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Derek Hall’s report on the Bonnyrigg Rose v Caledonian Braves game on Sunday 26th December

todayDecember 29, 2021


Bonnyrigg Rose 2-1 Caledonian Braves

A bitterly cold Boxing Day saw Lowland League leaders Bonnyrigg Rose hoping to stretch their points advantage at the top to an impressive thirteen points as they welcomed the Caledonian Braves to New Dundas Park for the last fixture of 2021 for both clubs. Ross Lindsay of Braves had the first chance on two minutes but his 25 yard left foot free kick didn’t trouble Michael Andrews in the home goal as it drifted wide. Bonnyrigg replied through a 20 yard effort from their captain Johnny Stewart but the whistle had already gone for an earlier infringement. Barrett then won what would prove to be the first of numerous corners for Rose and Braves keeper Chris Henry didn’t look comfortable as he got under Lee Currie’s set piece and was grateful to see his team mates scramble the ball behind for a corner from the other side. This time Currie’s inswinger found the head of Kieran McGachie who powered his header down and Henry brought off an excellent close range block on the line to give away corner number three but this time McGachies header went over the top. After eight minutes, Braves Scott Forrester received a strong warning from referee Alastair Grieve for a lunging challenge in midfield and a lack of any contact was probably the only thing which prevented a card coming out. However with twelve minutes gone, another Currie corner saw Stewart barged to the ground by Braves Zac Butterworth and there was no protest at all when referee Grieve pointed to the spot. Currie stepped up and probably enjoyed the change from taking corners as he cooly sent keeper Henry the wrong way from the penalty kick as the ball nestled right in the corner to give the home side the perfect start. Bradley Barrett then had a go from around 24 yards but pulled his drive across the face of the Braves goal and wide. A minute later, Rose had the ball in the net again when a far post cross seemed to go in off a defender but Kieran Hall was in an offside position as he tried to head the original cross and the goal didn’t stand. It was all Bonnyrigg and on 20 minutes, a nice flick from McGachie found Barrett whose clipped pass saw Callum Connolly take the ball on the half volley from 16 yards and the ball raged over the crossbar. McGachie glanced another Currie corner over after 24 minutes and then a further corner was punched out by keeper Henry to the feet of Barrett whose shot along the ground on the turn was cleared off the line as the home side continued to turn the screw. After 29 minutes, Matt Henderson of Braves was the first recipient of a card from referee Grieve for a clumsy challenge in midfield on Kerr Young and this one didn’t have Santa on it, but was plain yellow. McGachie almost put Hall in but he had gone a pace too early and was flagged offside. A lovely combination move saw Neil Martynuik, Hall and Barrett play in McGachie and a nice one two between the striker and Connolly saw the front man’s effort blocked and the one thing lacking from an excellent display from the home side so far was a second goal their dominance at this point merited. Braves finally threatened after 38 minutes when a nice passing move down the left flank almost got Henderson in but Young was there to snuff out the danger. Currie then found the ever willing McGachie and his shot was blocked and looped up into the air to drop for Hall who was once again caught offside, as he was once more fairly needlessly right on 40 minutes. McGachie, Hall and Stewart worked an opening and this time Hall arrived to fire in a shot which once more was blocked behind and then McGachie again did the spadework as he set up Connolly for a shot which was deflected behind and Currie would soon have residency rights in either of the corners having spent most of the afternoon at one corner or another at the pavilion end. However at the end of a first half of total dominance, Bonnyrigg went inside with the slenderest of leads and Braves would probably have been heartened by a resolute defensive display which had largely frustrated their hosts and at the same time, kept themselves in the game.
Every spectator in the ground had probably witnessed the script which unfolded within forty seconds of the restart as Braves got themselves back on level terms before many of the home players got their first touch of the second period. A shot from Luke Main from the edge of the Rose box was blocked but only cleared out to the left flank and Lindsay threw a speculative cross to the back post where Marc Kelly rose highest and his downward header from a really acute angle somehow squirmed in at the post off the legs of keeper Andrews and we were all square. A minute later, Rhys Armstrong of Braves became the games second caution for a foul inside the centre circle. Connolly and McGachie then combined to win Rose their first, but certainly not last, corner of the second half but this time Currie’s delivery didn’t cause any problems. On 57 minutes, Main of Braves found his way into referee Grieve’s book for another foul but Braves weren’t being bullied this half anything like they had been during the first. Indeed they forced a couple of corners themselves and Lindsay brought Andrews into action both times, with a punch clear from under his crossbar from the first, and a safe catch under pressure from the second. The keeper then released a long ball in the direction of Hall, but Braves Jack Brown was calm under pressure and found his keeper. However on 62 minutes, Braves only just survived as another Currie corner saw yet another McGachie header cleared off the line and hacked clear and the Rose front man was having an excellent game, not just with scoring efforts, but his hold up play to bring others into the game was immense. After 65 minutes, Bonnyrigg made their first change as Hall made way for George Hunter and he was on just in time to see Main fire over the bar for the visitors from around 22 yards. On 68 minutes, a thumping header from McGachie from a Currie corner was somehow blocked on the line by two defenders and when the next one came over, the big striker this time headed wide. On 71 minutes, Braves brought on Lewis McLear for Jamie Watson and soon McGachie was involved again, this time working the opening himself before firing in an angled sixteen yard drive along the ground which Braves keeper Henry smothered at his near post. Henderson then managed to get the ball to the edge of the Rose box but Young was able to get the ball away from Main on the stretch before, with ten minutes remaining, the home side brought on Nathan Evans for Connolly. With eight minutes remaining, a whipped low cross sailed right through the Rose goal area with nobody able to find the vital final touch and perhaps Braves were now thinking of sneaking all three points, something barely credible at half time. With four minutes remaining, Evans went down in the penalty area for Rose, but the spot kick claims were pretty half hearted at best. Two minutes from time, McLear shot wide on the turn for the visitors after a nice move down their right flank and before the game restarted, Roses Currie was yellow carded for an attempted trip as the Braves move was building. Barrett raced down the left flank as the home side tried to create an opening for the elusive second goal but his cross was way over McGachies head. It was frantic now and a cross into the Braves box fell to Currie whose shot was blocked and when the ball was returned, McGachies headed knock down was scrambled behind once more as the game entered stoppage time. Currie once again swung over the set piece and this time McGachie was in exactly the right place to nod home with a simple finish from six yards and the sell out 500 home spectators roared their approval as their side had once again dug deep to get the victory and it was only fitting that McGachie would get the goal after leading the line magnificently all afternoon. Braves clear frustration was summed up in the third minute of stoppage time as Brown went into referee Grieve’s book for passing a comment, but on the final whistle it was the home side who extended their lead at the top of the table to thirteen points for at least 48 hours and despite a battling, determined performance from their visitors which almost reaped some reward, few could grudge the home side the points with a corner count which must have gone into the twenties, along with a shot and header count of similar proportions.

Written by: Russell Aitken

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