Linlithgow Rose boss Danny Smith reckons his team bowed out of the Scottish Cup with their heads held high after giving Championship team Raith Rovers a torrid time at Prestonfield.
A disputed penalty from Ryan Conroy and a late Paul Watson goal secured the win for the Championship outfit, but Smith was left proud as punch following a tenacious display for the East Super League men.
“I can’t praise the players enough, especially the first half performance when we created numerous chances,” said Smith.
“I think we’ve surprised a lot of people today. There would have been a few neutrals here today and I hope they go home and praise the Junior game.
“We had to go about things differently today. We had to adapt and the players really bought into that. The second half was going to plan until the penalty – that deflated us a bit and it gave Raith a lift at an uneasy stage of the game for them. There wasn’t a failure out there today in a Rose jersey.”
In fact, Rose had probably been the better side until the 68th minute when Mark Stewart won a penalty after Gary Thom was adjudged to have felled the Raith man in the box. Thom felt the award was soft and that it changed the game.
“It was a great day but I’m really disappointed about the penalty decision,” said the Rose defender. “I didn’t get the ball, but I didn’t touch the player either. We had a great first half and, up to the penalty, I thought we looked dominant.
“We looked really good going forward but we didn’t take our chances.”
Many were expecting a backs-to-the-wall performance by the Junior team, but they took the game to Rovers from the start and impressed with a sensational first half performance.
The first attempt on goal came from Calum Smith, but Rovers’ keeper David McGurn saved comfortably.
Roddy MacLennan was to be a thorn in the side of the visitors all afternoon and he showed his threat when he hit the byline and sent in a low cross that Tommy Coyne just failed to connect with. Soon after it was MacLennan’s turn to have a sight of goal when Strickland’s pass set him up, but his shot went inches wide.
Rovers were also struggling to contain Smith and that was underlined when the Rose player set off on a 60-yard run that culminated with McGurn saving his shot at full stretch.
McGurn was the hero again when he tipped Colin Strickland’s 20-yard free kick round the post.
The half ended with two further chances for Linlithgow, both of which fell to Strickland, but his first effort was saved by McGurn and the second went narrowly wide.
The second half opened with Coyne picking up Adam Nelson’s pass and firing in a shot which was too close to McGurn.
Ross Perry picked up a yellow card for a foul on MacLennan and the Rose player showed his danger again soon after when his dummy created space but he fired his shot wide.
Rovers threatened when Watson got on the end of Ryan Conroy’s corner, but Michael McKinven saved comfortably.
The away support were growing increasingly anxious and there were howls of frustration when Calum Elliot crossed into McKinven’s arms when well placed. And the anxiety turned to boos when Martin Scott miscued a pass straight over the stand roof.
However the game turned on the penalty decision and once Conroy had opened the scoring, it was always going to be an uphill struggle for the hosts.
Smith shot narrowly wide as Rose tried to get back on level terms and Danny Smith went for broke when he sent on Kevin Kelbie for Thom. There was no chance for the tactical change take effect though as Raith grabbed a second goal immediately. Lewis Vaughan delivered an excellent corner and Watson headed home.
Rovers boss Grant Murray said: “It was a difficult place to come and everyone outside of Raith Rovers Football Club would have loved to have seen us slip up today, but we’re in the hat for the next round.
“A lot of credit to Linlithgow because they played fantastic and gave a very good account of themselves.”
Linlithgow Rose: McKinven, Thom (Kelbie 84), McKillen, O’Byrne, Ovenstone, Nelson (Shirra 87), Smith, Batchelor, Strickland, Coyne, Roddy MacLennan.
Raith Rovers: McGurn, Thomson, Perry, Watson, McKeown, Fox, Anderson, Conroy (Moon 78), Stewart (Vaughan 72), Elliot, Scott.
Referee: John McKendrick.