Newtongrange Star boss Stevie McLeish has described tonight’s Fife and Lothians Cup final with fierce rivals Bonnyrigg Rose as an historic occasion for both clubs.
This evening’s meeting at Penicuik Park (kick-off 7pm) will not only bring the curtain down on each club’s respective seasons, but signify their last match in the Juniors with both heading for the East of Scotland League next term.
“It’s great for both clubs,” said McLeish. “We are close rivals and we’re playing in massive game to finalise our involvement in Junior football for both clubs – what an occasion to get for two historically really big clubs.
“128 years in the Juniors for us is coming to an end tonight and I think it’s great that it’s in a cup final against our local rivals. I hope both teams turn up and do the game justice. It’s got a real sense of occasion about it. I just hope my boys don’t freeze on the night.”
Newtongrange head into the final against Super League champions Rose in fine fettle and in their best form of the campaign having been beaten just once in their last eight matches, including a semi-final penalty shoot-out victory over Penicuik Athletic.
Form counts for little when it comes to derby clashes, though, especially in a cup final. McLeish, who led former club Musselburgh Athletic to the Scottish Junior Cup final in 2015, will be bidding to become the first Star boss since John Buckley in 1991 to lift the Fife and Lothians Cup.
McLeish continued: “We’ve hit a wee bit of form and we’ve been playing well recently. The fact that we’ve had something to play for at the end of the season has made us a bit more focused.
“This is a bonus game for us. It’s our reward for how well we have done for the whole of the season. We go into the game as second favourites – we know Bonnyrigg are a hell of a side.
“It’s all about the players. Yeah I’ve got to pick the team, but I’ve got to pick the right team for the night. It’s difficult because everybody is at the top of their game just now; they are all desperate to play in this cup final and either way, there will be a few disappointed boys that won’t start the game. I just hope they can find it within themselves to know they’ll have a part to play in the game if they are not starting.”
Newtongrange have lost out twice in three meetings with their local rivals this season, with Bonnyrigg hitting ten goals in those two victories – a 5-2 beating in the Scottish Junior Cup and 5-1 triumph in their most recent league meeting.
Rose boss David White hopes those games will have a bearing on tonight’s match, although he’s eager to keep his players’ feet on the ground and won’t allow them to believe the game is already won before they cross the white line.
“It’s going to be a tough game because Newtongrange have done really well recently. They are probably one of the form teams at the moment and have good players in their team,” said White.
“It’s not often about the best team that wins these games, it’s about who wants it more. We’ve spoken about it and we’ve had a really good season but I think there is still more to come.
“I hope so [the last two games have a bearing on tonight] but I very much doubt it. I know Stevie McLeish and Murray Hunter [Star assistant manager] from years gone by and they will have their side fired up. We’ve played really well in the last two games and we’ve scored at good times as well.
“The guys know how much this means to the club for us to win this.”