Mark Dickson (footballer) - Larne

Larne

Dickson contributed his share of goals, including five in three games in January, a header and a 25-yard (23 m) shot in a 4–4 draw with Ballymena, and one of the seven that Larne put past Limavady United in the last game of the season to finish fourth on goal difference. He did however miss a great chance to save Larne from elimination by junior club Killyleagh YC in the sixth round of the Irish Cup.

The Irish League was to be restructured for the 2003–04 season, and the top four teams in the First Division would be promoted. In October 2002, Dickson scored the only goal of the game against Limavady United to give Larne their first home win since the opening day and take them into the automatic promotion positions. The team stayed in and around the top four, and the last promotion place was between them and Bangor for the rest of the season. Dickson's eighth goal of the season, the only goal of the game against Ballyclare Comrades, took them third at the start of March. In April, Larne were losing to Ballymena until Dickson equalised with a 12-yard (11 m) volley, and a stoppage-time winner from Mark Parker took them above Bangor on goal difference. The following week, Dickson scored the only goal of the game against Armagh to leave Larne needing a draw away to Bangor on the last day of the season to secure promotion to the Premier League. Larne's goal, scored when a "free kick from the right seemed to strike Dickson on the back of the neck to loop over 's head", combined with "some stout defending", earned them that draw.

Larne made an unexpectedly good start to the new season. Eliminating Coleraine from the League Cup helped by a goal from Dickson, who was then working as a postman, his opening goal paved the way for a 2–1 defeat of Cliftonville to go second in the league at the end of October. Dickson started the league cup final, also against Cliftonville, but was unable to help his side retain their lead, and Larne lost 5–4 on penalties.

Dickson had been playing on the right of midfield, but new manager Jimmy McGeough used him as a forward. After his performance in a lone striker role as Larne narrowly failed to hold on for a shock win at Linfield, McGeough said he was "too good for the Irish League", and suggested that with his "pace, ability and know-how", he should be "playing across the channel". After a goalless draw against Crusaders, experienced defender Jeff Spiers, who had successfully man-marked Dickson, said he had "a good first touch and is very strong for his height".

In January 2005, Cliftonville made an offer for the player that failed to meet Larne's £20,000 valuation. By March, the Sunday Mirror was calling Dickson "the most sought after player in the Irish League". Although Larne's chairman said the "easy going and quiet" Dickson was happy at the club, they recognised "his talent take him elsewhere". They hoped he would move outside Northern Ireland, so that a transfer fee would be payable; a move within the Irish League would attract only "development compensation" of around £6,000. He scored a hat-trick against Loughgall in the quarter-final of the Irish Cup and a 59th-minute penalty to defeat Ballymena United – whose manager Kenny Shiels saw him as Larne's "main threat", having unsuccessfully tried to sign him during the previous transfer window – in the semi-final. In the final, Larne took an early lead through Neil Ogden before being outclassed by Portadown, who won 5–1. According to The Sun's player ratings, Dickson "has proven that he can get goals when he is given some service. He never got any in this game and was a hugely peripheral figure as a consequence". He was quoted as saying "it hurts to receive such a hammering".

Out of contract at Larne, Dickson had decided to follow former manager Tommy Kincaid to Glenavon, but his pre-contract agreement was torn up after Kincaid's dismissal. He trained with Ballymena, but eventually chose to remain with Larne. His 13 goals helped ensure their Premier League survival, then at the end of the season he joined league champions, and the club he supported, Linfield.

Read more about this topic:  Mark Dickson (footballer)

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