Linlithgow Rose have travelled the length and breadth of Scotland on their William Hill Scottish Cup journey so far and midfielder Blair Batchelor hopes they can clock up even more miles by booking a last-16 place away to Ross County.
Their run to the fourth round has been a logistical nightmare for the Rose committee. They must have thought they couldn’t have had it any worse after their protracted third round tie away to Wick Academy finally went ahead after five call-offs – one of which was postponed just 40 minutes before kick-off – only for last week’s abandoned fourth-round replay at Forfar due to floodlight failure to be marred by crowd trouble from a section of Rose supporters who threw flares and smoke bombs onto the Station Park surface.
Add in lengthy trips to the Borders and Inverness and some will be questioning has it all been worth it for a part-time Junior outfit, but with the opportunity to be the first Junior side to reach the fifth round and have a crack at Premiership team Ross County if they triumph tonight, the answer is most definitely yes from former St Johnstone and Raith Rovers youngster Batchelor.
“We’ve done a lot of travelling, but that’s the name of the game in the senior Scottish,” said Batchelor. “It’s not usually too bad in the Junior Scottish, but if you want to play there you need to travel and hopefully we’ll be going up to Dingwall if we manage to get past Forfar tonight.”
Their run to the fourth round would be bad enough for a full-time professional club, never mind a part-time team who have had to balance working life on top of their football. Batchleor is a night-shift worker at the Syngenta Manufacturing Centre in Grangemouth, working four nights on and four off as a chemical processor.
He had to get his shift covered last Tuesday so he could play against their League One opponents, only for six minutes of action, with referee Stephen Finnie taking both sets of players off the pitch after a floodlight failed.
“It was frustrating for myself because I work shifts and I had to get my shift covered last week so I could play,” said Batchelor. “I was meant to be working tonight but I’ve managed to get it swapped.
“We were a bit dejected really. You’re up for the game then the smoke bombs and flares go off one minute and then you’re back in the changing room the next minute. It wasn’t ideal especially with everybody up there and the lights coming back on. I’d never experienced anything like that before; it’s something you’re more likely to see in the San Siro than Station Park!
“It kind of took a bit of the edge off it – it was probably better just to get back down the road. We’ll go back up fresh and give it our best shot again.”
Batchelor was set to quit Linlithgow at the end of last season, handing in a transfer request after falling out of favour with former boss Danny Smith, but he’s enjoying his football again under David McGlynn.
“The gaffer has been really good,” added Batchelor. “It’s really good here and the club is really well run – it probably puts some of the senior set-ups to shame.”
Rose are without suspended trio Ruari MacLennan, Gary Thom and Chris Gray for tonight’s match, although McGlynn is hopeful he can draft former Hearts youngster Joe Hamill into the squad, with the midfielder having not played since September due to work commitments.