing louder. They have meaning and beauty.
The four pylons of New Dundas Park were built in under a week. The Rose had, however, encountered a floodlight problem along the way. Still in the dark after promotion from the East of Scotland league in May, the SFA denied the club membership and therefore elevation to the Lowland League. Cue angry words, an appeals process, and the June raising of the lights. Bulb money came from fundraising – psychic evenings, race nights and half-marathon sponsorships. The SFA relented. Approaching this Scottish Cup second round tie, Bonnyrigg Rose had won nine times in 11 outings and sat top of the Lowland League with their arms folded.
Their opponents for the switch-on were in the form of their lives, too. Buckie Thistle had been victorious in all but one of their twelve Highland League matches this season. More than 150 of their followers had journeyed from Banffshire for this clash between leaders of north and south. Before the game in Bonnyrigg Rose Social Club, they were confident, singing and hoisting their green and white scarves. Some were green in the face too, having indulged all away day. They wore the glazed eyes of sickly cats. Oh when the Jags/go steamin’ in, they sang.
In the ground, rain lashed and careered in front of the floodlights. It was, to those of us that way inclined, a life-affirming poem and a visual orchestra. At kick-off, an air horn could be heard, a sure symbol that this was a proper cup tie. Flare smoke added a tint of old chimney industry.
Rose started the brighter, fizzing the ball around. Buckie seemed surprised to be facing opponents that were their equals. For the first few minutes, they defended as if haunted by a bad dream. Then, their centre-halves, Kieran Adams and Lewis MacKinnon, awoke and grabbed the game like bouncers turfing out a belligerent gang. Though resembling background felons from a gangster film, and muddied like capybaras after a storm, the two were organised, diligent and nimble. It was just as well, because all around them, players scurried chaotically like spiders trying to escape from an empty bathtub. Efforts on target were few, scoring an absurd suggestion. Elegant goal net stantions remained neglected, as if unnoticed new earrings worn by a saddened wife.
Ten minutes after the restart, something changed. A pass bobbled its way to captain Jonathan Stewart, poised a few yards outside the box and next to the touchline. He spiralled a cross towards the goal. Flailing backwards, keeper Lee Herbert stretched for the ball like a drunk attempting to catch a Frisbee and falling over the barbecue. The cross kissed the net just beneath those unloved stantions. Bedlam beneath the lights. Stewart deserved his goal. He conducted the best passages of Rose football and possesses the swagger of a young teacher that every pupil likes.
Soon after, jinking George Hunter scythed his way through the right hand side of the box. He swayed his way around Adams and MacKinnon, nudged the ball onto his right foot and jabbed it home. It was a goal worthy of sealing the tie. It was a goal worthy of floodlights.