Bo’ness braced for a testing home straight

There will be four games in a week for champions-elect Bo'ness. Pic: Malcolm McCurrach
There will be four games in a week for champions-elect Bo'ness. Pic: Malcolm McCurrach
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Bo’ness United manager Allan McGonigal is hoping a gruelling finale to the Super League season doesn’t wreck his side’s hopes of glory.

Leaders Bo’ness sit three points clear of Linlithgow Rose with a game in hand after the Prestonfield outfit could only draw at home to Camelon on Wednesday night.

Despite being in command of the title race, the Newtown Park side are concerned about the prospect of playing four games in the space of a week.

After tomorrow’s league visit to Hill of Beath, they have a Fife and Lothians Cup semi-final against Kelty Hearts on Monday night, before completing their league campaign with games at home to Lochee United on Wednesday and away to Linlithgow next Saturday.

In an ideal world, the Newtown Park side would hope to have the title sewn up before they visit their title rivals next weekend, but McGonigal admits it will be far from straightforward to negotiate an “astounding” schedule.

As a result, he intends to make changes to his squad for Monday’s cup tie.

“I’m absolutely astounded that we’ve waited all this time and then they are chucking four games at me within a seven-day period,” said McGonigal. “If the season is on until the 14th June, I don’t understand it. It’s been a season of adversity for Bo’ness, that’s for sure. The semi-final will have to be demoted, because we have to rest players. I did it on Monday against Camelon and we will certainly be doing something similar against Kelty. That’s no disrespect to Kelty or anybody else, I’ve just got to prioritise what I want to do here.

“I’m certainly not going to take a chance and risk one of my players who could get hurt or sent off in a game which could affect the destination of the title. Up until this week everyone can tell you that you are having a great season, then all of a sudden it can go pear shaped. It shouldn’t be like that.”

McGonigal can take confidence from the fact that, on Monday night, he rested eight of his regular first-team players away to Camelon, opting to blood youngsters and players who have had little game time recently, and they still came away with a 4-1 win.

Regulars Stuart Hunter, Nicky Walker and Steve Hislop made way for Jamie Clark, Kieran Anderson and Zander Miller, with the latter notching a first-half double. It was the performance of 21-year-old defender Clark which pleased McGonigal most, however, with the youngster having to wait patiently on the sidelines for his chance since moving to Newtown Park Stirling Albion in January.

“He had never kicked a ball for us,” said McGonigal.

“He trains with a smile on his face and has never complained because the boys in front of him are all doing well. I don’t often give plaudits out to players for man of the matches etc because we win and lose together, but for Jamie to come in having not played any football, he was magnificent.”

McGonigal is praying his players come through the next few games unscathed injury-wise as he wants his team to have the best chance possible of winning their next four games.

“It’s going to be an adventurous eight days,” he continued. “As a football player you relish the prospect because it’s a big game after a big game, but if you are a manager of the club then you just keep your fingers crossed that you don’t get any injuries and you can field your strongest team.

“We are looking to take the bull by the horns and go and win the next four games, and if that’s the case then everybody will have a big smile on their face come a week on Saturday.

“We’d only feel regret for ourselves if we didn’t see it through. It’s always been in our hands.”

McGonigal is without midfielder Andy Scott tomorrow, but otherwise has a full squad to choose from, with Hunter, Walker, Hislop, Stewart Devine, Paul Murphy and Chris Donnelly in contention to start after being rested against Camelon.