Gutsy Linlithgow Rose produced an epic comeback on a memorable afternoon in front of a packed Prestonfield to take League One Forfar to a replay in the William Hill Scottish Cup fourth round.
In what was a pulsating cup tie, the Junior outfit looked dead and buried after going down to ten men before losing two goals which put their more illustrious opponents in control early in the second half, but in keeping with their nickname, ‘The Gallant’ defied the odds with a heroic response to level the tie and ensure a replay at Station Park a week tomorrow.
Rose centre-back Jamie Mackenzie, who pulled the hosts back to 3-2 after a lung-busting run from one end of the pitch to the other, admitted he thought their cup dream was over after going two goals behind, but felt the lift they got from a raucous home crowd when he struck reinstated their belief.
“I was the first one to hold my hand up and say the game was over, but we just got a big lift when the second goal went in,” said Mackenzie, an International Business student at Edinburgh Napier University.
“It gave us a bit of a lift and it put their heads down as well, which gave us the momentum to kick on. I had to come off for a breather after it. I’ve been choked with the cold for the past week and I haven’t really being feeling that great. It was probably the best atmosphere I’ve experienced without a doubt.
“I just seen a break. I like to burst forward – I don’t know how the ball managed to find me, but I was in the right place at the right time for a tap in. It just seemed to lift everyone. I spent last year in Frankfurt and didn’t play football for a year in Germany, but I took up a lot of running which obviously kept me fit and I came to sign for Linlithgow again when I got back.
“I was training with top athletes, you had German Olympic athletes doing marathons and ultra marathon runners, that’s like 100km – they are some of the top endurance athletes in the world. They’d be striding by and I’d be absolutely blowing – it’s not the same as a football pitch. I’m not too bad at the long runs, it’s the short ones I struggle with.
“We’ll see what we can do in the replay, we’ll be going out to win.”
Rose were on top in the first half but found themselves a goal behind to Gary Bollan’s side against the run of play after 31 minutes. Iain Campbell’s deep delivery from a free-kick found Michael Travis at the backpost and he directed a header towards the goal, the ball striking the far upright before rolling across the line and into the net. Linlithgow’s response was almost instant, however, Ruari MacLennan producing a composed finish inside the area eight minutes later after good work down the right from Tommy Coyne saw the ball flash across goal.
The half-time whistle came at a bad time for the hosts, who were well on top going into the interval, Gary Thom’s header striking the bar on the stoke of the interval.
Thom went from being inches away to making himself a hero to a villain shortly after the break, impeding the impressive Hibs loanee Scott Martin as the youngster looked set to strike in the area, and he walked after referee Stephen Finnie produced a red card. Campbell dispatched the spot kick.
Three minutes later and Rose’s cup dream looked over, Martin’s cross headed on for Gavin Swankie at the back post who, on the verge of being offside, finished emphatically past goalkeeper Ally Adams.
Despite being down to ten men, Rose boss David McGlynn moved to a back three with nothing to lose and it was that never-say-die attitude deployed from the touchline which rubbed off on his players.
Coyne disposed of Kevin Nicoll as Rose broke on the counter, his searching ball finding debutant Conor Kelly. He did tremendously well to hold the ball up and jink past Thomas O’Brien before support arrived in the form of Mackenzie, who prodded home.
Pandemonium on the Rose terracing and on the grassy hill behind the goal the home side were attacking then ensued, as straight from kick off came the equaliser. Blair Batchelor’s determination brought about the chance as he hassled Travis before knocking on for Graham Weir, who drove his strike low past goalkeeper Darren Hill.
Rattled by two goals in a minute, the visitors looked nervy as Rose, with their tails up, went in search of a winner, which would’ve taken the roof off the Prestonfield terracing. It never arrived though, with the replay a week tomorrow.
Linlithgow Rose: Adams, Thom, Baptie (Tyrrell), Mackenzie, Leiper, MacLennan, Batchelor, Shirra, Kelly (Kelbie), Coyne, Weir (Gray).
Forfar Athletic: Hill, Travis, Campbell, Nicoll, O’Brien, Hodge, Martin, Fotheringham (Kader), Smith, Swankie, Denholm (Young)
Referee: S Finnie.