Linlithgow Rose manager Danny Smith reckons his team have lost their “soft touch” tag – and they proved as much in a bruising Scottish Cup encounter away at Fraserburgh.
The Prestonfield outfit left Bellslea Park with a replay after an entertaining 0-0 draw in Aberdeenshire against the Highland League outfit and Smith believes the experience of losing to Deveronvale – another Highland League side – in last season’s competition helped his players become more “steely” against physical northern clubs.
“I wasn’t at the club last season when they were knocked out of the Scottish Cup, but I wanted to see the side mix things up more and in the more physical games we showed we can,” said Smith, below.
“I had them watched and knew it was going to be a hard, physical game. I told the players they would have to stand up for themselves because some people saw us as soft. I want my side to reflect the toughness I remember Linlithgow teams in the past had.”
They showed that in abundance on the shores of the North Sea. Many observers of junior football feel Rose don’t like “in-your-face football” and defeats to Deveronvale and Auchinleck Talbot in recent years have added weight to that argument, but it was a different story against the Broch. Teams can no longer bully Smith’s version of Linlithgow.
It was Rose who had the first chance to open the scoring, but Roddy MacLennan blasted the ball over the bar. Fraserburgh then started to dominate and there was a spell where the visitors could not get out of their own half.
The home side were physical, but in a big Linlithgow defence they found a side who weren’t intimidated. Fraserburgh should have been in front after creating a lot of chances, but their finishing was poor.
A key moment in the match was when Linlithgow had a strong claim for a penalty after MacLennan was sent sprawling, but the referee incensed the away support by booking MacLennan for diving.
Linlithgow started the second half better and gradually the home defence started to wilt under pressure. It was still a tough-tackling game with fuses short but, with both teams now going for the win, it was end-to-end football with chances galore at both ends.
There was virtually no midfield play at all as the ball was humped up the pitch from end to end. The pace of the game started to show as tiredness set in among both sets of players. Mistakes were made but chances were missed from both sides.
Linlithgow’s strikers Tommy Coyne and Kevin Kelbie were finding time now to turn and pressurise the home defence. Blair Batchelor brought out the best in keeper Scott Cowe, as did Scott Barbour with Linlithgow keeper Michael McKinven, as both sides searched for a winner.
Time was running out for Fraserburgh as they pushed forward to win the tie with home advantage and they almost paid the penalty with only five minutes to go. Batchelor was played through by Kelbie with only the keeper to beat, but he waited too long and Cowe came out to block his effort and the last chance was lost.
So it’s a replay once again for Linlithgow in the Scottish Cup. Last season they were in front at Deveronvale, but lost a couple of goals in the last ten minutes. Then in the replay they were bullied at home and lost out 3–1. “Saturday will be another hard game for both sides,” said Smith.
Fraserburgh: S Cowe, Cooper, McBride, Cowie, Dickson, Fowlie, Main, West, Bruce, Johnston, S Barbour. Subs: J Barbour, M Cowie, Combe, Hay, Davidson, Noble, Burr.
Linlithgow: McKinven, Thom, McKillen, McGowan, O Byrne, Nelson, Batchelor, Ru MacLennan, Kelbie, Coyne, Ro MacLennan. Subs: Tyrrell, Strickland, Shirra, Kelly, Ovenstone, Ellison.