Season 2023/24 Review

Season 2023/24 Review

Johnstone Burgh 2023/24

Pre season was certainly eventful, with lots happening both on and off the pitch. Having started our summer signings before the previous season had even finished, with the announcement that former Rangers, Norwich City, West Bromwich Albion and Scotland midfielder Graham Dorrans would be joining us for the forthcoming season, we grabbed the attention of Scottish football.

As news was breaking of Johnstone Burgh receiving investment, we were making plenty of signings, announcing players who have played in the WOSFL Premier Division, hoping that these players would only be stepping down to playing First Division football for one season, with promotion being our number one target. By the time we started playing football, there were eight new signings in our first Starting XI of pre-season, a 3-0 win against Ardrossan Winton Rovers at Toryglen. Despite eight new signings starting, none of them got on the scoresheet, as Kieran Brophy scored a hat trick.

It wouldn't be until nine days later that we would see a new signing find the net. Having lost 0-5 against Largs Thistle on day 1 of the John Grant Tournament the previous day, Bryan Wharton became the first new signing to get on the scoresheet, as we beat Glenvale 6-0 in the third place playoff. Over the course of that weekend, fans helped us raise a massive £2572.92 for our new charity partners RAMH.

Next up was a trip to our neighbours Thorn Athletic, which saw us win 8-1.

Whilst Graham Dorrans turned heads in Scottish football, the following day the whole of the UK had heard of Johnstone Burgh, as we announced the signing of former Rangers, Hearts, Norwich City and Northern Ireland international Kyle Lafferty. The move even saw Sky Sports visiting Keanie Park to interview our latest addition.

Pre season concluded with three matches against WOSFL Premier Division teams - defeats against Hurlford United (5-1) and Auchinleck Talbot (3-2), followed by a 0-0 draw at Beith Juniors, who had won the WOSFL Premier Division the previous season, and would go on to win it again in 2023/24.

Johnstone Burgh players are presented with their 3rd place medals after beating Glenvale 6-0

The season started on the last weekend of July, with the short trip to newly-promoted local rivals Renfrew. The visit of The Burgh drew a huge crowd to New Western Park, and saw us demolish the home side 4-0 in heavy rain. Games came thick and fast at the start of the season, and three days later we hosted eventual champions Drumchapel United in our first home game. The Tuesday night match, watched by approximately 750 fans, was won by The Burgh 2-1 but marred by the injury sustained by Kyle Lafferty, which would see him ruled out until April. A few days later we made the trip to Ayrshire to play Whitletts Victoria and needed an added time goal from Kieran Brophy to salvage a 2-2 draw. This was followed by back-to-back 3-2 defeats against Shotts Bon Accord and Petershill.

August saw the loan signing of Ally Small, and the permanent transfer of another player with SPFL experience, in former St Mirren, Ross County and Hibs defender Jason Naismith, signing from Cove Rangers.

Ally Small got us back to winning ways as he bagged the only goal in a 1-0 victory over Blantyre Victoria, and we closed out the month of August with a 5-2 win at Cambuslang Rangers, with five goals from five different scorers (Small, Gillespie, Brophy, McKinlay, Simeon).

On the final day of August, we announced that attacker Kieran Brophy had signed a contract extension, seeing him remaining at The Burgh until the end of the 2024/25 season. Another transfer in August saw new signing Dylan Fletcher depart to Arthurlie.

Kyle Lafferty bags his first Burgh goal in the 4-0 win at Renfrew

We started September with our first taste of Cup action as we beat Dundee East Craigie 3-0 in the First Round of the Scottish Junior Cup. The following week we saw, what would be, our heaviest defeat of the season, losing 4-1 at home to Maybole Juniors. A week later, we hosted Kilbirnie Ladeside in the South Challenge Cup, but match lasted only 13 minutes before a severe injury to Kilbirnie defender Jack Wilson saw the match abandoned. Our next match saw us beat nine-man Neilston 2-0 at Keanie Park, and we finished September with a 3-3 draw at Ashfield, a match which saw Graham Dorrans find the net for the first time in Burgh colours to put us ahead before Dale Simeon netted in the 90th minute, and again in the third minute of added time. These last two matches would be the start of our longest unbeaten run of the season, and also the last time we'd play a league game until mid-December.

Dale Simeon equalised deep into added time to snatch a draw at Ashfield

It was a quiet start to October, with The Burgh not playing until the 14th. We'd been due to play another team from Dundee in the Second Round of the Scottish Junior Cup on the 7th. Dundee North End would have been the visitors, but heavy rain meant the match was postponed. Then on the 14th we played the rescheduled match against Kilbirnie Ladeside, beating them 4-0. We'd already nominated this match as our Mental Health Awareness fixture, and had invited RAMH to hold a collection at the match. However, with it being the rescheduled Cup game now, both clubs had agreed that entry would be by donation, and the donations would be split 50/50 between each club's chosen charity (RAMH and Back Onside). Each charity received £600.

As the cup games continued, we turned our attention to the West Of Scotland Cup, welcoming one of the WOSFL's newest members Knightswood to Keanie Park. Ally Small and Jojo Gillespie both netted hat tricks as we beat the Fourth Division side 9-3. Brophy ended the month with another brace as he scored both goals in what was, on paper, our biggest upset of the season, beating Lowland League side University of Stirling 2-0 at Keanie Park in the South Challenge Cup.

In October Max Brown joined St Rochs and Bryan Wharton left The Burgh to join Arthurlie.

We were delighted to be joined by Sarah and John from RAMH for our fixture against Kilbirnie Ladeside

As we moved into autumn, we hosted Dundee North End in the Scottish Junior Cup in the rescheduled match postponed a month ago. The Burgh ran out 3-0 victors that day, and then beat Irvine Meadow XI 3-1 in the third round the following week.

The next day, Sunday 12 November, The Burgh were honoured to participate in Johnstone's Remembrance Day service. The club were represented by committee member Ronnie Hassan and treasurer Vic Young, who laid a wreath in Houston Square.

A week later, we travelled to the East Coast in 'The Battle Of The Burghs', and returned to Johnstone victorious, having beaten Musselburgh Athletic 2-0 at Olivebank Arena.

As the month of November ended, so did our unbeaten run as we were dumped out the West Of Scotland Cup, losing 2-0 at Largs Thistle.

November also saw Jojo Gillespie and Graham Black depart for Renfrew and Arthurlie respectively.

Vic and Ronnie lay a wreath on Remembrance Sunday at Houston Square on behalf of Johnstone Burgh

Unsurprisingly, December brought cold and wet weather. Our reward for beating Irvine Meadow XI in the Scottish Junior Cup was another home tie against another Dundee team. This time, Dundee Downfield would be the visitors to Keanie Park. This was postponed due to snow, and rescheduled a week later, when it was, again, postponed, this time due to a heavy downpour. We'd made three signing this month by the time we finally played a match in December, hosting winless Whitletts Victoria on the 16th. Blair Rossiter joined us from Beith, Marc Waters from Irvine Meadow and Jack Duncan on loan from Cowdenbeath. We beat Whitletts 5-1 and, for the second time this season, we'd scored five goals with five different goal scorers (Wallace, Simeon, Rossiter, S McCann, Small).

We only managed three games in December, and all of them in the space of eight days. We travelled to Kilwinning Rangers on a wet and windy Wednesday night where all five goals were scored after half time, as we won 3-2, thanks to a brace from Rossiter and a late winner from Dale Simeon. Then, on Saturday 23rd we found ourselves playing a home game at Renfrew's New Western Park. Due to the winter weather battering the Keanie Park pitch, and considering the number of postponed matches we were building due to both the weather and our cup runs, we'd decided to switch the match against St Roch's to the artificial turf in Renfrew, where we won 2-1.

That would be our final game of 2023, as our trip to Shotts on the 30th would be postponed due to a frozen pitch. The 2-1 victory would also be the last time we would see our captain, Del Esplin, until April, as he missed the next four months through injury.

December also saw the departure of goalkeeper Jamie McGowan, who joined Kilbirnie Ladeside.

Burgh celebrate Dale Simeon's late winner against Kilwinning Rangers

January started the same way December, with another postponed match. It wasn't to be third time lucky against Downfield, as another frozen pitch meant the game was postponed again. And our first game of 2024 went the same way as our final game of 2023, with a 2-1 win, this time away at Blantyre Victoria. Heavy rain would see our home game against Cambuslang Rangers the following week postponed. During the next midweek, we announced the loan signing of Dumbarton goalkeeper Harry Broun.

Next up was our fourth attempt at playing Downfield. Knowing that if the match were to be postponed again, the tie would be switched to Dundee, we made the decision to switch the tie to New Western Park. After we were pegged back twice to draw 2-2, the match went to penalties, which we won 4-3 to set up a quarter final at home to St Cadocs.

The following day, Burgh announced that manager Jamie McKim had signed a contract extension on his six-year anniversary at the club.

Simeon converts the winning penalty to send us into the quarter finals of the Scottish Junior Cup

Having not played at Keanie Park since 16th December, we returned to our home on 3rd February to host Division Three side Threave Rovers, who made the trip up from The Borders. Unfortunately, it wasn't a happy return home for us as we were knocked out the South Challenge Cup with a 2-1 defeat. We added Darren Christie to the squad, who joined from Pollok, and Benji Wright who joined on loan from Broomhill.

As we moved on from the South Challenge Cup, we turned our attention to the Quarter Finals of the Scottish Junior Cup and the visit of St Cadocs. We got off to the worst possible start, being 2-0 down in the opening 15 minutes. A spirited fightback saw us leading 3-2, with goals from Brophy, McKenzie and Naismith, but we were pegged back with five minutes to play as St Cadocs equalised from the spot. The match went to penalties, which Burgh won 4-1, sparking jubilant scenes at Keanie Park.

However, we were unable to capitalise on the high from that afternoon and things would go rapidly downhill. We were beaten 2-0 at Kilbirnie Ladeside. Our next game, at home to Thorniewood United, was postponed.

Ryan Wallace puts us ahead against Dundee Downfield

Next up, was a potential title decider at Drumchapel, and we were condemned to our third defeat in four, losing 3-1. This was followed by a 1-1 at home to Rutherglen Glencairn. St Roch's away survived a morning pitch inspection and a dominant Burgh came away with nothing, as we lost 2-1, thanks mainly to the home goalkeeper pulling off some great saves.

On the 23rd, we hosted Kilwinning Rangers. We came from behind twice, including an 87th minute equaliser whilst down to 10 men, but that wasn't enough as The Buffs managed to find a winner in added time to win 3-2. The next day, it was announced that manager Jamie McKim, assistant manager David Hill, and coaches David James and Bernie McPhee would be leaving the club. Tommy Montgomery would take temporary charge of the first team, assisted by Ross Wilson.

Monty would have to wait a while before he got to take charge of the team as our rearranged midweek fixture "at home" against Thorniewood United being played at Clftonhill in Coatbridge was, again, postponed due to a waterlogged pitch. This was followed by our home game at Keanie Park against Petershill being postponed on Saturday 30th March.

March saw the departure of Sean Daly, who made his loan move to Glenvale permanent. Marc Waters left the club by mutual consent, and Cammy Crooks joined Glenafton Athletic. Incoming, was Conner McGlinchey from Beith and Jonny Lyon who joined us on loan from East Kilbride.

Hamish McKinlay fires Burgh into the Scottish Junior Cup Semi Finals

Tommy Montgomery took charge of The Burgh for the first time on 3rd April. Another alternative home venue was sourced for this one, as we hosted Cambuslang Rangers at East Kilbride's K-Park. It was a cold and wet evening but this was not a problem for the artificial surface. Nor was it a problem for Johnstone Burgh, who won 6-1. Three days later, we used New Western Park as our home stadium again, and welcomed Ashfield. We seemed to be cruising at 3-0 up but Ashfield scored two goals in the last four minutes, but we held on for a massive win against one of our promotion rivals.

We then turned our focus to the Scottish Junior Cup, with a two-legged tie against Arthurlie coming up. The first leg was away, at Dunterlie Park. A bumper crowd saw the home side take the lead before Kyle Lafferty equalised from the spot, his first goal since his return from injury. Arthurlie again took the lead before former 'Lie attacker Dale Simeon netted to bring a 2-2 draw back to Keanie Park. Former Burgh keeper Graham Black made two outstanding saves during the match, which Burgh would later rue.

The crowd at Dunterlie was big but, a week later in the second leg, the crowd was even bigger. Officially, 2,393 turned out to watch the second leg, although that figure doesn't include under 12s, hospitality, guests of both clubs and SJFA, meaning the actual number would be over 3,000. The crowd was so big, in fact, that kick off had to be delayed due to crowd congestion outside the ground and attracted the likes of Ally McCoist to watch. Burgh got off to a great start, looking threatening early on and taking the lead in the 18th minute. Unfortunately, that was as good as it got for the home side as, five minutes later, the scores were level again and from that moment on, Arthurlie were the better side and ended up winning 2-1.

Less than 24 hours later on 21st April, we announced the appointment of Murdo MacKinnon as first team manager. He would be joined by Stevie Aitchieson as assistant manager and Greig Mitchell as coach.

It was straight in at the deep end for the new boss, as he'd only wait two days for his first match in charge with a trip to Neilston. This match would be the first of six games in just 18 days, and it was a happy start for the new gaffer, winning 4-2.

On 26th April, we made public our plans for the redevelopment of Keanie Park.

The next day, we beat 10-man Renfrew 3-0 at Keanie. And we ended the month by making our second-longest away trip in the league, on Tuesday 30th, to Shotts Bon Accord, another one of our promotion rivals. Jason Naismith scored the only goal of the game in a 1-0 for The Burgh.

Over 3,000 fans watched Johnstone Burgh vs Arthurlie

In a scenario that you would never see in higher leagues, having played Saturday and Tuesday, we were in action again on Thursday night as we travelled to Thorniewood United, our fourth-longest away trip in the league. The travelling didn't seem to affect the visitors as Jason Naismith scored for the third consecutive match then Blair Rossiter fired a rocket into the top corner for a 2-0 win. There was no time for rest as, on Saturday we'd welcome Kilbirnie Ladeside to Keanie Park. After being 1-0 down, substitutes Kyle Lafferty and Kieran Brophy scored within minutes of coming on to win 2-1. With results elsewhere going our way, we knew that a win on Tuesday 7th May would be enough to guarantee us promotion to the WOSFL Premier Division.

Maybole Away. The two words that will forever bring a smile to the face of any Burgh fan. Against the run of play, we were 1-0 down in the 14th minute. Eight minutes later Stuart McCann produced something outrageous to equalise for The Burgh. Rossiter struck the bar from a free kick just before half time. Then three minutes into the second half, Rossiter put us ahead from the penalty spot after Lyon was fouled in the box. However, on 62 minutes Maybole were level. But nine minutes later, Brophy knocked in the rebound after Rossiter's powerful strike was saved. And on 74 minutes, Stuart McCann doubled our advantage to put us 4-2 up and surely secure promotion. As the clock ran down, Burgh fans grew more excitable and as the final whistle blew, the celebrations began, both on the pitch and in the stands. Johnstone Burgh are promoted.

It was then on to our final away game of the season as we travelled to Rutherglen Glencairn. After going ahead through a Blair Rossiter penalty, we were pegged back shortly before half time. Then, with the final kick of the first half, we fell behind to an absolute worldie. The match finished 2-1. Then on Wednesday 15th May, the season came to an end at home to Petershill. Naismith scored in the first half before Lyon, McDonald and Rossiter all scored in the second half to win 4-0.

Following the end of the season, Johnstone Burgh have, to date, announced that Kieran Brady, Stuart Fyfe, Hamish McKinlay, Ryan Wallace, Dom Boland and Dale Simeon will be leaving the club this summer when their contracts expire. In addition to that, Ally Small, Harry Broun and Jonny Lyon will return to their parent clubs following the end of their loan deals. Ross McKenzie has also been placed on the transfer list. We thank you all for your contribution and wish you all well for future.

Don't you know pump it up, The Burgh's going up

Burgh did the double over three teams this season. Blantyre Victoria (1-0 & 1-2), Cambuslang Rangers (6-1 & 2-5) and Neilston (2-0 & 2-4).
The only team we failed to beat in the league this season was Rutherglen Glencairn (1-1 & 2-1).
Kieran Brophy finished top goal scorer with 24 goals in all competitions.
We played 43 games this season in all competitions. 25 of those at home. And of those 25, 20 were played at Keanie Park (including the Kilbirnie game abandoned in September), three at New Western Park in Renfrew and two at K-Park in East Kilbride.
In our 43 games this season, we scored 112 goals.
18 different Burgh players found the net, plus two opposition players scored own goals.
Our biggest win of the season was the 6-1 thrashing of Cambuslang Rangers "at home" (K-Park, East Kilbride).

We must thank everybody who's played a part in this season.

Firstly, to the consortium who have invested, not just on the pitch but also off it. They've laid the foundations for what is going to be an exciting period at Johnstone Burgh, as well as big plans for redeveloping Keanie Park in the next few years.

Obviously every player and coach who's played their part this season, including those who have departed. Also, a special mention to Div, our kitman, and Lori, our physio, and those who've stepped into her shoes when Lori has been unavailable.

The Johnstone Burgh committee. Our incredible kitchen and bar staff, keeping our fans fed and watered. Our ground staff who have worked extremely hard throughout the season to get matches played and having Keanie Park look as good as it does. Our media team who've brought you match previews, match reports, post match interviews, and photos of all things Burgh. Our security and car park team keeping Keanie Park a safe environment for all on matchdays. Our turnstile and raffle team. Our events team who've done an amazing job organising the Christmas and Easter Fun Days at Keanie Park. Our hospitality team who've looked after our hospitality guests and opposition committees all season.

Doreen, Jacqueline, Emma, Rina, Lyn, Lynne, Ronnie, Denise, George, Robbie, Robert K, Robert I, Keni, Graham, Mitch, Catherine, Vic, Brian, Jim, Ricky, Scott, Crystal, Stephen, Gary, Burgh Boys, Duncan, Cam, Sean, Raymond. Everybody who's done their bit to help on match days, especially every one of you who helped with the Semi Final against Arthurlie. No matter how big or small, no matter how frequent or occasional, your help has been appreciated. (Apologies to anyone we've not named).

A big thank you to all our sponsors, whether it's shirt sponsors, pitch-side advertising, match day sponsors, your support is greatly appreciated.

Our charity partners Renfrewshire Foodbank and RAMH, who have helped us give back to the community and we look forward to working with you again next season.

And lastly, thank you to you, the fans. Your support has been incredible this season. The atmospheres you've created along the way have been unbelievable. We've been to a number of grounds this season and outnumbered the home support. You've supported us through the good times and stuck with us when things weren't so good.

Without every single one of you mentioned in this article and the Thanks section, this season would not have been possible. We hope you enjoy your break and we look forward to seeing you all next season as we take on Scotland's sixth tier in the WOSFL Premier Division.

Make sure you follow us on Facebook, XInstagram and WhatsApp to stay up to date with The Burgh this summer as we bring you all the comings and goings, pre-season details and, of course, our Premier Division fixtures.

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