Bonnyrigg Rose 2, Spartans 2: Two own goals; penalty controversy; late comeback; Robbie Horn frustrated; Dougie Samuel proud

Bonnyrigg Rose manager Robbie Horn was disappointed with his team’s defending and aggrieved not to have been awarded a penalty, but admitted a point in the 2-2 draw against Spartans at New Dundas Park suited him better than opposite number Dougie Samuel.

Bonnyrigg defender Neil Martynuik battles for possession with Spartans winger Cammy Russell
Bonnyrigg defender Neil Martynuik battles for possession with Spartans winger Cammy Russell

The result of a pulsating Lowland League clash may have ended Bonnyrigg’s incredible 11-match winning run in the Lowland League, but also kept the leaders 11 points clear of Spartans and with a game in hand. They’ll take some stopping.

Samuel admitted afterwards that the gap is too big for his team to bridge. His side failed to get the win they needed, but after trailing 2-0 at the break he was able to take a great deal of satisfaction from an impressive second-half comeback.

Rose were two up at half time thanks to two own goals, powerhouse striker Keiran McGachie having a hand in both, but Ryan Finnie latched onto a floated free-kick to pull one back in the 75th minute and Sean Brown volleyed home the equaliser five minutes from time.

“It is disappointing to be two up and concede two goals late on the way we did,” said Horn, who was pleased with Jonathan Brown’s first start in more than a year.

“The free-kick we gave away at the edge of the box was really sloppy and we didn’t defend it well enough. We just didn’t manage the game as well as we should have late in the second half.

“Spartans really needed to win the game, so a point isn’t a bad result. It suits us better than them, but it is frustrating that we were not able to see the game out.”

The only disappointing aspect of a thoroughly entertaining match was the Covid restrictions which meant that only 500 spectators were allowed in to see it.

Spartans midfielder Jamie Dishington, who made a big difference when shifted into the middle in the second half, steers clear of Lee Currie

It was a contrast of styles. Bonnyrigg’s organisation, experience and guile against an expansive, neat and tidy Spartans. On a soggy pitch, it was Rose who looked more threatening in attack and robust at the back in the first half, but Spartans gained the upper-hand after the interval as the hosts dropped back to defend their lead and the visitors deserved their equaliser.

While this result has probably seen off any prospect of Spartans overtaking Bonnyrigg at the top, Rangers and Celtic B are also in the mix. Neither would qualify for the League 2 promotion play-offs if they finished top, but Horn is determined to ensure Bonnyrigg go into those games as champions.

“There’s still a long way to go so anything could happen, but we’re in a good position. I’ve said to the boys that we want to focus on actually winning the league

It all looked like it was going to plan after seven minutes when McGachie powered his way into the box, defenders bouncing off the barrel-chested PE teacher before he flashed in a low cross and a defender turned the ball into his own net.

Bonnyrigg captain Jonathan Stewart closes down Jamie Dishington

The second own goal came from a free kick played into McGachie, who slipped in the dangerous Bradley Barrett on the left. His driven cross was deflected past helpless Spartans keeper Blair Carswell by another defender.

McGachie has apparently been carrying an injury, but it didn’t make him any less effective.

Pivotal to how Bonnyrigg play, the big striker is the focal point of their attack. It’s not complicated and defenders know what to expect. They know he will back into them. They know he will hold them off with his strength. They know he won’t run in behind or into channels. What they don’t know is how to stop him.

“I thought he was terrific again, like he has been all season,” said Horn. “In the first half especially, they struggled to handle him. He’s a top player.”

Bonnyrigg targetman Kieran McGachie, challenged here by Kevin Waugh, proved to be a handful for the Spartans defence

Horn felt his team should have had a penalty when Ross Gray was brought down by Finnie in the act of shooting six yards from goal.

“The boys reckon it was a stonewaller and it could have been a red card,” said Horn.

If that was a break for Spartans, they cashed in at half time by moving Jamie Dishington in to overload the centre of midfield.

The visitors took control, passed and probed. Bonnyrigg’s experienced back line were solid and looked like they were absorbing it all well enough until Finnie found himself completely unmarked at the far post to get on the end of a free-kick clipped over the defence. He fired home from a tight angle.

There were 15 minutes left and Spartans could see a way through the red and white brick way. Rose suddenly looked vulnerable and a poor defensive header set up Sean Brown to volley home an equaliser in the 85th minute.

Samuel felt a draw was probably a fair result and was proud of his team for the way they fought back against the team he believes will be champions.

Jamie Dishington tries to escape the clutches on Bonnyrigg skipper Jamie Stewart

“We really needed to win,” he said. “Bonnyrigg are where they are on merit. They deserve all the credit for the season they are having and their consistency.

“We passed the ball well and had good control of possession, but the goals we gave away in the first half were poor.

“We had a couple of chances at the end of the first half that we didn’t execute well enough.

“Bonnyrigg are a difficult team to break down. They are very well drilled defensively. Not a lot of people speak about Young and Horne at the back, but they defend very well. They are very well organised.”

“But we tinkered with the shape at half time and I’m proud of the way we picked ourselves up and had a go in the second half.

“Bonnyrigg are a good team. I’m pleased that we matched them and showed that we are a good team too.”

Bonnyrigg Rose Athletic: Andrews, Martynuik, Young, Horne, Stewart, McGachie, Currie, R Gray (Evans 72), Brown, Barrett, Connolly (Turner 72). Subs: Weir, Hoskins, Wilson.

Spartans: Carswell, Herd, Maxwell, Waugh, Finnie, Jones, Dishington, S Brown (A Brown 65), Henderson, Smith, Russell. Subs: Walker, Woods, Inglis, Newman, Burns, Komocki.

Referee: D Dickinson.

Attendance: 500.

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Only 500 fans were allowed into New Dundas Park but they were served up with a thrilling Lowland League clash
Sean Brown volleys home an equaliser for Spartans five minutes from time
Bonnyrigg defender Neil Martynuik is put under pressure by Ian McFarland and Michael Herd