With the backing of a large home support, Linlithgow Rose defender Jamie McKenzie hopes the Prestonfield men can defy their underdogs tag by taking the scalp of Auchinleck Talbot in the first leg of their Scottish Junior Cup semi-final.
Going by recent history, 11-times winners Talbot – the most successful club in the history of the Junior Cup – are in line to lift the old trophy this season, having won it every second year since 2009.
However, McKenzie, just one of two survivors alongside top scorer Tommy Coyne from when Talbot beat Rose 1-0 in the 2013 final at the then Almondvale Stadium, home of Livingston FC, is desperate to halt that current winning sequence. “It’s one of those games where you’ve just go to go in and do the best you can,” said centre-back McKenzie, who will be given right up to kick-off to prove his fitness by manager Todd Lumsden having sat out last weekend’s trip to Broxburn with a back problem.
“It’s one of the very few games in the season that we’re underdogs. I’d say we are huge underdogs.
“We aren’t really expected to do anything with our league form. I know its the semi-final of the Scottish Cup but, to get to this stage, we’ve not played any so-called big teams. We’ve not played anyone from the top league.
“If you look at the games we’ve played to get here, you can’t really say we’ve had an exceptional run and it’s kind of masked our season, so to speak. We’re two games away from the final and we have nothing really to fear. It will be a good game and it will be interesting to watch, hopefully it will be a good crowd.
“It always helps us when there is a big crowd. We seem to raise our game when we play in front of a big crowd. I think the last proper big gate was against Forfar [William Hill Scottish Cup fourth-round] last year and we seemed to do well there, but times have changed.
“I’ve been here about four years now and the crowds have definitely gone down. I’m not entirely sure why and I don’t know if anyone else has any theory on what’s going on behind that. If you get an extra 100 or 200 people at the game it makes a huge difference to the lads – it’s walking out to an atmosphere as opposed to being a few people there and the usual faces.”
Recent times have been tough for Rose, with the club – usually in the hunt for all prizes – having gone without silverware since 2013. This season they had – until last week – found themselves on unfamiliar ground in the Super League relegation zone. By reaching the final, Rose have the opportunity to win their supporters back and regain some pride in what has been a tumultuous few years for the club. McKenzie added: “We should be doing a lot better than we are in the league. However, we’ve got two weeks to concentrate on the cup and getting to a final which would give the club a massive lift and put a smile on a few people’s faces, within the changing room, the club, committee and the fans.
“It gives us a chance to prove ourselves. We are the underdogs and there can’t be a burden on our shoulders.
“We can express ourselves and, at the end of the day, boys are playing for their contracts. I don’t think we need to win tomorrow – I think that’s the general consensus in the changing room. As long as we are in contention going into the second leg, anything can happen.”