My summer of Scandinavia continued with a trip to Richmond Park while I was in Dublin, to see St Patrick’s Athletic take on Norrkoping in the UEFA Cup.
All I know about Norrkoping is that it was a host venue at Euro 92, hosting games between Scotland, Germany and CIS. If you can’t remember what CIS was, it was the Soviet Union version of Beady Eye.
It was a stroke of luck I was at this game. I knew I would be in Dublin on a European night, but there would be only one Dublin team in the UEFA Cup. Then Waterford weren’t able to enter and got replaced by St Patrick’s Athletic, meaning there were two options.
Then both them and Shamrock Rovers were drawn to be away on 11th July. Flip sake. But things were saved due to UEFA not being keen on two games in the same city on the same night (although Belfast staged two games on Thursday) and the legs of this tie were switched, so off to Richmond I went.
That would have been bad news for Pat’s fans, as I am a bit of a jinx for them. My previous two visits to Richmond Park had brought two 0-0 draws, while they failed to beat Linfield at Windsor Park when I saw them in 2008 and 2010.
And then there was a 5-1 mauling at Dalymount Park in 2016.
I’m willing to listen to offers if Bohs, Shelbourne and Shamrock Rovers fans are wishing to crowdfund for me to go to all their matches. Obviously i’ll need travel, ticket and loss of earnings from working half-day every Friday to be paid for.
This wasn’t my first UEFA Cup game in Dublin. My previous one was a bit more grand, the 2011 Final at Lansdowne Road.
It wasn’t even first time i’d seen a team from Republic of Ireland take on a team from Sweden, having been at the match between the respective national sides at Euro 2016.
The top five things I love about Richmond Park:
1. It has a programme shop.
2. It has a programme shop.
3. It has a programme shop.
4. It has a programme shop.
5. It has a programme shop.
I had a look around. There are a few Linfield bargains to be had, and not all the programmes are matches against St Pat’s.
Both teams started off nervously, both sets of players making basic mistakes.
It was summed up by Mikey Drennan leaving a through ball he could have got, Norrkopping’s defence and keeper leaving it for each other, inviting Drennan to chase it, resulting in a tackle which conceded a cheap throw.
Despite enduring a frustrating half, Drennan caused enough concern in the Swedish defence for one of them to get a yellow card for a cynical foul as he advanced goalwards.
The standout name on the away teamsheet was Jordan Larsson, at the centre of everything Norrkopping did in an attacking sense. The ball stuck to him every time he got it. On his left foot at least, he really needs to go to the Right Foot Shop to get one.
I’m sure his dad will be happy to offer him advice, former Manchester United loan signing Henrik Larsson.
Despite Larsson troubling them, St Pat’s held their own in the first-half. A quick free-kcik resulted in a shot that went just wide across the goalkeeper.
They also had a couple of penalty appeals turned down. I didn’t think they were penalties, but my view was a minority where I was. They were the sort of ones you will appeal for, but not for me.
Early in the second-half, Norrkoping went 1-0 up with a low strike from Simon Thern. The irony was, with all the focus being on the son of an ex Celtic player, it was the son of an ex Rangers player, Jonas, who opened the scoring.
Larsson was determined to make it an Old Firm juniors double, but would be denied and frustrated. The closest he would come was from a shot which hit the post.
With just minutes remaining, Norrkoping got a second when a header was deflected in off a Pat’s defender.
I was behind the goal, and you could agonisingly see the ball change direction, and nobody could do anything about it.
Norkopping wanted more and a series of saves by Brendan Clarke stopped the scoreline from being worse.
Not totally out, but up against it, I think St Patrick’s Athletic fans would have preferred the 0-0 scoreline I usually bring them when I visit Richmond Park.