Irvine Meadow 0
Bonnyrigg Rose 2
DAVID DUNN shut up his team-mates with a rare goal but it was his defensive display alongside Ross Archibald that provided the foundations for Bonnyrigg Rose to stay on course for a first Junior Cup success in nearly 35 years.
By no means did the Midlothian side have to produce a rearguard action against last season’s West Region Premier Division champions. Rose thoroughly deserved their quarter-final win in Ayrshire and could easily have scored four or five in the end.
But, for a change, they avoided having to try and come from behind and both Dunn and Archibald, a makeshift centre-half, deserved to be singled out for praise by their manager after putting the shackles on Irvine’s front men.
“Everyone played their part but David Dunn and Ross Archibald were fantastic at the core of the defence,” admitted Max Christie as he celebrated another notable result in his first full season as a manager.
Dunn got on the end of a flighted free-kick from Steve Thomson two minutes before the end of an uneventful first-half to nod home, reaching the ball just before Irvine goalkeeper Michael Wardrop as he came off his line. Prior to that, Mark Weir had only been called into action once, the impressive young Rose goalkeeper doing well to block a stabbed shot from Garry Fleming early on.
Rose, in fact, could have gone into the break with a 2-0 lead, James Steele, who had come on for the injured Paul Shields after half an hour, finding himself clean through just after Dunn’s goal only to shoot straight at Wardrop.
David McGeown came closest to finding an equaliser for the home side when he sent a header inches wide just before the hour mark. But, after Sean Grady and Alex King both had half chances at the other end, Rose gave themselves some breathing space with a second goal nine minutes from time through a penalty.
Steele’s tenacity earned it, the big striker showing courage to go in for a challenge that resulted in Irvine defender Mark Campbell handling the ball on the deck inside the box. Kevin McLeish tucked it away with some aplomb, sending a large travelling support delirious as they started to celebrate a place in the last four.
“I get a bit of stick for not scoring many goals, so to get one as important as that was brilliant,” said Dunn of his header. “Just as pleasing, though, was the fact that this is the first clean sheet we’ve had for a long time. Irvine may feel they were unlucky but I think we deserved the win. In fact, we could have scored four or five.”
Dunn helped Bonnyrigg lift the Super League three seasons ago. Now he’s hoping the current campaign can be even more memorable for the New Dundas Park club. “The Junior Cup and the Super League are in our sights, it would be good to do the double,” he added. “This is my fifth season here and, no disrespect to other teams in the past, but I’d say this is the best team I’ve played in at Bonnyrigg. The spirit is brilliant, the boys never give up.”
Auchinleck, Largs and Shotts are the other teams through to the semi-finals, which will again be played over two legs.
“It would probably be better to avoid Auchinleck in the semis – a one-off game in the final would probably give us a better chance against them,” noted Dunn. “But the way we’re playing at the moment I don’t think we’d fear anyone.”
One thing for sure is that, no matter who they come up against, Christie and No. 2 Stevie Ellison will have Rose well-organised, as they did on this occasion. “We went out with two banks of four and tried to be solid as we’ll always create chances and score goals,” said the Bonnyrigg boss. “They play with a back three and we always felt we had a chance of getting at them. We’ve played silkier football at times but we showed character.”
Rose have lifted the Junior Cup twice, most recently in the 1977-78 season. By the looks of things, it’s going to take something special to loosen Auchinleck’s grip on the trophy but Rose are entitled to be in with that chance. “We do believe we can go on and win it,” added Christie. “Our objective at the start of season was to win the Cup and League and that dream is still alive.”
Irvine Meadow: Wardrop, Ryan (McLennan 79), McGowan, McDonald, Campbell, Strain, McGeown, Turner (McGuiness 17), Robertson, Fleming, Hamilton. Subs: Eeles, Millar, Hewitt.
Bonyrigg Rose: Weir, McLeish, Stephen Thomson, Ryan McCallm, David Dunn, Steven Thomson (McKenna 69), King, Burrell, Archibald, Grady, Shields (Steele 34). Subs: Hendrie, Paliczka, Burgess.