Linlithgow Rose midfielder Blair Batchelor believes they proved a lot of people wrong after matching Scottish Junior Cup favourites Auchinleck Talbot in the first leg of their semi-final clash.
Many were simply pondering how many Talbot would score in the lead-up, but Rose were able to nullify their visitors with an ambitious three-at-the-back formation while displaying a goal threat of their own.
For all that has been said about Talbot and their status of being the most successful club in the completion’s history, combined with Rose’s poor season, the home side made the visitors look ordinary.
Batchelor revealed it has given them greater belief that they can travel to the Ayrshire club’s Beechwood Park and emerge victorious next weekend. “It was a typical semi-final, it was stuffy and both teams were probably apprehensive going into it,” Batchelor said. “But we certainly matched them and a lot of people said we wouldn’t and we’d get turned over, so I think we proved a lot of people wrong.
“Many people were thinking how many it would be. They had completely written us off before it, and albeit we’ve not had a great season, we’ve played some good stuff in the Scottish Cup.
“Talbot have got an aura around them in Junior football that they are unbeatable, but they are certainly not and we’ll fancy our chances.
“It’s just half-time, so we’ll go down there and have every confidence that we can go and beat them. We’ll show the doubters wrong and hopefully we can get the right result.
“I’ve been so very close to getting into the final, this is my third semi-final in the last five years and I’ve been beaten in every one of them, hopefully it will be third time lucky.”
The opening 15 minutes were scrappy and tense as either side sized each other up. Home striker Tommy Coyne had the best chance on 14 minutes, as he did well to get his shot away off balance but goalkeeper Andy Leishman tipped over.
Bryan Young had the ball in the net for Talbot on 25 minutes after a finely taken volley from Steve Whyte’s ball over the top, but a late offside flag cut their celebrations short.
Rose’s best opportunity to take the lead arrived on the stroke of half-time. Talbot right-back Willie Lyle was unassured with his clearance, sending the ball spinning up in the air inside his own area.
Batchelor got his foot on it and sent a shot goalwards which deflected into Kevin Kelbie’s path, but from only four yards out he couldn’t poke the ball home. The visitors improved after the break, although the home defence restricted them to little in the way of chances.
Their best came with ten minutes remaining when Young laid off Steven Wilson on the edge of the box but his attempt was wayward.
Talbot were screaming at referee Lorraine Clark for a penalty award five minutes from time when Jamie Latta went down under an apparent Reece Donaldson push, but she was disinterested and waved play on.
That brought the tie to life finally as both sides pressed for an advantage to take into Saturday’s second leg.
Rose boss Todd Lumsden described himself as being “delighted” with their performance. He said: “As a performance, I’m delighted. I said to them that the game wouldn’t be won and lost here, it was all about staying in the tie because it is effectively only half-time.
“I thought it was pretty evenly matched. From our perspective, I thought we moved the ball quite well at times and we got into some good areas, we just needed a little bit more quality in the final third.
“It’s 0-0, it’s all to play for and I can’t wait for next week. We’ve proven we can match that, but hopefully now next week, we can go and try and beat that.”
Linlithgow Rose: Hill, McNab, Donaldson, Thom, McKenzie, Leiper, Gray (Kelly), Muhsin, Coyne, Batchelor, Kelbie
Auchinleck Talbot: Leishman, Lyle, Pope. Harvey, McGoldrick, Steven Wilson, Young, Whyte (McCracken), Graham Wilson, Milliken, Shankland (Latta)