Colin Strickland has warned Super League title rivals Bonnyrigg Rose that Linlithgow will be ready to pounce should they drop points.
Striker Strickland scored his third goal in a week as Lithgae eased aside ten-man Broxburn Athletic 4-1 to maintain their pursuit of league leaders Bonnyrigg with the gap between them still at four points.
Strickland admits Bonnyrigg are in pole position but, with seven games remaining, there is still a long way to go and he says Linlithgow will be ready to take advantage should the league leaders slip up.
“Back-to-back losses in the league didn’t help us but you’ve got to react,” said Strickland.
“It was a great team performance from start to finish. I thought we started off well and it continued. We lost a goal early in the second half but we responded well and I thought overall, as an eleven and as a team, we were good all over the park and deserved the win.
“It’s Bonnyrigg’s league to lose but we’ve got to just keep chipping away and look after ourselves and be able to capitalise if they drop points. You never know in football – the closer it gets the nervier it gets.”
Strickland returned to Linlithgow last summer after a year away with Rose’s closest rivals Bo’ness United. He’s back amongst the goals again after a frustrating start having spent the initial three months of the campaign on the sidelines.
He continued: “It’s always good as a striker to score goals and I’ve done not too badly this season. At the start of the season, I was injured for two or three months after coming back from Bo’ness. I got a wee niggle then I pulled my hamstring. It wasn’t ideal, but since I’ve been in and playing. I’ve scored a few goals.”
Rose were given a warning after just two minutes when the impressive Zander Murray strode clear and rounded goalkeeper Darren Hill but defender Gary Thom got back in time to clear off the line.
Ruari MacLennan then went close for the home side after being teed up by striker Tommy Coyne, with his shot going just narrowly wide of the back post.
Rose were forced into a re-shuffle when Luke Whelan hobbled off injured, with Robert Sloan moving to left-back and Jamie McKenzie switching to the other side.
That didn’t knock them out of their stride too much, however, with Coyne bringing out a fine save from Broxburn keeper Conor Wallace, before Strickland had his effort from the resultant corner pushed over.
Rose broke the deadlock after 18 minutes with McKenzie’s ball from the byline knocked into his own net by visiting defender Grant Gavin.
Strickland went close to a second from range, before Coyne cracked a volley off the bar with Wallace beaten as the half drew to a close.
Rose were awarded a penalty on the stroke of half-time with Wallace penalised for wiping out MacLennan after he had initially won the ball and Coyne took advantage.
The visitors pulled a goal back just two minutes after the restart, with Murray working his way past both Thom and Colin Leiper before he let fly with his left foot to find the far bottom corner.
Any hopes of a Broxburn comeback were quashed in four second-half minutes, however, as firstly Strickland headed in for No.3, before visiting midfielder Ross Nimmo was shown a second yellow card.
Rose rounded off a comfortable victory nine minutes from time when Strickland unselfishly squared to McKenzie, who lashed the ball home from the edge of the box with a finish any striker would be proud of.
Broxburn assistant boss Steven Hislop rued his side’s first-half showing while he didn’t agree with the penalty decision which went against his side.
“We know how they play, we told the players how they play and we gave them strict instructions throughout the week, and then we gave ourselves a mountain to climb by giving them a two goal start,” said Hislop.
“You give players instructions and, if they don’t follow them, it’s very difficult. You can’t give Linlithgow a two-goal start and expect to come back into it. It was never a penalty in a million years – he (Wallace) kicked the ball and the player’s run into him so I don’t know why the ref’s given it.”
Linlithgow Rose: Hill, Whelan (Shields), McKenzie, Thom, Leiper, Sloan, Ronald, MacLennan, Strickland, Coyne, Smith (Urquhart)
Broxburn Athletic: Wallace, Gillen, Donaldson, Locke, Gavin, Linton, Nimmo, Scott, Murray (Downie), Richards, Anderson