Former Hibs and Livingston goalkeeper Paul Grant made his first start in over a year as Bonnyrigg Rose secured their place in the Scottish Junior Cup last-16 draw.
The 21-year-old, who signed an 18-month deal for David McGlynn’s side on Friday night, revealed he rejected offers from senior clubs after his six-month deal at Livingston came to an end, as he no longer wants to play second fiddle on the substitutes’ bench.
Grant, one of eleven players to depart Easter Road in the summer following relegation to the Championship, was brought in as cover for Darren Jamieson at the Energy Assets Arena with second choice keeper Kevin Walker out injured, but never made an appearance for the Lions.
“I needed game time and Davy told me I’d play right from the start, so it was good to hear that because I’ve not played much at all recently,” he said. “I’ve been on the bench for years and this is the time in my career, at my age, that I need to start playing games. I spoke to a few other teams, but I wanted to come here.”
It was under the recommendation of David McGlynn’s uncle, John McGlynn, along with former Musselburgh Athletic midfielder Michael McKenna, that the move went ahead, although Grant had no doubts over stepping down to the juniors.
He said: “I’ve only heard good things about the juniors. It’s a good standard and there are a lot of good players, so I was happy to come here.”
Grant, pictured, spent much of the first half as spectator, with Bonnyrigg enjoying the bulk of pressure as they took the game to their Central District First Division visitors.
Right-back Ross Archibald, who was willing to get forward at every opportunity, showed a sign of things to come when he sent an overhead kick clear of Bellshill keeper’s Alexander Cowie’s crossbar on seven minutes.
It was striker Steven Hislop who should’ve put Rose in front soon after, however. In what was a glaring miss for the experienced forward, he sent a shot from close range wide from Joe Hamill’s cross. He made amends on 22 minutes from a similar move, although he had Cowie to thank for gifting the opener. Hamill swung in a ball from the right and Hislop flicked a header goalwards – Cowie got a hand on it, but let the ball slip under his grasp and over the line.
Just as Bellshill were beginning to find their footing in the match, Bonnyrigg doubled their lead. Archibald marauded forward down the right and couldn’t have hit his cross into the box any better, drilling the ball to the backpost where Jonny Court showed desire to get ahead of his marker and head into the net.
Craig Holmes was the dangerman for Bellshill and he almost pulled a goal back instantly. The tricky winger got the better of left-back Jamie Beaton but sent his shot wide of the post. He was then incredibly unlucky when he saw his first-time shot inside the box strike the underside of the bar. Striker Ryan Connelly had Grant beaten on 55 minutes when he volleyed goalwards on the turn, but he too clattered the woodwork.
Bonnyrigg were getting goals just at the right time and they made it three immediately after. Archibald was again the provider as he found Hislop unmarked in the penalty area for a simple header.
The Lanarkshire club pulled a goal back on 61 minutes. Chris Dolan was the scorer, with a free-kick from 25 yards out which he curled round the Bonnyrigg wall and into the top corner to leave Grant with no chance.
It only proved to be a consolation, however, as the home side restored their three-goal advantage just five minutes later. Hislop was the provider this time, as Bonnyrigg broke well on the counter – Archibald the man piling forward, again, and he converted at the backpost past Cowie.
McGlynn, who hopes to add two new players to his squad this week, was left pleased with his side’s performance. “I thought the quality we’ve got throughout the team showed in the end. We passed the ball great, moved the ball well in the right areas of the pitch and we made them run.”
Bonnyrigg Rose: Grant, Archibald, Beaton, Hamill. Wilson, Horne, King (Whitson), Stewart, Hislop, Thomson, Court (McLeish).
Bellshill Athletic: Cowie, Tart, McKee, Nichol, Soutar, Ferguson, Dolan, McGrath, Connelly (McKay), Selkirk (McGinty), Holmes.