Newtongrange Star manager Alan Miller admitted his side are out of the running for the Super League title after losing 2-0 to champions Linlithgow Rose.
Star conceded top spot to Bo’ness, who lead on goal difference but have four games in hand over the New Victoria Park side.
Miller says it’s a two-horse race between United and Rose now, but his side could still have a say in the destination of the title as they face Bo’ness next weekend.
He said: “I think the blow to our title hopes was the run of four games without a win. Bo’ness and Linlithgow are in far stronger positions with the games in hand they’ve got. I think it’s probably a race between those two now.”
Miller was not happy with the way his side performed in the first half, with the hosts taking the lead inside the first minute.
Danny Smith, in charge of his first home game as Linlithgow boss, had barely taken up his position on the touchline when Colin Strickland fired his side in front.
Tommy Coyne did well to to get a cross from the right into the danger area, and strike partner Strickland was on hand to flick the ball into the corner past Star goalkeeper Kris Renton after around 30 seconds.
Rose continued to attack Star at pace, with the visitors having to thank their keeper for keeping the home side at bay.
Winger Roddy MacLennan came close to grabbing Rose’s second goal of the afternoon. He was set free in the box one-on-one with Renton, but instead of flicking it over the keeper’s head he tried to curl a shot round the keeper and Renton got his fingertips on it to push wide.
Coyne then stung the gloves of Renton with a fierce drive which the keeper did well to push clear, before Calum Smith forced another great save with a header.
Newtongrange had barely created anything of note until the 32nd minute when Jordan Cropley tried to jink his way through Rose’s defence, but found his route to goal blocked and Rose were able to clear.
Strickland came close to notching his second of the afternoon shortly before half-time - his shot was heading for the top corner from the edge of the box, but again, Renton got a hand on it.
Star striker Sean Jamieson, who notched a double in the win over Armadale in their previous match, had been kept quiet for much of the opening period until he came close with two efforts late in the half. Rose keeper Scott Christie and a block from defender Ritchie McKillen prevented the striker from reducing the deficit.
Rose started the second half eager to get the crucial second goal and Smith almost found the net with a cross-cum shot which flashed across goal. They did get that second goal on 61 minutes though, as Strickland, pictured below, doubled his tally for the afternoon.
Star failed to clear from a corner and McKillen fed the striker unmarked on the left side of the box. And, from a tight angle, Strickland slid the ball under Renton and into the far bottom corner. The visitors were appealing for a penalty on 75 minutes after Blair Tomlie’s header from a corner kick crashed off the post and appeared to strike the hand of a Rose defender, but the referee waved play on.
Smith was delighted to get his first win as Rose manager and wants his side to build on the win to keep in touch with Bo’ness in the race for the title
He said: “It was a big three points. Everybody knew the situation that if we didn’t take anything less than three points, it would’ve been an uphill struggle.
“We’ve ignited a wee bit of a title charge for ourselves now, but it’s important that we build on it.”
Linlithgow Rose: Christie, Tyrrell, McKillen (Wilson), Gibson, Mackenzie, Ruari MacLennan, Smith, Shirra, Strickland (Diack), Coyne (Meechan), Roddy MacLennan.
Newtongrange Star: Renton, Tolmie, Deland, Dunn, Kerr, Noble, Cherrie, Forster (Tansey), King (O’Reilly), Cropley, Jamieson.