Goalkeeping to the fore as local rivals fight out stalemate

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Newtongrange Star 0

Bonnyrigg Rose 0

THIS derby may have failed to live up to expectation in terms of excitement and goals – they’ll need to do it all over again this Saturday after drawing a blank in a Scottish Junior Cup second-round tie – but it did produce some outstanding goalkeeping.

Gary O’Connor, the 37-year-old former Hearts player, was the main reason the match ended goalless, having pulled off a string of saves to deny Super League leaders Bonnyrigg during a 20-minute spell when they really turned the screw on their neighbours in the first-half.

“He’s a terrific goalkeeper and a fantastic example to young players in the dressing-room,” said Star boss Alan Miller of his custodian, who won a Scottish Under-21 cap against Italy during his time at Tynecastle.

But O’Connor’s opposite number on Saturday, Mark Weir, also made a vital contribution for the visitors, getting down low to his left to make a one-handed save to deny Grant Meaney with his first touch after coming on as a substitute.

This was the first time the two local rivals had met in the Junior’s game flagship competition since Rose came out on top 1-0 in a semi-final clash at Easter Road in 1972. It had added spice due to Miller coming up against the club he led to the Super League title three seasons ago before departing and finding himself appointed as Star manager just before the end of last season. Add in a bumper crowd and all the ingredients were in place for a memorable Cup-tie – but, in truth, it proved to be a damp squib.

In fairness to the players, it was spoiled by a wind that picked up strength as the game wore on, making it difficult for either team to pass the ball with any real fluency.

With that wind at their tails in the first-half, Rose held the upper hand and it was only thanks to O’Connor that Newtongrange survived a torrid spell of activity around the home goal. Roseburgh and Sean Paliczka were among those who were denied in the opening half then, after the break, O’Connor did well to beat away a powerful header from David Dunn.

That apart, the only other occasion when Rose threatened in the second-half came following a lung-bursting break from the impressive Alex King.

He fed Ross Archibald wide on the right who was inches away from connecting on the edge of the six-yard box after his team-mate had played a great ball into the danger zone.

But, while Bonnyrigg came out on top in terms of clear-cut chances created, Nitten certainly held their own in terms of desire and determination. They had started to grow in confidence towards the end of the first-half, when lanky striker Mel Graham sent a shot just over after cutting in menacingly from the left wing. And, in the second-half, they used the elements to do the bulk of the pressing.

Miller felt Meaney should have scored while, shortly after that chance, Dunn got back in the nick of time to make a goal-line clearance after Weir’s kick had been blocked by the onrushing Star substitute.

Both managers agreed that on this occasion a draw was the right result but given better conditions, another big crowd will hopefully witness a more exciting game in the replay.

Newtongrange Star: O’Connor, Swaney, Forbes, Woodburn, Donnelly, Tolmie, Graham (Beattie 76), Gillon, Forster (Menaey 76), Hutchison, Turner (Dunbar 67). Subs: McManus, McDonald, Cherrue, McGarrie.

Bonnyrigg Rose: Weir, Grady, Thomson, Ewart, Dunn, Roseburgh (McLeish 76), King, Burrell (Hendrie 82), Archibald, Paliczka (Steel 85), McCallum. Subs: Morrice, Martin, Thompson, Burgess.