Linlithgow Rose 0
Kelty Hearts 1
FORMER Linlithgow player Keith Burgess returned to Prestonfield to halt his old club’s recent winning run then challenged his Kelty side to get into the mix in this season’s Super League title race.
A first-half goal from Robbie Henderson was enough to give the Fifers victory, lifting them to within five points of new leaders Hill of Beath and having two games in hand on their near-neighbours.
“Being an ex-player here, I’m delighted to come back and get a victory,” beamed Burgess. “To win here means a lot psychologically and now we can start trying to get into the top four over the next few weeks before taking things from there.”
Linlithgow, who had won their three previous outings, dominated the first-half only to be denied on a number of occasions by some outstanding goalkeeping from visiting custodian Allan Fleming.
He set the tone with a terrific early save from a Mark Tyrrell free-kick that took a wicked deflection off the wall, forcing Fleming to change direction at the last second before tipping the ball over the bar.
Dead-ball expert Tyrrell was denied again before the break, this time in the opposite corner, and in between Fleming also pulled off a fantastic save from Tommy Coyne after the dangerous striker had burst clean through into the box.
The 35th-minute goal that settled the game certainly came against the run of play, though, in fairness to Kelty full-back Clark Kay, it was all about a player showing desire and determination. He made a lung-bursting surge to exploit a lack of cover in the Linlithgow right-back area with an overlapping run, was fed by Conrad Courts and crossed for Henderson to apply the easiest of finishes in front of goal.
Brian Duell missed a glorious chance to make it 2-0 before the break before Roddy MacLennan scooped a shot over the bar as play switched immediately to the other end.
Duell then had a header palmed away by David Hay early in the second half, when the same player had another couple of half chances to give the visitors some breathing space.
In between those opportunities, Fleming made another telling contribution, this time using his legs to keep out a snap shot from Callum Smith after he’d got on the end of a cross from substitute Stephen Manson.
As Lithgae searched for an equaliser, the Kelty box often looked like a pinball machine and, in one such melee, Coyne went down but the home side’s plea for a penalty didn’t register with referee Ralph Gordon.
“We were under cosh at times, but the keeper played out of his skin and was definitely the man of the match,” admitted Burgess. “I also thought we defended well as a team, working hard from front to back, and though they had the possession, I thought we created the clear-cut chances in the game.”
Lithgae, whose early exit from the Scottish Cup perhaps explains a subdued mood at the moment at Prestonfield, face Bonnyrigg and Hill of Beath away in their next two games.
“We’ve been the better team on the day yet we’ve lost and that’s frustrating,” admitted manager Dave Baikie.
“I thought we played exceptionally well in the first half, when we passed the ball well and dominated play, forcing a lot of corners. But, in going behind, we gave Kelty something to defend. After the break, the first ten minutes were more even but after that we pummelled them.
“That said, we probably only created a couple of clear-cut chances. Most of the time they either managed to get bodies in the way and we just couldn’t get the ball in the net.
“I also thought we should have had a stonewall penalty. Tommy Coyne was away to shoot. Why would he go down? All he’s interested in when he gets in a position like that is scoring, not trying to win a penalty.”
Linlithgow Rose: Hay, Benton, Brown, Tyrrell, Walker, Ruari MacLennan (Manson 66), Shirra, Nelson, Smith, Coyne, Roddy MacLennan. Subs: McArthur, Bradley, Fleming, Mackenzie, Strickland, Allison.
Kelty Hearts: Fleming, Winiarski, Kay, Duffin, T Courts, Clark (Mauchline 75), Duell, N McCabe (Meikle 70), Henderson (N O McCabe 84), C Courts, Forbes. Subs: Young, Laird, Findlay, King.
Referee: R Gordon.