Newtongrange lose ground in title race

Star, in white, could nt find a key second goal. Picture: Malcolm McCurrach
Star, in white, could nt find a key second goal. Picture: Malcolm McCurrach
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Newtongrange Star boss Alan Miller was left gutted after his side failed to pick up the three points their performance merited as they lost ground in the title chase with league leaders Kelty Hearts.

Star had plenty of chances in front of goal to double their lead long before Linlithgow struck a second-half equaliser to prevent this being their third straight loss in the league.

Reflecting on their last visit to Prestonfield – a 2-0 loss last season to Danny Smith’s men which ended their title hopes, – Miller was keen to place an emphasis on the progress his side are making, insisting in any other league campaign that a point away to Rose would be a good result.

“I’m hugely disappointed because we had enough chances to win the match,” said Miller.

“I’m delighted with the performance and the players work rate – they put an awful lot into the game. Normally that would be a good result, but that’s two points dropped in the chase of Kelty.

“We came here last year and we got beat and as a club we are always looking to try and make progress. It’s been four years since we arrived at the club and the turnover in the squad in that time has been remarkable.

“We’ve only been in the Super League for two years and people are expecting us to try and win it, and that’s crazy.”

Nitten are now 14 points behind Kelty in third place, who have just three games remaining and have lost just twice in their 25 league matches so far.

Kelty host second-placed Bo’ness United this Saturday and a win for the Fifers will go a long way to securing their first Super League crown, although Miller isn’t conceding the title just yet.

“We think we’ve had a really good season and we continue to make progress. Kelty, who have 61 points from 25 games is a remarkable achievement and I tip my hat off to them, but they’ve not won it yet,” said Miller.

It was an individual error which cost Rose to concede after just ten minutes, although you can’t take anything away from the strike. Chris King swung in a corner which goalkeeper Scott Christie flapped at and he was caught out off his line as David Dunn took control of a loose ball inside the area and passed inside to Jordan Cropley to curl into the back of the net.

Blair Batchelor came close to a reply for Rose after a great run into the box, before he got a shot away, but Keiron Renton held on to the shot well.

Cropley should have made it two for Star just past the half hour-mark after King played a delightful inside pass into him between Rose centre-halves Mick O’Byrne and Mark Tyrell. The midfielder tried to curl it over Christie, but produced a meek finish which the keeper grasped easily.

Rose were second best for the majority of the first period. However, they twice came close to snatching an equaliser ahead of the interval. O’Byrne got ahead of his marker from a corner to nod onto the bar and over, before Batchelor’s deep cross found Roddy MacLennan at the back post and his header was saved.

With the wind at their backs in the second half, Newtongrange weren’t afraid to try their luck from distance and Cropley wasn’t far away with an effort from over 30 yards.

Sean Jamieson should’ve made it two after he latched onto Gary Cherrie’s ball over the top of the home defence, but sent his effort straight at Christie from just inside the box.

Star were made to pay as the leveller came just two minutes later in 67 minutes. Substitute Calum Smith’s layed-off Roddy MacLennan who forced keeper Renton to make a save, but recent signing Alex King from Bonnyrigg Rose, was first to react and he converted the rebound from close range.

Visiting striker Kris Renton had appeals for a penalty waved away by referee Scott Millar in the 70th minute after he fell under Tyrell’s challenge in the area as they jostled for a high ball.

A last-ditch tackle from O’Byrne prevented Renton from getting a shot away after he’d played a neat one-two with Jamieson on the edge of the box. It was Star who had looked more likely to get the winner after their hosts had struck back, but they couldn’t find a way through.

Linlithgow Rose: Christie, Wilson, McKillen, O’Byrne, Tyrell, Ruari MacLennan, King, Batchelor (Kelly), Strickland, Kelbie (Smith), Roddy MacLennan.

Newtongrange Star: Keiron Renton, McManus, Deland, Tolmie, Dunn, Thomson, Jamieson, Cherrie, Kris Renton, Chris King (Matti King), Cropley.