Bonnyrigg Rose hope to kick off the East of Scotland GroundHop weekend in style by lifting the Conference B title at a packed-out Westfield Park tonight.
The New Dundas Park men can secure the crown by taking at least a point from their match against Dunipace (8pm kick-off) which is the first match to be featured in the GroundHop weekend with six scheduled games from tonight through until Sunday.
Football fans from across the UK, known as groundhoppers, will take in all six matches – organised by GroundHop UK – with a coach departing from London this morning to make it in time for this evening’s match in Denny.
East of Scotland chairman John Greenhorn is set to welcome GroundHop UK for the third time with open arms which, he believes, only helps to raise the overall profile of the league.
“This is the third time we’ve had the Groundhop; the first time was pretty good, the second time wasn’t so good – it was spoiled by the weather last year when it was snowing and we had games off at Peebles and at Saughton,” said Greenhorn. “We’ve got a lot of new grounds now so I’ll expect we will get them back again in the future sometime. I think they’ve just come back from one in Europe somewhere in the last couple of weeks. Now it’s Scotland’s turn this weekend.
“In general, you are looking at an increase in crowds of a couple of hundred, which is a decent amount of money on the gate for the clubs that get the privilege. It helps to put the league on the map.
“It has been quite an interesting season and I think it will be even better next year when the clubs sort themselves into their correct level. There have been one or two one-sided games but we knew that was always going to happen. We’ll have a top division next season and two divisions below that.”
Bonnyrigg midfielder Ross Gray, who became the club’s final outfield player to score this season in last weekend’s 4-2 victory over Jeanfield Swifts, says Rose won’t have achieved anything if they do clinch the title this evening, with all their focus on securing a spot in the Lowland League next season.
“I can’t remember the last time I played a Friday night game, so we are looking forward to the occasion and hopefully we just get that point,” said Gray. “I don’t think we will celebrate too much. We have a club race night on Saturday night, so it would be good to win it and have a wee celebration tomorrow, but the big celebration would be if we get up into the Lowland League – we’ve not really done anything yet.
“We probably didn’t expect to win it this early on – when the draw came out it seemed like we had the toughest conference.”
Robbie Horn’s men are still competing in four cup competitions but, as the games mount up as we approach April, Gray reckons Horn has a squad at his disposal which will be able to compete on all fronts.
He continued: “We’ve got six or seven home games in April so that’s when all the midweek games will start, so it’s good that we have a strong squad and will be able to cope with that. I think a couple of seasons ago before I was here, they had a lot of games mount up and eventually they ended up losing the league to Kelty.
“We have a really strong squad and I think everyone who is involved, either on the pitch or on the bench, are good enough to be playing every week.
“We are fortunate that when we’ve had three or four injuries like we did at the weekend, we still went up to Jeanfield and pulled off a result.
“Last week was the first time I’ve scored this season; I was the last outfield player to score, so it was nice to get that goal and get the monkey off my back. It is something Robbie [Horn] has been saying he wanted me to add to my game.”
Friday: Dunipace v Bonnyrigg Rose (8.00)
Saturday: Camelon v Edinburgh United (11.00am)
Saturday: Inverkeithing Hillfield Swifts v Heriot Watt (2.15)
Saturday: Blackburn United v Preston Athletic (5.15)
Saturday: Linlithgow Rose v Jeanfield Swifts (8.00)
Sunday: Peebles Rovers v Newtongrange Star (12.30)
• Craigroyston have appointed Michael Wilson as their manager for next season.
Wilson was previously in charge of Bathgate Thistle and latterly coach with Preston Athletic. Craigie, currently tenth in Conference C, have been without a manager since Alan Miller reached the end of his short-term agreement earlier in the campaign.