The race is on for Newtongrange Star to get the better of Junior football’s toughest opponents – the winter weather.
While last weekend saw a number of games fall victim to high winds, all the sides know it is only a matter of time before frosty pitches take their toll and leave teams playing catch-up later with the perennial backlog of fixtures.
The forecast for next week already shows temperatures are expected to dip below zero each day so tomorrow’s Super League home clash with Linlithgow Rose takes on greater significance – and urgency.
Newtongrange will be keen, too, to bounce back from their agonising 3-2 penalty shoot-out defeat against Dalkeith in the Fife and Lothians Cup and Alan Miller’s side must do so against Linlithgow Rose, a team who rarely experience any defeats at all.
After last season’s incredible unbeaten run to the title, the Rose have carried on where they left off and are unbeaten in ten league games. Their last outing saw them cuff Armadale 4-2 at Prestonfield and manager Mark Bradley will be keen to leapfrog Star into second place in the Super League. Just three points separate the teams and Rose have a marginally superior goal difference.
Miller is determined to put some daylight between Newtongrange and Linlithgow, not that there is much of that at this time of year. “It’s not been a good last few weeks results-wise but this Newtongrange squad have excelled themselves this season so far,” he said.
“We’ll bounce back and who better to do that against than Linlithgow. A result against the Rose would give us back that self-belief we had earlier in the season, we just need our share of luck as well. We’ve missed some big players but things are getting better on the fitness front and, with a game like tomorrow’s, everyone says they are fit. They all want to play in big games like this,” Miller went on.
“Linlithgow are unbeaten in the Super League this season and only dropped a couple of points in a draw so they will want to keep that run going and come here looking for a full three points. It’s up to us to take the game to them.”
Linlithgow gaffer Bradley is in quietly confident mood. He said: “The same as last season, we only take it a game at a time and concentrate on that one. Newtongrange will be hurting from their run of results and that makes them a different animal. We’ll be wary of what Alan will bring to their line-up because they will want to get a result against us. We’ve not been at our best in recent games ourselves but we still manage to grind out results – results which keep us in contention to retain the title.”
Last week’s postponement of the Fife and Lothians Cup tie between West Calder and Linlithgow was disappointing, of course, but it gave Bradley an extra week for injured players to get back to full fitness as well prepare for tomorrow’s game. “It’s going to be a hard one for us but we’re going there to get a result,” he added.
Linlithgow’s strategy for the season took a turn when they were knocked out of the Scottish Junior Cup by Shotts Bon Accord. So, retaining their Super League title and gaining entry to the William Hill Scottish Cup once more will now be their main focus. The club has official SFA accreditation regarding their ground as it now meets the standards required for Senior football.
Elsewhere in the Super League, Broxburn, who are having yet another super season, are at home to Armadale. Bo’ness are in Fife for their game against Hill Of Beath, so Alan McGonigal is ready for another battle with the longest serving manager in Junior ranks, Jock Finlayson, who has been at the helm for an incredible 37 years. Finally, league leaders Bonnyrigg are away to Sauchie. And, in the East of Scotland Cup, Musselburgh have a battle on against fellow Super League side Camelon.