Linlithgow title hopes hit by Bonnyrigg defeat

Former Linlithgow man Ross Gray, who scored Bonnyrigg's second, is challenged by Blair Batchelor and Luke Whelan.
Former Linlithgow man Ross Gray, who scored Bonnyrigg's second, is challenged by Blair Batchelor and Luke Whelan.

Linlithgow Rose’s title challenge suffered a major setback as they lost the ‘War of the Roses’ at Prestonfield on Saturday.

Rivals Bonnyrigg’s emphatic victory has given them a major advantage in the race to be crowned East Superleague champions.

The home side’s cause wasn’t helped by the absence Roddy Maclennan due to the facial injury he sustained against Hill of Beath the previous week, while Gary Thom sat on the bench feeling the effects of the flu.

Their places being taken by Owen Ronald and Iain Gray, while Luke Whelan replaced Robert Sloan in midfield.

The Rose suffered a further injury setback just a couple of minutes into the match when Bonnyrigg’s former Linlithgow player Ross Gray fouled Kyle Turnbull out on the touchline.

The Linlithgow man had to be helped off the park with a badly damaged ankle and was replaced by Stewart Devine.

Things got even worse for Mark Bradley’s men when Bonnyrigg took the lead in the seventh minute,

Whelan needlessly fouled Gray 25 yards out and the Rose wall disintegrated when Dean Hoskins ran over the ball, allowing Lee Currie to fire a lovely free-kick high into the net past Darren Hill.

However, the visitors’ lead was short lived as the Rose hit back straight away.

Ewan Moyes misjudged the ball in the centre circle and Ruari Maclennan took advantage to race towards goal, round keeper Michael Andrews and slot the ball into the empty net.

Shortly afterwards, Ronald went down in the box under a challenge from Hoskins, but the penalty claims were ignored by referee Stuart.

With nearly quarter of an hour played, Andrews did well to hold a fierce shot from Tommy Coyne and minutes later Whelan was booked for a soft foul.

Currie’s inswinging free-kick was dangerous, but the diving Moyes just failed to get his head on the end of it.

Just before the half hour mark the visitors threatened again when Currie headed into the side netting.

But Bonnyrigg did take the lead once again after 33 minutes when Jonathan Stewart’s cross was flicked in at the near post against his old club by Gray.

Yellow cards were shown to Bonnyrigg’s Hoskins and Adam Nelson for fouls, and Hill then did well in the 38th minute to deny Keiran McGachie when the Bonnyrigg man was clean through on goal.

Hill came to Linlithgow’s rescue again when he made a great reaction save to stop Kerr Young’s header from a corner as half-time approached.

Early in the second half a shot on the turn from Linlithgow’s Ruari Maclennan went wide of the target.

And on the hour mark a shot from Devine was going well wide until the ball hit Moyes and Andrews had to scramble to dive on the ball on the line.

McGachie was booked for a foul and in the 63rd minute Bonnyrigg’s Kyle Wilson had a shot easily stopped by Hill.

The Bonnyrigg man was quickly replaced by Wayne Mackintosh and Gray was also replaced by Lewis Turner, while the home side also made a switched - forced by yet another injury, this time to skipper Colin Leiper who was replaced by Sloan.

Linlithgow had enjoyed plenty of possession for most of the second half without creating a clear cut chance, although in the 73rd minute a dipping shot from Blair Batchelor was tipped over the bar by Andrews.

But that was as close as they claim and they were left with a mountain to climb when Bonnyrigg extended their lead three minutes later.

From Currie’s right wing corner Mackintosh was unchallenged as he headed home from close range with keeper Hill rooted to his line.

Stewart was replaced by Neil Janczyk for the visitors who, as Linlithgow tried to salvage something from the match, saw space open up for them. And when Whelan was caught in possession by Nelson, he played in Turner who scored easily.

In the final minutes, Andrews made a fine diving save to turn Sloan’s curling free-kick round the post but all three points were heading to Bonnyrigg, deservedly so although the margin flattered them a little.