Linlithgow Rose 3 Forfar Athletic 3 (09/01/16).
Just as I was going out the door the wife slumbered from her ‘pit’ looking as rough as a badgers and asked from the top of the stairs “where was I going?”. “Off to Scotland for the match, back about seven” I replied as I headed for the bus into Newcastle and then a train to Edinburgh. Stupid question really.
I had two anxieties on the way up there, one the game being on and secondly If I would get in alright as it was a small ground and a big cup tie.
I got to the Prestonfield ground about half an hour to kick off. Both anxieties were quickly quelled as I got in no bother and the pitch looked fine but heavy. The groundsmen had worked hard prior to the game.
Linlithgow Rose were founded in 1889 and currently play in the East of Scotland Super league. They have played matches at Prestonfield since 1949. They are probably the largest and best supported of clubs in this division. They have won the Scottish Junior cup on four occasions and finished runners up three times. Since 2007 the Scottish FA allowed Linlithgow Rose to enter the FA cup and the club reached the fourth round losing to eventual finalists Queen of the South. This season they have beaten Gala Fairydean, Clachnacuddin and Wick Academy to get to the fourth round yet again.
In the league in 2012-13 Linlithgow Rose went the entire season undefeated and over a period of 13 months went undefeated on a run of 49 games.
The ground is a gem to visit for any ground hopper. Your met at the entrance by a large and neat social club. The entry gate is behind the end of the pitch. Along one side is an stand which holds 301 seats and the ground capacity is 3,500. The attendance record is 3,626 against Petershill. Opposite the main stand there is a long covered terrace which stretches most of the pitch. Behind the goal where the gates are is a small terrace area and behind the far goal is just a grass bank.
I decided to sit in the stand today out of the rain which never seemed to stop all afternoon. That was an extra £1.50 but worth paying. The ground soon filled up and you had the feeling we were going to see a good cup tie. There was a bit of a ‘Hearts’ feel about the place as Linlithgow play in maroon and white and numerous fans had the same colour scarves on.
The Rose’s opponents today were Forfar Athletic who play in the Scottish league one. Unfortunately they are bottom and recently sacked their manager Dick Campbell who had been at the helm 7 years. In 2013 they probably won one of their biggest games ever when they defeated Rangers at Station Park in the league cup. Forfar’s ground might be called Station Park but is actually about 14 miles from the nearest train station. I watched a match there in 1994 but had to miss the last 5 minutes to get a taxi back to Dundee and then the last train home. When I left the score was Forfar 3 Queen of the South 2. While in the taxi I asked the driver to put the results on and the final score came through as Forfar 4 Queen of the South 4!
The game kicked off with both teams almost like a pair of boxers. Probing and testing but not much thrown in the way of solid threatening punches. Forfar started brighter but Rose got into the game and they had a good 10 minute spell when the inevitable happened and Forfar scored probably against the run of play at that time. Michael Travis scored with a header to put the visitors ahead. Travis holds South African Nationality while all other players from both teams were from Scotland. A goal down and Rose were not going to take things lying down and only 7 minutes later Ruari Maclennan equalised to set the ground in a blaze of celebration. We had a real cup tie on our hands now. You could offer me the best seat in the house with all the trimmings at any other ground I have already been to but I would not swap it for this.
The two sides went into the break and regrouped themselves for the second half. The game kicked off again and it seemed to be going all right for the Rose until disaster struck. Home defender Gary Thom was given a straight red card for a foul in the box. Iain Campbell stood up to take the kick and put the visitors back in front. Then just three minutes later Gavin Swankie scored to put Forfar 3-1 ahead. At this point I was thinking it was game over but the Rose had put in a good effort. However the home side had other ideas. They were not giving up just yet and got stuck in to the game. Their efforts eventually paid dividends when Jamie Mackenzie pulled a goal back on 65 minutes. I though that might at least give them a glimmer of hope. The game kicked off and in an amazing 55 seconds after the re-start Rose went and equalised. The home crowd erupted into wild celebrations at an fantastic and exciting comeback any football follower would be likely to see. The last 25 minutes was played with efforts by both sides to break the dead lock but it was not to be.
Both teams have it all to do again in a replay after learning soon who the possible next opponents should be if they win. If it was not so far I would love to have gone to the replay. The game today was British and FA cup football at its best. You can keep the Premier league and armchair fans for me. Good luck to Linlithgow Rose and Forfar in the replay.