Ground #: 166
Ground: Prestonfield Park
Competition: Scottish Cup 1st Round
Kick Off: 3pm
Cost: £3 (concession)
Linlithgow Rose 2
Mackintosh (O.G) 26’, Meechan 85’
Nairn County 0
A rare visit to Scotland for the start of a holiday was timed perfectly for the start of another Scottish Cup campaign. A brave 36 clubs entered at the First Round in the Road to Somewhere (Hampden will be undergoing work for the Commonwealth Games in May and so the 2014 Final is likely to take place at Ibrox) and with a low choice of games I could get to from Edinburgh, the only option was thankfully the stand out tie at Linlithgow.
Linlithgow is a Royal Burgh in West Lothian and an ancient town. The chief historic attraction of Linlithgow is the remains of Linlithgow Palace, the birthplace of James V and Mary, Queen of Scots. The present Palace was started (on an older site) in 1424 by James I of Scotland. It was burnt in 1746, and, whilst unroofed, it is still largely complete in terms of its apartments (though very few of the original furnishings survived). Linlithgow was also the site of the Battle of Linlithgow Bridge at the western edge of the town although the bridge no longer stands. The roadway to Linlithgow over the River Avon is described by scholars as a lifted road. Besides the Palace, a second attraction, standing adjacent, is 15th century St. Michael's Church, the most complete surviving example of a large late medieval 'burgh kirk' in Scotland. Its western tower originally had a distinctive stone crown spire, of the type seen also on St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh, or Newcastle Cathedral, but it was removed in the early 19th century. In 1964 a replacement and controversial spire in aluminium in a modern style by Scots architect Sir Basil Spence, representing Christ's crown of thorns, was added.
The town’s main football team were formed in 1889 so an official organised team could be in the town. They have been in the Junior ranks throughout their history and have won the coveted Junior Cup on 4 occasions, the last being fairly recently in 2010. They have also dominated the East Region leagues at times too with multiple titles including 3 Super League titles since that format was adopted in the mid 2000’s. The Rose are the current East Region Champions with a Super League win last season that was near perfection with 19 wins, 3 draws and 0 losses to leave them 19 points clear of 2nd. Clearly a very good side and managed currently by ex Hearts midfielder Mark Bradley, who played an almighty 2 games for the Jambos before being sold to Doncaster in July 1998.
Prestonfield Park is a reasonable walk away from Linlithgow station through the classic town and is worth the walk being one of the top grounds in Junior football. Down one side of the ground is the large Main Stand that not only features great views from the seats up the top, but has a European style standing area under the Stand to catch the game. Opposite this is a large standing area that includes the all important tea hut. Behind the goals were standing areas, but one (see pic above) was a brilliant grass bank that you were allowed to stand on which offered a fantastic view of the pitch and the whole ground. The other side was a short standing terrace with the flag display to add to the overall feel of Prestonfield Park. A brilliant venue, that could quite easily play host to some SPFL if they wanted to ever move in there. (And the can of worms is open…)
This was an interesting tie as it featured the rare chances in the season for a team in the Juniors to “get one over” the Senior footballing teams. It looked like a home banker really with Linlithgow in brilliant form since winning the East Region in 2012/13. They went into this game top of the East Region Superleague again, being unbeaten this season and a point clear of near rivals Bo’ness United. It was just the 171 miles for Nairn to “pop down” to Linlithgow from the Highlands as the Highland League team looked to make it through to Round 2. They had suffered from inconsistency so far this season with 3 wins and 3 defeats to stick them in midtable. Nairn though, did have a good Scottish Cup run last season with wins over Preston Athletic and Clyde before crashing out to Forfar Athletic in the 3rd Round. With this Cup form and Highland League Player of the Year from last season in Conor Gethins in the team, it could be on for the Wee County.
Despite Linlithgow being the home team, I felt Nairn went for it more early on as the Rose was more than happy to sit back and hit the Highland side on the counter attack. Rose goalie Scott Christie was the busier of the two, having to keep out a couple of low drives from the edge of the area. Once these were cleared, Rose would normally charge forward on the counter but Nairn would just clear their lines. In a fast and frantic game much like the Junior Leagues I had been told about, both sides went for the first goal with Gethins having a one on one saved by Christie before Shaun Webb had a goal disallowed for offside as Nairn really went for it. With the Wee County making all the running, of course the opening goal went in at the other end! A nothing ball into the Nairn box should have been cleared but Wayne Mackintosh managed to divert the ball over Calum Donaldson and in with a brilliant header. Easy early winner of own goal of the season award. Linlithgow then went for it for the remaining of the half as Nairn were stunned that they were actually behind. Donaldson kept the score at one though and so they were still in the game for the second half.
The second half was far less interesting than the first as a midfield battle broke out with Linlithgow still slightly on top. Nairn had a shot cleared off the line as Robbie Duncanson nearly grabbed an equaliser. For the Rose though they continued to hold off Nairn as the long the game went on, it looked more likely that the home side would make it through to Round 2. Luckily, I had the pleasure of standing next to Linlithgow’s unofficial manager for the 2nd half down in the far corner of the ground. Passion doesn’t even remotely describe him as he kicked every ball and made every tackle of the sidelines all whilst looking like he was going to have a heart-attack. Calm down lad, its only a game! Sadly there doesn’t appear to be any YouTube videos of him, but if you go visit Prestonfield Park, have a walk around, he’ll be there! The Rose made it safe with 5 minutes to go as the Nairn County defence went missing at a corner and Steven Meechan was unmarked at the back post to volley it straight in. Rose were hosed and went marching on.
A really enjoyable game north of the Boarder and makes me appreciate that I need to see more Junior football when I next venture up there. Despite the ropey start they made, Linlithgow deserved to go through to the 2nd Round where they were given a tough away game at Deveronvale who are currently 5th in the Highland League. Roles reversed then as the Rose face a 170 mile trip up to Princess Royal Park. They’ve only played 1 more league game since this match due to the huge amount of cup competitions played in the Juniors, but a comprehensive 4-1 win over Musselburgh Athletic suggests they will be right up there again come the end of the season.
- Match: 6/10 (slowed down after frantic start)
- Value for money: 9/10 (can’t argue much with £3)
- Ground: 8/10 (really great ground)
- Atmosphere: 7.5/10 (home fans sang, away fans brought a bagpipe…)
- Food: N/A – ate in Linlithgow town instead.
- Programme: 6/10 (not worth £2, but they rarely issue to good effort)
- Referee: Nick Walsh – 5/10 (tad fussy)