Linlithgow-Bo’ness derby will remain biggest game in Juniors

Blair Batchelor is congratulated for scoring against Camelon
Blair Batchelor is congratulated for scoring against Camelon
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Blair Batchelor is adamant the Juniors’ own El Classico between Linlithgow Rose and Bo’ness United still holds appeal despite the future of the game being under threat.

With a host of clubs set to leave for the East of Scotland League at the end of this season, there is a feeling that the Junior scene is living on borrowed time, with the Scottish Junior Football Association heavily exploring the idea of moving the game under the banner of the SFA.

Linlithgow midfielder Batchelor admits there is uncertainty amongst players with the dynamic of next season’s Super League unclear, but insists they are fully focussed on securing the bragging rights at home to rivals Bo’ness tomorrow as they bid to remain on the coat tails of league leaders Bonnyrigg Rose.

“I don’t know what’s happening next season with Bonnyrigg leaving, I don’t know what route the Juniors is going to be taking,” said Batchelor.

“We’ve only really started speaking about it the last couple of weeks; it’s all up in the air. Colin Strickland, we call him Junior Jeff because he knows everything about everybody – he’s the one that’s usually keeping us up to date with it. It will be a blow to lose Bonnyrigg, I can see them going on to win that league like Kelty have done.

“Bonnyrigg are four points ahead of us at the moment and I can’t see them slipping up, but you never know. We’ve still got two cups to play for, and if we win one or both of those it would be a good season considering where we were last year.

“Mark [Bradley, manager] has come in with Ronaldo [Paul Ronald, assistant manager] and they have really galvanised everybody. There’s a good team spirit around the place again. It’s been a better season; we’ve had ups and downs, probably some quite bad downs.”

Batchelor insists they will keep fighting in their bid to lift the Super League title for the first time since 2013, but admits they will have to win every one of their remaining six matches.

He continued: “We’ll need to win every game. We’ll just keep trying and see what happens. I can’t see them losing their lead, but you never know.

“Bo’ness is still a big derby game. I’ve only beaten Bo’ness a couple of times since I’ve been here, so I definitely want to win again.”

Bo’ness boss Stevie Kerrigan is delighted with the progress his side have made since he took over as manager in January.

The Newtown Park men were languishing just above the relegation zone when he took over but are now up to eighth in the table and have their sights set on a top-half finish, although they have four games in a week to contend with.

“We’re on a decent run, we’re just getting to a hectic time in the season with the amount of games we’re being asked to play,” said Kerrigan. “We’ve been asked to play four games; Saturday, Monday, Wednesday and Saturday which is ridiculous but it tends to be the way for this time of year.

“We’ve got the game on Monday [against Fauldhouse in the Fife and Lothians Cup] which is our only chance of silverware now. We can’t afford to rest players for the Linlithgow match, if I was to do that it would be unfair on the fans, who look forward to these 
occasions. We fully intend to put out as strong a team as possible.

“I don’t think you can afford to go into a game against Linlithgow, certainly away, with that kind of idea that you could maybe leave guys out or try and save players.

“We’ll try and compete on Saturday and do our best on Monday.”