How will you remember 2018? If you’re a Dumbarton fan it will likely be one of two moments. Losing the club’s first major national cup final in more than 100 years to an injury time goal, or conceding with the final kick of the ball to send the playoff final into extra-time - a goal that ultimately sent Sons into the third tier.
There have been positives moments. Well...there have been two. Danny Handling and Dimitris Froxylias both scoring sensational strikes against The New Saints to send Sons on the path to cup final heartache. Those moments of magic aside though 2018 has not been a good year for Dumbarton Football Club.
Here’s how it looks in numbers.
55 - Played. A cup final, the playoffs and a fixture backlog meant that, possibly for the first time ever, Dumbarton averaged more than a game a week in 2018. In 2017 Sons took to the field just 48 times, whilst in 2016 it was a nice round 50.
16 - Wins. Which is considerably more than it feels like. Victories came in January against Peterhead (3-2), February against TNS (1-2), March twice against Brechin City (1-0, 1-3), Dundee United (3-2) in April, Arbroath and Alloa (1-2, 0-1) in May, East Kilbride (1-3) and Cumbernauld Colts (2-3) in pre-season, Queen’s Park (1-0) in July, East Fife (0-2) and Greenock Morton (2-1) in August, Montrose (2-1) in September, East Fife (4-0) in October, Stenhousemuir (2-1) in November and Brechin City (4-1) in December.
That gives Sons a 29% win ratio in 2018 - down slightly from 31.25% last year, but still up considerably on the 24% recorded in both 2015 and 2016. In league games however that figures drops to just 21.6% and discounting games against Brechin City (one of the only teams in the country to have a poorer 2018) it falls further to just 15.1%.
8 - Draws. If you want to know where things have gone wrong (well, at least sort of) then here’s a telling statistic. Dumbarton used to be draw specialists tying 33% of games in 2017, and 26% in 2016. That figure dropping to just 14.5% in 2018, combined with a stagnant win ratio, goes some way to explaining why 2019 has felt so unpleasant.
31 - Defeats. This definitely explains why this year has felt so bad. Dumbarton have tasted defeat on no fewer than 31 occasions in 2018 - a staggering 56% of the time they have taken to the field. Last year the total sat at 35% and I said that, in order for it to remain at that level, we’d have to put together a promotion push. Well we haven’t, so it hasn’t.
This is the first year I’ve written a statistical review where we’ve changed manager, so the breakdown based on managerial team looks like this.
Stevie Aitken & Ian Durrant
44 - Games
13 - Victories. One in the Scottish Cup against Peterhead, five in the league (Brechin City twice, East Fife, Dundee United, Montrose), two in the Challenge Cup (TNS, Morton), two in friendlies (East Kilbride, Cumbernauld Colts), two in the playoffs (Arbroath, Alloa Athletic) and one in the Betfred Cup (Queen’s Park).
6 - Draws. Unlike last year, Sons struggled to draw games under Stevie Aitken. In fact they struggled to draw games at all. Stalemates came with Queen of the South, Falkirk, Arbroath (twice), Spartans (albeit a bonus point was won on penalties) and Airdrieonians.
25 - Defeats. There are really too many to mention here, but Sons lost 56.8% of their games under Aitken and Durrant in 2018.
44 - Goals for. An average of a nice round one per game. In league games however this figure drops to 0.88 per game - mainly thanks to a run of seven games between Boxing Day 2017 and March 13 that saw Sons fail to score a single league goal.
84 - Goals against. When you concede almost twice as many as you score then you’re always going to find yourself in trouble. Letting in an average of 1.9 per game meant that Sons more often than not would need three goals to take three points.
20 - Games without scoring. Aitken had a reputation amongst Dumbarton fans for struggling to set a team up to attack, and that is reflected in the lack of goals in his sides this year. Sons failed to hit the net in a whopping 45% of the games he took charge of in 2018.
29.5% - Sons win ratio under Stevie Aitken in all competitions in 2018.
18.5% - Sons win ratio in league games under Stevie Aitken. That counts two victories in a week against Brechin City, a home win against Dundee United, and successes against East Fife (away) and Montrose (home).
Ian Durrant & Jamie Ewings (Interim managers)
1 - Game
1 - Defeat. Sons’ interim management team of Durrant and Ewings took charge for just one match, and it was a tough one. Despite Iain Russell’s first-half goal giving Sons the lead against Arbroath at Gayfield, they couldn’t hold on - and the Lichties eventually triumphed 3-1.
Jim Duffy and Craig McPherson
10 - Games. There’s not much that can be said here, in Duffy’s nine league games he’s only had four defeats. Which isn’t too bad I suppose.
3 - Wins. On his debut against East Fife (4-0), a fortnight later against Stenhousemuir (2-1) and at the beginning of December against Brechin City (4-1). He remains without a win away from home.
2 - Draws
5 - Defeats
15 - Goals for. With Dumbarton now averaging 1.5 goals per game the signs of progress from Aitken’s notoriously defensive football is evident. If we had a striker who could convert chances at a semi-decent rate that figure would have risen dramatically too.
17 - Goals against. Duffy also appears to have stemmed the goals against tide, albeit only slightly as it drops from 1.9 to 1.7 per game.
30% - Win ratio. That looks spookily similar...Unlike Aitken however Duffy’s rises (to 33%) if you only take into account league games, it’s going to have to improve further if Dumbarton are to avoid a second consecutive relegation though.
4 - Wins by more than one goal. Finally, an area where positive improvement has been made...Wait, this includes the friendly with East Kilbride. Never mind.
Dumbarton have only beaten two teams by more than one goals this season. Brechin City (1-3 and 4-1) and East Fife (0-2 and 4-0).
6-0 - Heaviest defeat. Remember in the summer when St Mirren fans were all full of pre-season optimism under Alan Stubbs, and Dumbarton fans felt the same under Stevie Aitken? Ha! How wrong they were. Saints battered six goals by Sons in the Betfred Cup, ending any positivity in the Dumbarton camp and giving the Buddies fans some serious false hope.
46 - Players have pulled on the white and gold (or black and red, or red and white, or purple and yellow, or sky blue and white) - showing some quite sensational consistency. Despite a massive turnaround in playing squad, 46 is exactly the same total as in 2017, and just one greater than the 2016 figure.
11 - Of the 46, 11 have been loan players - a figure that has jumped by three since last year, albeit slightly skewed by the addition of ‘keepers Robbie Mutch and Chris Smith on short-term emergency deals.
Dom Thomas’ deal expires early next month, and Sons will be determined to keep him at the club for the remainder of the campaign. Scott Allardice is in the same boat - whilst Chris Smith’s has been on a rolling week-by-week emergency, something Duffy will likely make permanent in the January window.
The loan players who have since returned to their clubs are enjoying a mixed time of things elsewhere. Ally Roy has recently left Derry City after an impressive stint in the Danske Bank Premiership that saw him capped for Northern Ireland U21s, whilst Greg Morrison is out on loan again - this time at League Two Elgin City.
Kevin Nisbet has been in sensational form for Raith Rovers - grabbing 21 goals in just 26 appearances for the Stark’s Park club, including two against Dumbarton.
Aidan Wilson returned to Rangers only to be shipped out against to Forfar Athletic where he's struggled, whilst the same happened to Liam Burt who joined Championship side Alloa Athletic in the summer - only to find his game time limited.
King of Sons’ loanees from last season, Sam Wardrop, who was impressive during an injury plagued season at the Rock, is now at Dundee United - but has featured just once in the league all season, and looks set for a loan move elsewhere in January.
Jack Aitchison - who made just four appearances for Dumbarton before returning to Celtic - is still banging them in for the Parkhead club’s youth teams, whilst Robbie Mutch (who returned to Falkirk to cover for Leo Fasan after the Italian was sent-off) hasn’t played since making his final start for the Sons in October.
8 - Trialists. Stevie Aitken must’ve been feeling generous, as just eight trialists featured for Dumbarton this year - down from the 10 in 2017. Of the eight (or nine if you include Jamie Ewings, listed as a trialist substitute with Chris Smith unavailable for three games) five would go on to sign permanently for the club.
Iain Russell, Jamie McGowan, Andy Little, Michael Paton and Brad Spencer are joined on the list by Kieran Campbell, Dominic McMeekin and David Ferguson.
Campbell and McMeekin both featured in Sons’ pre-season matches against East Kilbride, Cumbernauld Colts and Hearts, whilst Ferguson made just one start (at right-back) in the early July meeting with Craig Levein’s men.
As far as I can see neither Campbell (formerly of Celtic’s U20s) or McMeekin (formerly of Dundee United’s U20s) have a club at the moment, whilst Ferguson re-signed for Ayr United - but has only featured five times this season, and not at all since August.
With his contract expiring today, and Sons struggling defensively, Jim Duffy could do worse than take a look at the former Motherwell man if he becomes available.
60 - Goals scored. If there’s one thing that’s been consistent about Dumbarton in recent years, it’s a lack of goals. Just 60 were scored by players in the white and gold, red and black, red and white or sky blue and white. That works out at just 1.09 per game. Last year it was 1.16, the year before 1.04.
Here’s hoping that figure shows a significant rise in 2019. It seems like a long, long time since Dumbarton were prolific.
9 - Have been scored by players who are no longer with the club. This represents a huge drop from the 22 last year and shows one of two things. Either Dumbarton have done a good job of holding onto their goalscorers...or Sons simply weren’t scoring goals during their final five months in the Championship.
I think we all know which one it is...
17 - Different players have scored for Dumbarton, or 20 if you include Thomas O’Ware, Sean Crighton and a Cumbernauld Colts defender - all of whom put the ball into their own net. The final breakdown looks like this:
Calum Gallagher - 13
Ross Forbes - 8
Iain Russell - 5
Bobby Barr, Craig Barr and Dom Thomas - 4
Danny Handling, Brad Spencer and OGs - 3
Dimitris Froxylias, Stuart Carswell, Andy Dowie and Michael Paton - 2
Grant Gallagher, Liam Burt, Dougie Hill, Ryan Thomson and Andy Little - 1
The goal breakdown looks like this.
2 - From the penalty spot (both converted by Ross Forbes). Kevin Nisbet and Calum Gallagher both missed the spot kicks they took during ‘normal time’.
13 - From corners
5 - From free-kicks (either directly, or in-directly).
37 - From open play
3 - Own goals
5 - Goals scored by loan players. This is a significant drop on last year, with just Dom Thomas (4) and Liam Burt (1) scoring whilst on loan at the Sons. Just 8.3% of Dumbarton’s goals have been scored by loan players - down from 26.7% last year thanks, mainly, to the loss of Sam Stanton and Lewis Vaughan.
24 - Different players have assisted a goal in 2018, a figure that has grown by 5 since last year. The final breakdown looks like this:
Ross Forbes - 6
Dom Thomas - 5
Rory Loy - 4
Iain Russell, David Wilson, Andy Stirling, Andy Dowie, Tom Walsh and Bobby Barr - 3
Kyle Hutton, Danny Handling, Ryan Thomson, Cammy Ballantyne, Kieran Campbell (T), Michael Paton and Brad Spencer - 2
Dougie Hill, Grant Gallagher, Liam Burt, David Smith, Andy Little, Craig Barr, Stuart Carswell and Jack Aitchison - 1
104 - Conceded. Ouch. Last year Dumbarton conceded 67. The year before that Dumbarton conceded 89. Nothing comes close to the 104 goals tonked beyond Sons’ collection of ‘keepers from 2018. This works out at an average of 1.89 per game, up by 0.5 since last year - but not as high as I expected to be honest.
6 - 'Keepers. What constitutes a lot of goalkeepers? Six seems like a lot. The breakdown of concessions per game looks like this - and includes goals conceded after being substituted on with both McGowan and Ewings being used subs:
Scott Gallacher - 40 conceded in 24 appearances (1.6 per game)
Jamie Ewings - 9 conceded in 3 appearances (3 per game)
Grant Adam - 24 conceded in 16 appearances (1.5 per game)
Robbie Mutch - 6 conceded in 2 appearances (3 per game)
Chris Smith - 10 conceded in 7 appearances (1.42 per game)
Jamie McGowan - 15 conceded in 7 appearances (2.1 per game)
8 - Clean sheets have been recorded this year, with Scott Gallacher taking four, Grant Adam three and Chris Smith one - on his debut.
3 - Just as in 2018 three penalties have been saved by Dumbarton goalkeepers this year, albeit two came in a shootout victory against Spartans in the Betfred Cup.
Scott Gallacher vs Inverness Caledonian Thistle (Iain Vigurs) 24/3 (FT 0-1)
Grant Adam vs Spartans (Ian McFarland) 14/7 (FT 0-0)
Grant Adam vs Spartans (Jamie Dishington) 14/7 (FT 0-0)
13 - No team have quite enjoyed playing against Dumbarton in 2018 as much as St Mirren, who have battered 13 goals past former Buddies Scott Gallacher and Grant Adam without conceding a single strike in return.
Evidently the Saints took the 0-1 home defeat in December 2017 badly, as they recorded 0-2, 5-0 and 6-0 victories against Stevie Aitken’s Sons in 2018.
4 - Dumbarton have named an unchanged team on just four occasions in 2018 - and Stevie Aitken only managed it once. I called him the ginger tinkerman after only doing it ten times last year, but once in ten months. Wow.
4 - Players have worn the armband for Dumbarton in 2018, a figure that has dropped by one when compared with 2017.
Club captain Andy Dowie has worn it the most frequently, with Craig Barr, Stuart Carswell and Kyle Hutton (who captained Dumbarton for the first time in 2018) all taking it in his absence.
2 - Dumbarton’s discipline has been one of (very) few positives this year, with just two Sons players seeing red. Aidan Wilson was involved in both, picking up one himself, and being responsible for a horrible mistake that saw Craig Barr miss the playoff semi-final second leg.
Aidan Wilson (SBO) vs Livingston (31/3/2018), final score DFC 0-3 LFC
Craig Barr vs Dunfermline Athletic (28/4/2018), final score DAFC 4-0 DFC
3 - Opponents have been dismissed meanwhile, with Sons not losing any of those games. So I guess that puts to bed the cliche that it’s sometimes more difficult playing against ten men?
Michael Bolochoweckyj (Dumbarton 2-1 Montrose) 15/9/2018
Ross Davidson (SBO) (Dumbarton 4-0 East Fife) 27/10/2018
Conor McBrearty (SBO) (Stenhousemuir 2-2 Dumbarton) 29/12/2018
1.02 - Points per game average. This has dropped from 1.27 last year but, thanks to a reasonable couple of performances in cup games (and two friendly wins) remains up on the 0.98 recorded in 2016. In league games however it drops to just 0.83 per game. Serious relegation form.
751.97 - Miles per away win. Dumbarton’s away form in 2018 has been nothing short of horrific. If you’ve travelled to every away game from G82 then you’ve been in the car, or on the bus or train for 4,511.8 miles. With just six wins in that time Sons fans have travelled 751.98 miles per win…
Or, having hit the net just 27 times, 167 miles per goal scored.
Things can (surely) only get better.
I'm Fraser, 21, Sons fan trying to make my way in Journalism.