A commanding 3-0 win over ten-man Cowdenbeath in the first leg of the League 2 pyramid play-off final puts Bonnyrigg in pole position to cement promotion to the SPFL for the first time in their history and bring an end to the Fifers’ own 117-year stay in the national senior leagues.
Sean Brown’s scrambled opener, a Neil Martyniuk penalty and a header by former Blue Brazil defender Dean Brett in front of 2,202 fans at a sold-out New Dundas Park means Cowdenbeath have it all to do in the second leg at Central Park next week.
Their manager Maurice Ross was furious about two key decisions made by referee Grant Irvine which changed the game. The first was a second yellow card shown to left back Harvey Swann following a challenge on Brett right in front of the dugouts after half an hour when the game was scoreless and finely balanced. The second was a controversial penalty awarded a minute before half time which gave Rose a 2-0 lead.
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Horn had some sympathy with his counterpart, but not too much.
“It was probably a soft penalty,” admitted the Bonnyrigg boss. “But I thought it was a sending off. He’s lunged in three times and he’d been booked already. It was a bit crazy.
He added: “After the sending off I thought we were well in control. We’ve put ourselves in a very good position. I thought it was solid performance. I didn’t think it was brilliant football, but we matched them all over the park.
“They put out a strong side and I though we matched them physically. I thought we were the team in the ascendency.
“We know it is not done. There will be no complacency from us. The coaching staff won’t allow it. We know what’s at stake.”
Ross, the former Rangers full-back who has revived Cowdenbeath’s fortunes somewhat in recent weeks, could not hide his anger about what he perceived to be an unjust outcome in such a big game.
He said: “My overriding emotion is that I feel mugged. How can you get sent off when you win the ball? He gets the ball first. It’s not high. It’s not rash. It’s a 50-50 challenge which he wins and the guy makes a meal of it.
“The penalty? I though it was a free-kick to us. If that’s a penalty, there’s 20 penalties every week. The game is done then. All credit to them, but they got a massive helping hand with those two decisions.”
The sending off came after each side had spurned a decent chance, Brown for Rose and the impressive Sammy Ompreon for the visitors. But Bonnyrigg capitalised instantly by going for the jugular with two quick-fire goals before using their game management expertise and experience to finish off the job.
First, Brown, in for suspended striker Keiran McGachie, stretched and got a toe to a cross from rampant Rose winger Bradley Barrett to bundle the ball over the line from six yards before Cowdenbeath keeper Cammy Gill could claw it out.
Then came the penalty out of nothing. It was awarded after a coming together involving Callum Connolly, who had chased an apparent lost cause to keep the ball in play as Cowdenbeath attempted to shepherd it out. Martyniuk slotted the spot kick.
Cowdenbeath sat back and tried to minimise the damage in the second half but Brett headed home the third from Lee Currie’s corner. It could and should have been more, Kieran Hall missing the best chance with a close-range header and the rampaging Barrett denied by Gill.
Rose will take 3-0 though. The juggernaut rolls on. On the evidence of this display and the season overall, they will take some stopping.
Bonnyrigg Rose: Weir, Brett, Martynuik, Young, Horne, Stewart, Currie, R Gray (Hall 71), Barrett, Connolly, Brown. Subs not used: Andrews, Turner, Hunter, Evans, S Gray, Wilson.Cowdenbeath: Gill, Dunn (Thomson 68), Swann, Todd, C Barr, Denhan, Miller, Morrison, R Buchanan (Ferguson 36), Ompreon, Barrowman. Subs not used: Mullen, R Barr, McDowall, Coulson, L Buchanan, Carty, Moore.Referee: G Irvine.Attendance: 2,202.