MARK BRADLEY admitted today that the “spark is missing” from his defending Super League champions as Linlithgow lost 2-0 at Kelty Hearts.
A couple of first-half goals from Ross Philp and Brian Ritchie dealt another blow to Rose’s title hopes as their poor run of form continued. The Prestonfield men have picked up only two points from their last four Super league games and now trail leaders Newtongrange by seven points with a couple of games in hand.
As recently as three weeks ago, Linlithgow were still the strong favourites to retain the title but a string of poor results mean they are now back in the chasing pack.
Boss Bradley said: “It’s not happening for us just now. Teams are hurting us when we’re dominating games.
“The spark is missing and it’s difficult to put your finger on why. When the players run out there’s something missing. We’re dropping too many points and need to work hard at getting the spark back.”
A long ball out of the Kelty defence in the 12th minute caught out new Rose signing Chris Wilson and a misunderstanding with goalkeeper Scott Christie allowed Kelty winger Philp to control the ball and roll it into the empty net from 18 yards. It was a goal which came against the run of play as Linlithgow had been pounding the Fifers’ defence.
Calum Smith looked to have equalised just a minute later with a cracking right-foot volley which unfortunately for the visitors came crashing back off the bar.
Linlithgow’s tails were up as they kept piling the pressure on Kelty’s solid back four. Chance after chance was blocked before, with the half-time whistle approaching, Kelty scored again. Full back Clark Kay sent over a long, dropping cross from the halfway line to the right side of the Linlithgow penalty box and the unmarked Brian Ritchie headed a long, looping header back across goal and into the top corner.
Bradley’s half-time team talk looked to have done the trick as his players started the second half like a train. They created several opportunities only to see a dogged Kelty back line hold firm while Scotland Juniors goalkeeper Alan Fleming was in fine form, his best save coming from Linlithgow’s central defender Ritchie McKillen’s deflected drive which he turned round the post.
Linlithgow had a strong penalty claim turned down by the referee when Colin Strickland was sent crashing by player-manager Tom Courts, a decision which outraged Rose boss Bradley. While Linlithgow had the bulk of the pressure, their goalkeeper Scott Christie had to look lively on more than one occasion. Despite looking the most likely to score, Linlithgow were unable to make the breakthrough.
A dejected Bradley added: “It was a strange day for us. We were not ruthless enough. When things aren’t going well, teams are hurting us.
“But it’s something I have to sort out. Last year, things were flying in and now they’re not. We’re slipping up and it’s opening up the race for the title and it’s gradually being taken away from us. Fair play to Kelty, they defended well and we can’t take anything from them. I have to apologise for some of my comments made to our supporters but frustration was creeping in.”
Kelty Hearts: Fleming, Kella, Kay, Morrison, Courts, Forbes, Philp, Greenhill (Cargill), Deans (Gray), Ritchie, McCabe. Subs: Wallace, Carr, Thomson.
Linlithgow Rose: Christie, Tyrrell, Wilson (Ro MacLennan), McKenzie, McKillop, Ru MacLennan, Shirra, Meechan, Strickland (Herd), Coyne, Smith. Subs: Nelson, Gibson.