Bonnyrigg staged a terrific fightback to snatch a dramatic 2-2 draw against title holders Linlithgow, who had taken a two goal lead early in the second half.
The visitors also survived a strong penalty claim with Linlithgow two up and hunting a third, when Calum Smith looked like he was definitely hauled down in the box as he prepared to slot the ball home.
The decision incensed Linlithgow boss Mark Bradley, who felt hard done to after the game. “We were a couple of goals to the good and a third would have finished them off. Calum was lined up to score when he was sent crashing to the ground and the referee waved play on. It was a blatant penalty and it’s decisions like that that can win or lose you titles.”
The first half was too tight for anyone to take any credit as poor finishing and tight marking kept the score sheet blank at the break.
But the game stepped up a gear as early as 60 seconds after the restart when Steven Meechan stung the hands of Bonnyrigg keeper David Patarek with a blistering 30-yard effort. Linlithgow then had a goal disallowed after Tommy Coyne strayed into an offside position before knocking the ball over the line.
Just after the hour mark Linlithgow finally got the opener. Mark Tyrrell took a corner from the left to the back stick where John Ovenstone was lurking. He headed the ball back into the six yard box where Coyne pounced to prod the ball home.
Kris Renton then had a chance to level things when, with his back to goal, he saw Linlithgow keeper Scott Christie well off his line. Renton’s overhead kick slipped past the post though with Christie stranded.
Linlithgow scored their second on 70 minutes with a simple goal from Colin Strickland. Smith out wide right drew the central defence of Bonnyrigg out to him before sending over a terrific cross to Strickland all alone in the box. His header gave Patarek no chance as the ball bulged the net.
Bonnyrigg boss Max Christie then brought on subs Paul Harvey, Sean Grady and Steve Manson for Renton, Currie and King. They had to survive that very strong penalty claim but then Christie’s changes started to work and within a couple of minutes of conceding the second goal Bonnyrigg pulled a goal back. Paul Harvey crossed low from the right to the near post where Stuart Roseburgh knocked it back to Steve Manson who thundered the ball into the net for a goal against the club he left last summer.
The fight back was now on and play flowed from end to end. Then with the full time whistle coming closer Bonnyrigg grabbed the equaliser. Roseburgh took a corner from the right which was met at the near post by Ross Archibald who headed it on to a scramble of players at the back. Substitute Grady was the quickest to react and headed the ball through a ruck of players to grab Bonnyrigg a share of the points.
Not long after the equaliser referee Duncan blew for full time with both teams battling for a winner which never came.
Linlithgow boss Bradley said afterwards:“I spoke to the referee after the game and asked why he never gave the penalty because it was so blatant. However he never gave us it and it feels like we lost again.”
Bonnyrigg boss Christie, meanwhile, was understandably impressed with his side’s resilience. “We really battled hard against a side who were hurting from last week’s defeat. It was all about the second half and we didn’t start the half well.
“When we made the changes it worked for us. The subs did a great job for us. We showed great spirit.”
Linlithgow: Christie, Wilson, McKillen, McKenzie, Ovenstone, Tyrrell, MacLennan, Meechan (Herd), Strickland, Coyne, Smith. Subs: Dunn, Fleming, Blackburn, McKinven.
Bonnyrigg: Patarek, Horne, Woodburn, McKenna, White, Gemmell, King (Manson), Currie (Grady), Archibald, Renton (Harvey), Roseburgh. Subs: McDonald, Easton.