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Derek Hall’s report for Musselburgh Athletic v Linlithgow Rose on 18th December 2021

todayDecember 19, 2021

Background

Musselburgh Athletic 0-6 Linlithgow Rose

It was fourth versus third at Olivebank in a tasty looking EOS Premier fixture between a Musselburgh Athletic side which Joe Hamill is beginning to put his mark on and a Linlithgow Rose side who have really come to life under new manager Gordon Herd and who are now tipped in many quarters as potential champions this season. Within 30 seconds, Rose’s Jack Ogilvie picked up a loose ball and drove forward before firing over from 25 yards, but it looked to be a clear statement of intent. However after two minutes, Jordan Orru found Lloyd Fiddler from a throw in and the Athletic striker worked his was across the face of the Rose box before clipping in a nice low drive from 22 yards which visiting keeper Dean Shaw gathered safely. Jordan Smith then swung over a corner for Musselburgh and John McManus had eluded the defensive cover but the contact on the shot from nine yards wasn’t clean and bounced wide of goal. A Callum Bremner free kick into the Athletic box saw home keeper Ross McRae confidently coming through traffic to punch clear, and both teams had shown a willingness to get forward in the early exchanges. On seven minutes, a free kick into the Musselburgh box was cleared to Alan Docherty but he leant back on the shot and it sailed over the top. At the other end, Darren Downie went into the Rose box in the inside left channel and his strong low left foot drive was flicked behind at his near post by keeper Shaw. However with twelve minutes on the clock, Musselburgh gifted cheap possession to Linlithgow in midfield and a quick pass released Bremner down the right flank and he got his head up and rolled the ball past keeper McRae, into the path of Docherty who side footed into the empty net from around eight yards as one or two of the Athletic players looked for a flag which didn’t come. The game had started at a frantic pace but settled now as Musselburgh looked for a way back in and on 22 minutes they almost succeeded as Smith raced into the box and despite being under pressure, he fired in a low seventeen yard drive which Rose keeper Shaw blocked brilliantly low to his right as he came out to narrow the angle. The home side then had somewhat half hearted claims for a spot kick as Orru went down on the wide left edge of the box but referee Mark Harris correctly judged the contact was outside and from the set piece, Downie tried to beat keeper Shaw at his near post, but the Rose custodian was solidly behind the effort. Roses Connor McMullan was then barged in the back by Bradley Whyte and referee Harris brought the Musselburgh winger in for the games first warning. However with 28 minutes gone, the visitors doubled their advantage and once again it was created down the right flank as Greg MacPherson worked his way to the goal line before firing over a low driven cross to the near post where Docherty got across his marker and simply used the pace on the cross to open up his foot and guide the ball past the helpless McRae from no more than seven yards, a lovely goal. Three minutes later, a foul by Connor McMullan gave Burgh a set piece opportunity from nineteen yards and after Daniel Baur had been warned after protesting too loudly about the award of the free kick, Greg Page stepped up to fire a left foot effort round the defensive wall but also just wide of Shaw’s far post. However, Rose moved upfield again after 35 minutes and McMullan worked hard down the left and found Ogilvie whose pass inside picked out Alan Sneddon with his back to goal on the penalty spot but a lovely turn saw him lose his defender before placing a controlled strike into the corner of the net and the visitors now had a stranglehold on the match and a lead nobody could grudge them at this stage. However before the restart, Baur of Linlithgow managed to stupidly talk himself into referee Harris’s book, having previously been warned, and the big defender would be looking forward to explaining that one to his manager at the break. Musselburgh had been guilty of not looking after the ball well in the first half and possession was once again lost allowing MacPherson and Ogilvie to fashion another chance for Sneddon but this time the shot was blocked. On 37 minutes, Sneddon returned the favour by slipping a nice reverse pass inside to MacPherson and he attempted to chip keeper McRae but it was an effort which lacked the required height and the keeper saved easily. Six minutes from the break, Declan O’Kane fired a free kick towards the back post and as bodies went down, the home side again wanted a spot kick but referee Harris was unmoved, other than to then caution Burgh defender John McManus who had clearly taken his protests too far. Smith then fired over a corner kick and Page’s header from around six yards was somehow scrambled away by the Rose defence. At the other end, another Sneddon effort was blocked and ran to McMullan who let fly first time from fully 30 yards but this effort was always going over the Musselburgh bar. At the break, Linlithgow took a commanding lead inside with them, having had more and more possession as the half wore on and they were clinical in front of goal when the chances presented themselves. Burgh had real problems to solve and the proverbial mountain to climb and knew that the next goal in this game had to be theirs to have any possibility of working their way back into the match.
Linlithgow replaced Baur with Mark Stowe at half time, a wise move for the big defenders own protection and they were soon on the front foot as Docherty turned his man before going into the Burgh box and his angled sixteen yard drive was brilliantly tipped over the bar by keeper McRae to deny the Rose striker his hat trick. However from the corner, Linlithgow captain Gary Thom rose highest to head home from around eight yards, possibly with a flick on by Sneddon, but Thom’s gesture in pointing to his chest meant that he believed the goal was his, perhaps an issue to be sorted out later. Whatever the outcome of that conversation, there was surely no debate that this early strike had put the game to bed for the visitors. Musselburgh certainly weren’t just making up the numbers and Jordan Smith fired in an excellent angled free kick which Rose keeper Shaw watched carefully, beating the ball down before grabbing it on the first bounce but Rose were soon at the other end again and Bremner fired a 20 yard drive over the bar. However on 54 minutes, substitute Stowe moved into the Musselburgh penalty area where he was taken down by Page and referee Harris was excellently place to award the spot kick. Stowe picked himself up and stood on absolutely no ceremony as he hammered his left foot penalty straight down the middle as McRae dived to his left and the visitors had their fifth. With 56 minutes gone, Musselburgh replaced Liam Reid with Callum Donaldson and five minutes later, Rose withdrew two goal striker Docherty who looked to be holding his right hamstring and Luke Watt was brought on. Two minutes later, Smith finally did have the ball in the Linlithgow net after an initial effort from Whyte had been blocked, but the offside flag was up and the score was chalked off. After 65 minutes, Downie of Musselburgh went into the book after clumsily wrestling Sneddon to the ground in midfield and from the free kick, Watt dragged his long range effort well wide. On 68 minutes, Burgh made a double switch as Smith and Fiddler were replaced by Jackie Myles and Dean Ballantyne and at the same time referee Harris cautioned Burgh’s Page, presumably for another comment out of turn. Shortly afterwards on 70 minutes, it was the visitors turn for a double switch as Ogilvie and McMillan departed and Conor McKenzie and Jamie Allan were introduced. Sixteen minutes from time, McManus pulled up with an injury and despite bravely trying to play on, the Burgh defender had to admit defeat and limped off to be replaced by Josh Jefferies. With a quarter of an hour remaining, a dangerous cross by Stowe was well held by keeper McRae who was alert to the danger. Twelve minutes from time and with his team 5-0 up, Bremner of Rose decided this was the ideal moment to kick the ball away and get cautioned for delaying the game and the contest for silliest caution of this particular fixture had officially been thrown wide open ! Nine minutes from time Sneddon laid the ball off to McKenzie whose effort was deflected behind for a Rose corner which Thom headed goalwards, but it clipped off one of his own players and out for a goal kick. Six minutes from time, Roses Watt went into the referees book for taking down Jefferies in midfield and again it was a needless caution for a challenge which didn’t need to be made. However with four minutes remaining there was no debate at all about the red card handed out by referee Harris to Burgh’s Whyte who was being skinned down the left flank by Allan and with the ball well in front of the Rose winger, Whyte crudely lunged in and caught the winger with a crunching challenge on the ankle and the Burgh player could have little complaint that his afternoon was ending early. McKenzie tried a couple of fairly speculative efforts for the visitors as we headed toward full time but in the last minute, Stowe beat the offside trap and broke forward down the right before drawing keeper McRae and then unselfishly rolling the ball into the path of Sneddon who netted his second of the match, or third, dependant on his post match conversation with his captain. At the end, Rose had certainly displayed all the credentials of championship contenders and manager Gordon Herd has assembled a squad who are showing some serious form and will be looking forward to the season run in with plenty of confidence. For Musselburgh, it was a bad day at the office, manager Joe Hamill knows his squad can play a lot better, so he will be telling his boys to park this result and will have his team ready to go out and show a positive reaction when Tranent visit Olivebank on Wednesday evening.
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Written by: Russell Aitken

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