Bo’ness United arrived in party mode as Super League champions on their last visit to rivals Linlithgow Rose on the final day of last season, with the result of little importance to them.
Manager Allan McGonigal even claimed they could’ve turned up to Prestonfield wearing fancy dress with the title having been secured in a 5-1 win over Lochee United on the Wednesday leading up to the match.
Rose were 4-1 victors that day, but the backdrop to tomorrow’s meeting between the two sides at Prestonfield is very different. Bo’ness make the short journey from their Newtown Park home knowing they must win to maintain their hopes of retaining the league crown, with leaders Kelty Hearts 16 points clear.
The Fife leaders have just six games remaining in their league campaign, while the chasing pack of Bo’ness, Newtongrange Star and Rose each have at least ten games left.
“I think whoever loses the match tomorrow will be out of the title race – it’s a must win match for both of us to stay in it,” said Bo’ness midfielder Robert Sloan. “It will probably take something for Kelty to drop a few more points, but you never know, as nobody was expecting them to get beat off Armadale [on Saturday] and maybe they are feeling a wee bit of pressure.
“We’ve played a bit better the last five or six weeks with the pressure being off. Hopefully we are hitting a wee bit of form at the right time. The midweek games will be coming in the next couple of weeks and it’s a big lead Kelty have got just now, but if you win two or three games in the one week then you are catching right back up.”
Linlithgow went on to deny their rivals a league-and-cup double on their home park just a week after their convincing league win as they secured the Fife and Lothians Cup thanks to a late comeback.
Bo’ness had led at the break after a Nicky Walker strike, but two goals in the final four minutes from Roddy MacLennan and Iain Diack secured Danny Smith his first trophy as Rose boss. The manner of the loss was a painful one for Sloan and his team-mates, who are eager to exact revenge this weekend. The former Hearts youngster, however, believes there won’t be too many goals as he’s anticipating a tight clash with so much on the line.
“It was a sickener last year and it gave them a bit more bragging rights with them beating us twice,” he added. “It will be the biggest game of the season by a mile, but I can’t see there being a big winner this week as there is too much to play for.”
Bo’ness boss McGonigal has called on his players to keep a cool head tomorrow. “Our discipline has killed us in previous games against them and if we can keep eleven players on the park then we will certainly be in with a shout of winning the game,” said the coach.
Darren Gribben is missing for the visitors, while Nicky Walker and Will Snowdon are doubts.
Elsewhere, Musselburgh put their ten-game unbeaten home record on the line when they host Kelty at Olivebank, while Penicuik Athletic play at home to Bonnyrigg Rose.