DAVE BAIKIE has added former Hibs kid Jamie McKenzie to his Linlithgow squad as he seeks to make amends for last season’s disappointment by landing an elusive East Region Super League title with the Prestonfield club.
Baikie has delivered a fair share of silverware since he took over the Rose reins, recently seeing his side make a successful defence of the League Cup with a victory over Newtongrange.
But his side has fallen short twice in the title race, both times to local rivals Bo’ness, who retained the crown last season despite being faced with a massive backlog of games. Lithgae are out of this season’s Scottish Cup after losing to Bo’ness so their focus is firmly on trying to get their hands on the title.
“I wouldn’t say we let it slip in the league in my first full season but we certainly did last season – we captured defeat from the jaws of victory,” admitted Baikie.
“There were mitigating circumstances for that. We lost John Ward, for instance, at a crucial time and didn’t have a defence at all at one point due to others suffering injuries.
“It is disappointing that we were knocked out of this season’s Scottish Cup so early, but it means the league is our focus. Last season we lost a number of games against teams we should have been beating.
“This season we’ve already seen what happens when you become complacent, having played poorly up at Carnoustie. But, since losing to Bo’ness in the Scottish Cup, we’ve bounced back well and hopefully we’ll get stronger as the season goes on.”
Baikie is determined to ensure he’s got plenty of cover in all areas of his team, hence the decision to hand McKenzie a contract after he’d been training with Rose recently. During his spell at Hibs, the defender was farmed out on loan to Stenhousemuir and then moved to Montrose after being released by the Easter Road club.
He had three seasons in Ireland with Sligo Rovers followed by a spell in Cyprus with Limassol before going back to Ireland, where he was with Galway United. “He’s fit and aggressive and he also has a good leap,” said Baikie, who has been pleased with the way his side has been defending since the sore 2-1 defeat at Bo’ness.
They won 3-0 against Newtongrange in the League Cup Final next time out and have since triumphed twice in the League – 3-1 at home to Musselburgh and 2-1 at Bathgate last Saturday.
“The goals we conceded against Musselburgh and Bathgate were from set plays, so we can take encouragement from the fact we’ve lost one from outfield play in the last three games,” he added.
Another bonus for Baikie over the past few weeks has been the form of Roddy McLennan, who scored twice against Musselburgh before grabbing the winner at Bathgate.
The flying winger didn’t re-sign in the summer after fearing his days were numbered following the arrival of Philip Hagen and Stuart Roseburgh.
But he eventually decided to give it another go at Prestonfield and Baikie has been delighted with the player’s recent displays.
“Roddy was in and out of the team last season and, after we’d signed Stuart Roseburgh and Philip Hagen in the summer, he decided it wasn’t worth him staying at the club as we also had other wide players in Steven Manson and Stuart McArthur.
“But he re-signed a few weeks back and he’s been doing well. No-one has ever doubted his quality, but he’s also starting to show consistency now and that’s what we are looking for in players.”
Tomorrow Linlithgow, who are a point behind leaders Bonnyrigg, entertain Kelty Hearts (2pm kick-off).
“It will be a tough one, as all games against Kelty are,” noted Baikie, who is hoping to have Derek Fleming back in contention but could still be without Gordon Herd and Colin Strickland.
“We lost 3-0 up there the last time we played them and they’ve strengthened at the back since then by signing Roger Duffin as well as a right-back from Glenrothes.
“They’ve also got a couple of useful strikers in Robbie Henderson and Brian Duell, who has scored close to 40 goals per season in the last couple of campaigns.
“But we’ve been pleased to bounce back from our Scottish Cup disappointment with three straight wins and we are looking forward to this one.”
High-flying Bonnyrigg are at home to Camelon, who will be feeling pretty confident themselves after beating Bo’ness last weekend.
Bo’ness will be aiming to bounce back at Hill of Beath tomorrow, while Musselburgh entertain Carnoustie and Bathgate are up at Lochee.