East of Scotland Premier Division 2022/23: Linlithgow Rose start new season as title favourites
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Buoyed by ending their eight-year trophy drought in style with a cup double, it’s hard to look past Linlithgow Rose as being the main contender to make the next step-up Scottish football’s pyramid, with a winning mentality reinstated at Prestonfield
Manager Gordon Herd has been diligent and proactive in the transfer market, identifying targets early with focus on this season’s recruitment beginning in January, as six new signings were revealed all in one sweep in early June.
Goalkeeper Cameron Binnie has been recruited from League Two Albion Rovers and handed the No.1 jersey in what was a key focus area for Rose, while Ben Davidson, signed from Stirling University, has impressed in the centre of midfield during pre-season. Centre back Greg Skinner is another brought in, seen as a coup having been prised away from rivals Bo'ness United in the Lowland League.
It’s not an incoming player that will be key to their campaign, however, with Rose having fended off interest from further up the ladder to retain their top goalscorer from season, winger Mark Stowe, who netted 43 goals in a glittering first season with the club.
Rose had accepted a five-figure bid from a Lowland League side which met their valuation of the 23-year-old, but Stowe opted to stay, and should he replicate last season’s form, more illustrious clubs will no doubt take notice.
There is no shortage of firepower at Prestonfield. They boast a strikeforce that should all hope to hit double figures in Sean Heaver, Alan Docherty, Alan Sneddon and new recruit Owen Andrew from Clyde.
While Linlithgow will have to deal with their title favourites tag, there is also pressure from an expectant support who are envious of the strides made by former East of Scotland clubs Kelty Hearts, Bonnyrigg Rose, neighbours Bo'ness United, and Tranent last season. Traditionally the big fish in the East, Rose have been somewhat left behind by their old rivals and they are eager to get back on the same playing field.
Boss Herd is well aware of the expectation on his side, saying: “It's the way it should be at Linlithgow, a club the size of Linlithgow should be the favourites for this title. The main objective is always going to be to get to the Lowland League, that was our objective last season.
“It's pressure but it's pressure that should come with playing at a club like Linlithgow with our fan base and how big the club is. We've been left behind which kind of happens sometimes, but it's not anyone at the club's fault.”
Expect Jeanfield Swifts, Broxburn Athletic and Pencuik Athletic to be Rose's main challengers, while newly-promoted Haddington Athletic will also hope to have a say with the East Lothian club riding a crest of a wave, enjoying heady times under the stewardship of the infectious Scott Bonar following last season's 1st Division Conference A title win.
At Olivebank, Musselburgh Athletic will be aiming to build on last season's eight-place finish, while the minimum target for Tynecastle and Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale will be to secure their top-flight status, with the latter having been saved from relegation by the skin of their teeth after Tranent navigated the pyramid play-off.