Linlithgow Rose striker Colin Strickland is confident his side can be the team to end Kelty Hearts’ unbeaten Super League run when the Fife outfit visit Prestonfield tomorrow afternoon.
Kelty have surprised many with their start to the season, storming their way to the top of the table after struggling at the other end last season when they found themselves in the relegation play-off spot.
The Central Park side sit 12 points ahead of Rose, however Linlithgow have three games in hand. Although they have struggled at Prestonfield so far in the league with just two wins out of five, Strickland fancies his side to get all three points tomorrow.
“I’d like to think with us being at home, against anybody we’ll fancy our chances to go and get the three points,” said the 29-year-old.
“It’s a massive game for us because they’ve been going great guns. They’ve had a fantastic start to the season and they’ve got the points in the bag, whereas we’ve got games in hand. We’ve got to start clawing our way back and hopefully we can start tomorrow, by getting three points.
“If they were to win they’d go fifteen points clear of us, which at any level would be hard to claw back.”
Following tomorrow’s clash, Kelty then host Super League champions Bo’ness United next weekend – the only team to beat them this season, when Bo’ness won away in the Junior Cup. The double header will be a test of whether Kelty can handle life at the top, although Strickland believes they will be hard to knock off the league summit.
He said: “I don’t think they’ll go away, they’ll be there for the long haul and will be in the title race right to the end.
“I wouldn’t just be taking this as a good start, I think they’ll be hard to shove off and they won’t be far away at the end of the season.
“They’ve had the same team for a few years now and they’ve always had good players. I know Tam will have them well drilled and well organised. He made a few good signings in the summer and they’re are obviously proven Super League players.”
It’s not difficult to predict who Linlithgow’s defence will have a job containing tomorrow. Kelty striker Stuart Cargill has notched an incredible 19 goals in just 11 league games for the league leaders. Nearest challenger for the goalscoring crown is Rose’s Tommy Coyne on ten, while Strickland has scored six in the league. The Rose frontmen are one of the most feared double acts in the Junior leagues and Strickland loves playing alongside Coyne.
“I think this is our fifth or sixth season together and we’ve struck up a good understanding. We enjoy playing together and we link up well, long may it continue. We’ve got [Kevin] Kelbie and Calum Smith there as well, so there is a lot of good strikers here and competition is good.
“To be fair to Tommy, he’s got a knack for scoring goals and no doubt about it, at the end of the season he’s always the top scorer. He takes the penalties, so that gives him extra. He basically guarantees you 30 goals a season.”
Strickland’s manager Danny Smith insists tomorrow’s match is a ‘must win’ for Rose if they wish to be challenging at the top of the league come the end of the season, as they cannot afford to rely on other club’s doing any favours for them. If you are looking to be winning leagues, you need to be winning the big games,” he said.
“I would say it’s a must-win game for us. I mean leagues don’t get won in December, but with the points on the board, you’d be relying on other teams to do you favours and we wouldn’t have any room for error.”
Rose are still without striker Kelbie who has just returned to training from an ankle injury. Craig Wilson, recently signed from Ballingry Rovers, could make his debut.