Linlithgow Rose striker Kevin Kelbie would happily sacrifice his East Region top goalscorer accolade if it meant winning silverware with the Prestonfield club.
Kelbie netted 39 goals in all competitions at former club Camelon last season as the Mariners reached the semi-final of the Junior Cup, only to concede a late winner in their second leg with Glenafton to lose 3-2 on aggregate.
Former Camelon boss Danny Smith moved swiftly to sign him up in the summer and Kelbie is hoping to use his Junior Cup heartache to spur him on this season after a tough start at his new club.
After picking up an ankle injury at the end of last season, Kelbie missed much of pre-season which meant for a frustrating start as he fought to regain his fitness.
“It’s been a bit up and down with injuries,” said the 29-year-old.
“I never managed to get the whole of pre-season done so it was quite difficult. I’m starting to get back to full fitness now, it takes a wee bit of time and time is obviously not on your hands when you’re at a club like Linlithgow.
“I wasn’t really 100 per cent fit at the start of the season, and I hadn’t really been striking the net. The last few games I’ve got back scoring so that’s given me a bit of confidence.”
Kelbie notched a double in last weekend’s 3-0 win away to Ballingry Rovers for his second and third Super League goals of the season as Rose edged two points clear of rivals Bo’ness United in third place. The striker is finding form at the right time with big games coming up in the Junior Cup away to Haddington Athletic and then the glamour William Hill Scottish Cup tie with Raith Rovers that follows tomorrow’s league match at home to Carnoustie Panmure.
And he’ll need to keep scoring is he wishes to retain his place in the team – with fierce competition for places up front alongside Tommy Coyne and Colin Strickland. However, the former Ballymena United forward would be more than happy to ditch his top goalscorer tag if it meant Rose winning the league and progressing in the cup competitions.
He said: “I don’t really look at the season about fighting to win the top goalscorer award. It’s a team thing more than anything for me – that’s the main thing. I never had anything to show for it when I won it with Camelon.
“The aim for everyone in the club is to get to the final of the Junior Cup and to win as many trophies as we can. We are starting to turn it up a wee bit now – we had started a bit ropey, but we are getting a bit more consistency.”
The hitman enjoyed a seven-year spell in Northern Ireland after moving over to work with his uncle as a 20-year-old after a youth career which had taken him from Celtic to Rangers before a brief spell with Alloa.
Kelbie netted 75 goals in 181 games for Ballymena United, before moving back to Scotland with Greenock Morton. Things didn’t work out for him though at Cappielow and he went on loan to Stirling Albion before returning to Northern Ireland with Glenavon and then joining Camelon in 2012.
Kelbie has certainly found his feet in the Juniors, and with Rose taking a break from league action over the next couple of weeks, he believes three points tomorrow is a must to keep in touch with league leaders Kelty Hearts who are six points clear, although Rose have played a game fewer.
“We need to keep the gap to a minimum with Kelty at the top of the league who are playing really well,” he said.
“Hopefully by the time we come to play them we can get points off them. They’ve not played many of the top teams yet, so those games will be telling to see how good they are.”
Midfield trio Andy Shirra, Ruari MacLennan and Blair Batchelor are all missing for Rose tomorrow. Shirra could be out for a couple of weeks after injuring his ankle while MacLennan has a hip injury and Batchleor is on holiday.