The Kings of the County – Bonnyrigg Rose Athletic – 30/10/2021

Sunset bears down on New Dundas

Background

Bonnyrigg Rose Athletic are Midlothian’s kingpins. As it stands, they are the county’s highest ranking football club and are beginning to make their mark on a nationwide scale. After winning the East of Scotland League in 2019, the club were granted SFA membership status and took their place in the Lowland League. ‘Rosey Posey’ have settled in well to their new surroundings despite COVID trying to foil their extensive ambitions. They finished runners-up in their inaugural season and third in last year’s pandemic party.

The club’s dominance of the East of Scotland scene has given them the tools to succeed at a higher level and an ability to showcase themselves as a surprise package in the Scottish Cup. After remarkably knocking Scottish Championship side Dumbarton out, they set up a tie with holders Hibernian at Tynecastle. 5000 Rose supporters filled The Gorgie Stand to witness the biggest game in the club’s history. The Hibees may have run out 8-1 winners, but Bonnyrigg went home with their heads held high. They took an extraordinary amount of pride back to the town, whilst also inflicting some nervy moments for Hibs. I should know, I was in Tynie with my green and white tinted specs on that day.

Historically, The Rose are no strangers to silverware in their cabinet. A plethora of East of Scotland Junior Cups and East of Scotland League titles are the spongy base to Bonnyrigg’s icing on the cake. In 1966, 10,000 spectators watched on as they battered Whitburn 6-1 in a replay to parade the Scottish Junior Cup in ‘Boomtown’. They repeated the incredible feat in 1978, beating Stonehouse Vics to further cement themselves into Scottish Junior folklore. Former player and legendary actor Sean Connery would have been proud.

After a weather-beaten week, I travelled the short journey to New Dundas Park to take in Bonnyrigg’s Lowland League fixture against Civil Service Strollers. With the Rose flying at the top of the table, they’d have to remain in good form to take anything from a Strollers side who were having a fantastic season and deservedly found themselves in the higher reaches of the league. I was hoping for quite a spectacle.

The Journey

Having grown up ten minutes away in Dalkeith, I like to think I know Bonnyrigg and the surrounding areas fairly well. In probably the quickest and easiest drive I’ll have all season, I passed Dalkeith Thistle’s King’s Park on the way to Boomtown. Knowing the streets around New Dundas Park are usually busy and cramped, I swung into a small estate five minutes’ walk away from the ground to save me the time and effort of escaping the thinner streets after the game. Thankfully, the weather held up in my casual stroll.

Facilities

New Dundas Park is tucked away in the middle of the town’s centre, in the midst of the loyal community it serves. Like Whitehill Welfare’s Ferguson Park, it is embedded alongside a main street in town. A swing through a tight alley on Lothian Street takes you to the instantly familiar bright red gates of New Dundas. After entering through one of two turnstiles, the pitch greets you head on. Even with the consistent rain battering the Central Belt, the pitch somehow looked in good shape, even with the characteristic unevenness of the nearside touchline. It may not be as iconic as the famous Easter Road slope, but it is certainly big enough to be noticeable.

The ground has plenty of viewpoints to take in the action. The obvious starting position would be the main stand, locally known as ‘The Shed’, beginning slightly off centre from the half-way line. A sheltered cover on the right-hand side provides disability access for those who need it and provided plenty of space in the process. A grass embankment on the opposite touchline provided standing access and an alternative view of the action. If those weren’t enough options for you, a small, seated area lies on the left next to the superb Rose Suite.

I loved a great deal of New Dundas Park, none more so than the new and clean feel to the entire place. Every inch of the structures felt as though they had been painted yesterday and thoroughly cleaned the morning of the game. Not even the spider webs that cover a lot of lower league structures were present. My favourite part of the ground however lay with the Supporters Wall. Not only does it look impressive with a huge layout, but it gives supporters a chance to be engraved into New Dundas forever whilst raising important funds for the club.

New Dundas Park is a tremendous facility and has room to grow alongside the club’s SPFL ambitions. The old-school feel is paramount, with an obvious care to keep it up to scratch. Bonnyrigg badges and ‘Rosey Posey’ banners litter the ground and truly feels like an arena with plenty stories to tell. I feel it deserves a 4/5.

Warming up in front of The Shed

Atmosphere

From the outset, it is glaringly obvious what Bonnyrigg Rose means to the community. From countless youth teams and coaching academies to excited chatter from older supporters, The Rose are the talk of the town and displayed everywhere. Every single person I either spoke to or overheard gossiped excitedly about Bonnyrigg’s prospects this season and about the weekly routine of watching their team. Everyone seems to know one another on a first name basis and provided plenty of friendly patter and laughs amongst themselves.

With a sea of red and white covering the main stand, the crowd were in decent voice all game. Even with little chanting or cheering, the bustling atmosphere created by the 500+ crowd brought an exciting energy to the contest. With Hibs and Hearts both scheduled to play away from home on this day of fixtures, it may have helped gate receipts and interest just a little bit.

I enjoyed the friendly, comfortable, and excited nature of the atmosphere at New Dundas. Supporters old and new were packed into a superb arena to cheer on their local team. A little more noise may have pushed this score up but a 3.5/5 sounds suitable to me.

Quality of the Match

With a delicate pitch holding up well, the game kicked off to rapturous expectation. Five minutes in though, Bonnyrigg’s shed was almost silenced. After a clumsy mistake at the back, Mikey Andrews in the Rose goals pulled off two superb saves before the resulting stramash in the box saw Dean Brett clear the third effort off the line. Civil Service were beginning to play some lovely football on the deck. With a smaller but technical midfield, they found pockets of space through the middle of the park and were trying to take advantage of the glaring sun sticking into Andrews’ eyes.

Rose were playing a different kind of football. For most of the first half, they shelled long balls up to strikers Kieran McGachie and George Hunter with little success. Strollers identified the tactic quickly and sat deeper to counter the threat of the two target men, with the midfield battling well to prevent any advances. Bonnyrigg did eventually fester their first opportunity of the game when Hunter held play up well and threaded a perfect through ball to Lewis Turner. A good save from Mac Whyte in the Stroller’s goal denied a certain opener for the Rose.

A few half-chances came and went for both teams as the minutes ticked down towards half-time. After a Bonnyrigg corner was swung in by former Hibs Kid Neil Martyniuk, the resulting header at the back post by Callum Connelly cleared the crossbar with plenty of room to spare. Strollers responded with a decent strike from the edge of the box with was saved relatively comfortably by Mikey Andrews. The half-time whilst blew with a sense of relief from the Bonnyrigg faithful in tune. Strollers would feel disappointed coming into the break level but would have taken encouragement from their play in the first forty-five.

Half Time: Bonnyrigg Rose Athletic 0-0 Civil Service Strollers

Bonnyrigg started a different animal after the interval. An early corner was just headed over by McGachie and grazed the roof of the net. However, the best chance of the match thus far fell to Strollers soon after. A superb through ball saw Andrew Johnston through on goal with only the ‘keeper to beat. The Rose ‘keeper made himself a goliath to deflect the goal-bound effort wide of the post. A vitally important save which kept Bonnyrigg’s rhythm from being halted.

McGachie and Hunter were beginning to combine well. Good hold up play from the former set up the latter for a strike at goal, which was sent high enough to score three points at Murrayfield. After more denials from Mac Whyte, Bonnyrigg finally found the opener. With the harsh sunlight bearing down on the Stroller’s goal, Dean Brett’s inch-perfect corner found McGachie unmarked in the box. With a powerful diversion he headed Rose into the lead.

From then on, the game transformed into one-way traffic with Bonnyrigg showcasing their league leader mentality. After a cross was half-cleared by the Civil defence, the ball found it’s way to Bradley Barrett on Bonnyrigg’s left. His first touch appeared poor but was good enough for his second to be driven across the eighteen-yard box. His effort was tapped in with ease by McGachie to double his tally on the day and become a Bonnyrigg centurion. He may not score an easier goal in his Rose career, but it will certainly be one of the more memorable ones. One hundred goals for any club at any level is a huge achievement and McGachie will rightly be delighted.

The flurry of goals continued soon after. Another whipped corner towards an unsighted Whyte was headed goalwards by substitute Kieran Hall to finish off a deadly last fifteen minutes for the Rose. A much-improved second-half performance would prove the difference between the two teams and see Bonnyrigg continue their terrific run of form.

Full Time: Bonnyrigg Rose Athletic 3-0 Civil Service Strollers

After a sluggish first half where the home side failed to gather any momentum, Bonnyrigg raised their game dramatically in the second period. A tough forward line lead by the deadly Kieran McGachie proved much the difference and were too much to handle for Stroller’s defence. Bonnyrigg have a playing identity and are not afraid to showcase it. Strong, balanced strikers allowed their teammates up the park and place pressure on the opposition. I feel it is a style of play that could do them well if they were to continue their impressive form and move into League 2.

After an impressive first half, Strollers will feel disappointed to not take anything from the game. I felt they played in a slick, fast-paced, and intentional manner and used their technical drive to cut open the Bonnyrigg defence. Involved at the heart of this style is Joao Balde. The former Rangers and Livingston youth player brought terrific quick-feet and flair that troubled the Rose midfield in the opening forty-five. He impressed a fair few supporters in the home end too. If they can keep their more influential players, Strollers look set to become a force in the Lowland League in the coming years. All the best to them.

Overall, I was treated to (excuse the cliché) a game of two halves and some clinical finishing. Although there were some lulls and unexciting football, I felt this was a worthwhile game to justify my visit to New Dundas. 3/5 sounds fair.

Pricing

For this Lowland League fixture, I was charged £7 for the pleasure. Good priced food, drink and merchandise were also available which I’ll be sure to indulge in next time. For a club that look destined for the SPFL, this is terrific value. Get here while these prices last. 5/5

Final Score

Bonnyrigg Rose Athletic finish with a worthy score of 15.5/20 and push themselves into 4th place in the TSFA League Table just behind Clydebank. I would be very interested in returning to New Dundas Park next year when I assume they’ll be a pressing League 2 side. Midlothian deserves it and is waiting for it. No pressure…

– Connor

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