Linlithgow Rose 0 Auchinleck Talbot 0
Report by Gordon Baird
A large crowd rolled up to Prestonfield for this ETHX Energy Junior Cup Semi Final first leg, but were treated to a match dominated by defences in which neither side created any really clear cut chances. With so much at stake neither side were prepared to play expansive football and most of the action took place in the midfield area. The tie is now finally balanced and both sides will still feel they can progress to the final in June.
Linlithgow Rose went into this ETHX Energy Junior Cup Semi Final First Leg tie with 11 times winners Auchinleck Talbot as big underdogs, after a difficult season in the McBookie.com East Super League which sees then just outside the relegation places. Rose have won the trophy 4 times although they have not tasted success since 2009/10, but they are well used to the later stages of the national tournament and lost at the semi-final stage in 2015.
Talbot currently lead the McBookie.com Super Premier Division and they are having another fine season. On their way to this stage Talbot have accounted for both Beith, the holders and Pollok in a difficult passage. Rose have had an easier run defeating amongst others Dundee North End and Clydebank FC.
Rose started off on the front foot and Donaldson put in an early, dangerous cross which none of his strikers could get to. As the home side settled better Muhsin began to become more prominent in the central area, constantly seeking to play a telling pass. After 12 minutes Rose created the first real dangerous opening. Gray slipped in Coyne on the right side of the box and his chipped effort was turned away at his near post by Leighton – the effort might well have been going wide anyway. From the resultant corner Muhsin’s driven cross should have been buried by Leiper – but he missed the ball completely with his head. Rose then had a couple of corners which were easily fielded by Leighton.
Talbot did have the ball in the net after 24 minutes, but Young was clearly offside. However, little had been seen of the visitors as an attacking force. Just after the half hour, Rose had a half chance when a Donaldson corner was partially cleared — but Batchelor fired well over. Talbot made a change after 34 minutes with Shankland appearing to be injured and he was replaced by Latta.
After the change Young tried an effort from range but was off target. With three minutes to the break, Talbot made another change with Whyte being replaced by McCracken. As the break approached Rose forced Leighton into a save. Batchelor and Kelbie combined well in the box before the latter’s effort was well saved by the goalkeeper. Rose certainly had the better of the first 45 minutes without creating many chances but Talbot created nothing going forward.
Half Time: Linlithgow Rose 0 Auchinleck Talbot 0
There were no changes at the break. Rose were first to create something but a Kelbie header was easy for Leighton. Talbot looked hungrier after the break and created a real chance after 51 minutes. Substitute McCracken got on the end of a Young corner – but Hill saved it low at his post.
It was obvious just how tall the Talbot defenders were and the threat they posed from dead balls. Talbot were coming much more into the game and after 57 minutes nearly opened the scoring. Rose failed to clear their lines more than once but eventually got it clear after a goalmouth scramble.
Linlithgow won a number of corners but they were easily dealt with by the Talbot defence. After 72 minutes, Latta produced a good stop from Hill after combining well with Milliken. Talbot were having their best spell of the game now with Young prominent. First, he put in a dangerous cross. Next ,he delivered a corner which McCracken got to but his effort was turned away for a corner. Finally, he cut the ball back into the path of Wilson, who blasted over.
After 81 minutes Talbot thought they’d won a penalty when Latta went down in the box. Referee Lorraine Clark was right on the spot though and waved claims away. Rose brought on Kelly late on but with too little time to create much.
With time running out, Batchelor fired over for the home side before Harvey headed wide for the visitors. The game ended in stalemate and the action moves to Ayrshire next Saturday when the tie must be decided.
Both sides will need to be sharper up front if there are to be goals against two organised defences. All the best players were at the back and although Muhsin probed in the first half, he was far less influential after the break. Referee Clark had a fine game and worked well with her team of assistants.
Linlithgow: Hill, McNab, Donaldson, Thom, McKenzie, Leiper, Gray, Muhsin, Coyne, Batchelor, Kelbie. Subs: Kelly, Small, Swan, Beaumont, Barnard.
Auchinleck: Leighton, Lyle, Pope, Harvey, McGoldrick, Wilson, Young, Whyte, Wilson, Milliken, Shankland. Subs: Pooler, Stevenson, Latta, McCracken, Thomson.