Linlithgow rose rained on Bo’ness’ Super League title party in the final league match of the season with an emphatic 4-1 home win, but both manager’s admitted the result will have little bearing on the outcome of Friday’s Fife and Lothians Cup final.
Bo’ness made the short journey to Prestonfield with the pressure off on the back of securing their third league title in five seasons after a 5-1 win over Lochee on Wednesday night, while Linlithgow, with second-place assured, had a point to prove.
Danny Smith’s Rose found the net three times in the opening 45 minutes to rack up a comfortable lead at the interval and he admitted that their performance will give them a boost ahead of Friday’s clash at Newtown Park.
He said: “I’m delighted with the performance today. I thought at times, especially in the first-half, that we were far superior to them. It counts for nothing come Friday night, but I’ll be looking for the same from my players.”
Smith, who has been in the Rose hot-seat since late March, was disappointed not to have brought the destination of the title down to the wire, but he has called on his players – some of whom may be playing their last game for Rose – to secure silverware this week.
“We made it interesting in the title race. When we came in, there was not many people saying Linlithgow could challenge for the title. It’s just a pity we couldn’t have brought it to today,” said Smith.
“It would be great for everybody to get a result, as it could be the last game for few of the players. Hopefully we can bring the trophy back to Prestonfield.”
Bo’ness were forced into a late change when left-back Stewart Devine pulled up in the warm-up and Scott Gibb, who wasn’t due to be stripped deputised at right-back, with Will Snowdon moved to the left side.
The last-minute change didn’t appear to unsettle the Bo’ness defence too much in the opening 15 minutes, with both sides content to find their way into the match steadily.
On 17 minutes, however, Rose got the breakthrough. Robert Sloan was slack in conceding possession deep in Linlithgow’s half and a quick breakaway allowed Roddy MacLennan to stride in to the box from just inside Bo’ness’ half before he fired between the legs of Stewart Baillie.
Four minutes later and it was 2-0 to Rose. A free-kick from the left was whipped in to the back post and John Ovenstone rose above Gibb to nod back into the danger area, where Tommy Coyne had a free header for his 17th league goal of the season.
Darren Gribben and Sloan both tried their luck from outside the box as Bo’ness looked to pull a goal back, but Rose made it three on 39 minutes with a goal-of-the-season contender.
A Rose cross was nodded out to the edge of the box straight into the path of Roddy MacLennan and with the sweetest strike of his left boot he sent an unstoppable first-time volley careering into Baillie’s top right hand corner.
Linlithgow could have even had a fourth by half-time when Andrew Shirra fired goalwards, but Bo’ness’ Ian Nimmo found himself in the right place to clear off the line.
Bo’ness manager Allan McGonigal made two changes at half-time to inject some freshness into his side, with Kieran Anderson and Andy Scott brought on for Sloan and a ineffective Darren Gribben.
The visitors seemed to have a bit more of a spark about them in the early stages of the second-half and Chris Donnelly almost pulled a goal back with a powerful drive that Rose keeper Scott Christie palmed clear and Nicky Walker couldn’t knock in the rebound.
Anderson has the potential to do some damage to opposition defences and he cut Rose open on 58 minutes with a terrorising run, but he couldn’t finish it off in style as he curled an effort high and wide of Christie’s frame.
A neat one-two between Will Snowdon and Anderson almost brought Bo’ness a goal back minutes later, but Snowdon, who continued his run into the box after interplay between himself and Anderson down the wing, saw his shot blocked.
Iain Diack then forced Baillie into a smart stop after a turn and shot on the edge of the box, but the keeper held on comfortably.
Just as Bo’ness looked more likely to reduce the deficit, Rose nearly increased their lead with a lovely move on 80 minutes. Jamie MacKenzie fed Coyne on the left and his floated cross found Shirra, whose diving header flashed just wide of the post.
Bo’ness did pull one back on 87 minutes when defender Ross Campbell smashed in the rebound after Stuart Hunter’s header was saved, but Rose restored their three goal advantage in the 90th minute when Diack found himself in the right place to flick past Baillie.
Bo’ness United manager McGonigal felt his side lacked a freshness in the first-half and coupled with slack defending, gave away cheap goals.
He said: “I think we looked a really tired team in the first-half. The three goals we conceded were really poor from a defensive point of view.
“I don’t think the result will have any bearing on Friday’s game. We gave them cheap goals and we could’ve let our heads go down, but we played for pride in the second half.
“We are league champions and sometimes once you’ve won the league that type of performance can happen, where you can’t get to the pace of the game.”
Linlithgow: Christie, Tyrrell, Gibson (McKenzie), Ovenstone, McKillen, Nelson, Shirra, Smith (Ruari MacLennan), Roddy MacLennan (Strickland), Diack, Coyne.
Bo’ness: Baillie, Snowdon, Hunter, Campbell, Gibb, Craig Scott, Walker (Miller), Nimmo, Sloan (Andy Scott), Donnelly, Gribben (Anderson).