Ronald: defeat to table-toppers could end hopes of title hat-trick

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BO’NESS boss Paul Ronald reckons his team can’t afford to lose against Super League table-toppers Bonnyrigg Rose at Newtown Park tomorrow (1.45pm kick-off).

Under his predecessor Willie Newbigging, Bo’ness came with a late charge last season to win the title for the second year running.

They are off the pace again this season, having lost to both Camelon and Hill of Beath in their last two league outings.

And Ronald admitted he wouldn’t like to see his side slip any further behind than the ten points they currently trail high-flying Bonnyrigg.

“We don’t want to become detached,” he said. “We need to stay with the pack and a win on Saturday would enable us to do that.

“It would be incredible if Bo’ness could win the Super League for the third season running and we’ve simply got to start winning games again to have a chance of achieving that target.”

Due to a host of cup commitments, Bo’ness have three games in hand on Bonnyrigg and five on Camelon, who are also on 17 points. But, after a bright start to the league campaign, Ronald has been disappointed to see his squad drop six points in back-to-back games.

“You learn from every game, whether it is a win or a defeat, but it was difficult to put a finger on what went wrong against Camelon and Hill of Beath,” he added.

“We spoke to the players but I honestly don’t know if it was a case of them taking their eye off the league as they thought about the games in the [SFA] Scottish Cup. In both of the games we looked comfortable then gave away silly goals and hopefully we’ll have taken what happened in those defeats on board for the rest of the season.”

Stewart Hunter and Ryan Scanlon are still suspended, the latter having been red carded on his debut against Cowdenbeath.

“Ryan is a young lad and he will learn from that,” said his manager. “It’s disappointing for him and the club that he’s suspended at the moment but I have high hopes for him at Bo’ness.”

After also losing to Camelon, Bonnyrigg went back to the top of the table after a 3-1 home win over Linlithgow a fortnight ago.

Last weekend, both Bo’ness and Bonnyrigg progressed in the Scottish Cup, making home advantage count against Saltcoats and Clydebank respectively.

“I think it’s fair to say that Bo’ness would normally be favourites against Bonnyrigg but it’s a role reversal this time as they are flying at the moment,” noted Ronald.

“They couldn’t be coming here feeling more confident as they are playing very well, but I think our players like the bigger games and they don’t come any bigger than the team at the top of the table.”

Bonnyrigg boss Max Christie sees tomorrow’s game as an opportunity for his side to lay down a marker for the second half of the season.

“It’s an acid test for us,” he admitted. “It wouldn’t be right to say we are flying under the radar at the moment due to the fact we are sitting at the top of the table.

“But, if we could win at Bo’ness, then that would certainly announce our intention in terms of the title race.

“We know it will be a really difficult game, but we are up for it and the aim is to keep competing as we have against the likes of Linlithgow and Clydebank over the past fortnight.”

One of the many pleasing factors for Christie about the win over Clydebank was that it was achieved without the influential David Burrell and Sean Paliczka, both of whom were injured.

Burrell’s absence allowed Christie to move Steven Thomson into midfield, with Chris Gray coming in at left-back.

Gray had been close to signing for Newtongrange, but Christie is hoping the youngster can use his performance as a springboard at Rose.

“It’s hard to change the team at the moment as it’s been fairly settled but we had to do that due to David and Sean missing out last Saturday,” said Christie.

“Chris, who has been unsettled and just had the form to sign with Newtongrange, got his chance and hopefully he can now kick-on.

“He’s got great energy and plays the game to a high tempo, which is good. He loves to get forward but, as well as providing crosses, we need him to stop them coming in at the other end as well.”

In tomorrow’s other Super League games, Musselburgh entertain third-placed Hill of Beath, managerless Linlithgow are at home to St Andrews while Bathgate entertain Carnoustie.

Linlithgow will have former Hearts midfielder Mark Bradley in temporary charge as officials continue to weigh up their options following the sacking of Dave Baikie. “The club have received around a dozen applications for the job to date and these are continuing to arrive,” says a notice on the Rose website.

“No quick decision is going to be made as the club take time to weigh up the candidates and whittle them down to get the right person to take the club forward.”