Linlithgow Rose boss hopes to home in on Super League title

Owen Ronald, left, celebrates his goal for Linlithgow. Pic: Alistair Linford
Owen Ronald, left, celebrates his goal for Linlithgow. Pic: Alistair Linford
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Linlithgow Rose boss Mark Bradley hopes transforming their Prestonfield base into a fortress again can be the basis for a Super League title challenge.

Rose made it two victories on the trot on home soil turf season on Saturday with a 1-0 win over Newtongrange Star.

Summer signing Owen Ronald’s pinpoint first-half strike proved to be enough for the hosts, who should have won by more against a spirited team who pushed for a leveller late on.

Bradley admitted he’d have liked the final scoreline to have been more comfortable but declared himself pleased with the step-up in performance from Wednesday night’s 3-1 defeat of Camelon – and expects his team to become even better.

“The new boys are getting there,” said Bradley. “You can see a wee bit more fluency when they are playing, they are starting to get wee patterns of play with each other, which is good. We just need to get another level up and we’ll be better again.”

Having only succeeded four times in the league at Prestonfield over the whole of last season, Rose are already making steady progress under Bradley who returned to the club for a second spell as manager in May.

He has demanded they win all their home fixtures this season to ensure they are competing for the title come the end of May.

Bradley continued: “We need to win all our home games to make it as difficult as possible and if we can keep winning our home games and most of our away games then we won’t be far away.

“You’ve got to go away from home and win games as well to win a league and that’s what we’ll be trying to do – to win again and make it three on the bounce.”

Home striker Colin Strickland should have rippled the back of the net when presented with Rose’s first chance on 12 minutes. Strike partner Tommy Coyne fed him on the turn but from eight yards out he shot straight at goalkeeper Kieron Renton.

Immediately, Jack Wilson responded with an effort on the half volley for the visitors but goalkeeper Ritchie Barnard was equal to his strike.

Star were given a let off on 20 minutes after defender Wes Mitchell missed a header clearance, allowing Strickland a free run one-on-one with Renton but the veteran centre back recovered well to close out the angle.

The visitors were made to pay on 31 minutes, however. Ruari MacLennan took up possession on the edge of the visiting box and fed Ronald on the angle, who shot across Renton low into the far corner.

The winger was proving to be a headache for Stevie McLeish’s men down the right and he almost got a second before the break after a neat one-two with Blair Batchelor, but toe-poked his effort just wide.

Batchelor was unlucky not to double Rose’s lead immediately after the break. The busy midfielder cracked an effort off the underside of the bar and Renton was glad to see the ball bounce clear.

Ronald was then presented with an even better chance after the ball broke from Strickland, but he somehow missed the target with a snapshot on his left foot.

The visitors were buoyed by those missed chances – and having happily played on the counter for 70 minutes – grew in confidence and pushed for a leveller which, had they got it, would have been harsh on the hosts.

McLeish believes his young side will only grow from the experience.

He said: “In the last 20 minutes we were a bit more adventurous to make a chance and tried to upset the apple cart a wee bit. The first 25 minutes we defended really well and then we started to back off and they came more and more into it. They scored a goal from two individual errors from ourselves and in the end that’s cost us the game.

“Let’s not kid ourselves, they had some really good opportunities in the second half and Kieron had to make two great saves. There is a team in there, there is talent in there and we showed we can be competitive.”

Linlithgow Rose: Barnard, Gray, Turnbull, Thom, Leiper, Shields, Ronald, MacLennan, Strickland (Malone), Coyne, Batchelor.

Newtongrange Star: Renton, Swaney (Osbourne), Melvin, Lawson, Mitchell, Wilson, Murray, Wilkie, O’Brien (S Scott), Lander, O’Hara (Porteous).