I’ve unbelievably never been to Linlithgow before this afternoon’s fitba adventure. The ancient old town plays an important role in Scotland’s historical landscape. A natural stop-off between Edinburgh and Stirling, Linlithgow has housed many a Scottish royal in the stunningly picturesque Linlithgow Palace. The palace was even the birthplace of James V and Mary Queen of Scots, two figures of cultural significance in this tiny country’s story.
As much as I have every intention of arriving in Lithgae in plenty of time to see the palace in the flesh, this is obviously not my primary reason for stepping foot into these age-old streets. West Lothian hosts a huge array of legendary football establishments, but Linlithgow Rose may be the most prominent and famous, at least in the Junior scene. Formed in 1889, The Rosey Posey have an incredible amount of silverware to their name. Their trophy cabinet hosts a stupid number of EoS Junior Cups, Fife & Lothian Cups, Edinburgh and District League titles and East Superleague trophies. The most important of all come in the presence of the club’s four Scottish Junior Cup victories.
The Rose secured the right to parade the trophy around Linlithgow for the first time in 1965 with a resounding 4-1 win over now defunct Baillieston Juniors. However, they would not lift the famous old cup again until 2002 after a very impressive win against Junior Cup kings Auchinleck Talbot. This started a trend for the Rose who would go on to feature in four more finals in a ten-year span. Although they lost the next year to Tayport, Linlithgow would go on to defeat Kelty Hearts in 2007 and Largs Thistle in 2010 before Auchinleck exacted their revenge in 2013. Still, their four titles mean they are tied third for the most successful club in the tournament’s history.
Today, The Gallant find themselves in new surroundings. They joined a large contingent of clubs to jump from their junior roots to the expanded senior pyramid. After a third placed finish in the East of Scotland Premier Division last time out, Linlithgow will be looking to follow in the footsteps of Tranent Juniors. Last year’s league champions look to have found their feet in the Lowland League quickly and have set an expectation for other EoS clubs to join them.
Currently, The Rose are flying and sit top of the league. Before today’s top-of-the-table clash with 2nd place Penicuik Athletic, The Rose are six points clear with today’s visitors having a game in hand, which makes this afternoon’s contest incredibly important. A win for the hosts secures a nine-point gap, while a victory for the visitors sees that gap close to a measly three points. I was in for a cracker…
Prestonfield has been the home to Linlithgow Rose since 1949. It is almost tucked away just to the side of Linlithgow high street but comes into prominence as soon as the floodlights catch your view. The minute you enter this famous hallowed ground, the incredibly picturesque scene of the grandstand comes into sight. A row of trees lay in the back with a wonderful viewing of the rolling hills on the horizon. The grandstand looks wonderful, perched up just a wee bit to give an excellent view of the well-kept pitch. Decorated in Lithgae colours, it looks superb.
Straight ahead lies a less-aesthetically pleasing but useful nonetheless shelter. It looks very similar to the one I stood under at Tranent, cladded with the same maroon paint. Most spectators from both sides took their positions here and were close enough to the action to smell the tension between the players.
A mound lies beyond the far goal where plenty of Lihtgae’s kids kicked a ball about while watching the seniors take the field. It also offers a lovely perspective of the action.
The food/drink stall lies within the covered shelter and proved popular with punters, selling out of pretty much every pie come the half-time whistle. I always enjoy giving club volunteers the praise they deserve, with the two friendly women serving with kindness and enthusiasm.
Finally, I enjoy seeing clubs offer incentives to supporters to be engraved into their club’s brickwork. The Linlithgow Rose Family Wall displays just this, with plenty of names taking their spot into Prestonfield’s history. It is perfect for any passionate Rose fan.
Overall, I absolutely love Prestonfield. Its gorgeous scenery, mix of old and new and obvious sentiment to the community leaves me wishing I had come to visit sooner. It scores an easy 4/5 for me.
It was a busy day in West Lothian, with plenty of supporters from both sides coming out to see this top-of-the-table encounter. Eager travellers from Midlothian lined the shed cladded in their club’s blue and white merchandise. Similarly, The Rose have a stable and loyal fanbase dotted around the stadium, some of which took their seats in the elevated stand. Noise remained limited as the game progressed, but the hustle and bustle of the busyness and the friendly community feel will always be something I appreciate. 3/5.
Quality of the Match
With the importance of this afternoon’s game at a high, it made sense that the contest would start slowly; both teams feeling each other out in the midfield. A first effort of the match came from Linlithgow’s Connor McMullen, whose first-time volley from the edge of the box landed safely in Kyle Leiper’s arms.
Penicuik’s first effort on goal came from striker Gregor MacDonald. His well-timed run saw him through on goal with Rose ‘keeper Cammy Binnie rushing to meet him at the edge of the box. MacDonald got there first and with Binnie in no-man’s land, lobbed the ball over. It landed just wide, but the threat was there.
Linlithgow took it seriously and broke the deadlock just before the half-hour mark. A Jack Ogilvie corner found its way to Connor McMullen, who somehow had the time and space to take a touch with his midriff before firing a left-footed strike into the roof of the net. A good finish: and exactly what the game needed to come to life.
Linlithgow almost got a quick-fire second. A bursting run from left-back Cammy Thomson resulted in an accurate cross for Mark Stowe. The winger took a touch and hit but was blocked well by a Penicuik defender before being cleared off the line. Linlithgow were taking control.
With Rose pushing for a second, the task was made incrementally easier by Penicuik’s Andy Mair. The visitor’s number sixteen was sent off for an off-the-ball incident, to make Penicuik’s job that much more difficult. I’ll be honest and say I have no idea what happened, as I was too busy checking to see how Hibs were getting on. (Spoiler – not well).
Penicuik were hanging on, with Linlithgow bossing play from here on out. Wave after wave of attack came, and the visitors needed another goal line clearance to keep the score at one. Then, some excellent build up play from Greg Macpherson and Mark Stowe set up a strike for forward Alan Docherty. His low shot was saved well down to Leiper’s left, but it felt as though it would be a long afternoon for the visitors.
Half Time: Linlithgow Rose 1-0 Penicuik Athletic
Penicuik’s plan to get back into the game was shattered a minute into the second half. A wonderful galloping run by Macpherson set by Stowe who burst past his man before laying the ball back to his teammate. After continuing his run, Macpherson swept the ball into the far corner, and with the aid of the post doubled his side’s lead. A genuinely fantastic goal.
Jack Ogilvie almost made it three moments later. An excellent ball through from Thomson allowed Ogilvie time and space to set up a shot at goal but could not convert past a rushing Kyle Leiper.
Lithgae winger Max Stowe was running the show down the right-hand side and got his just-rewards for a very positive performance. A throw into the box was controlled and laid off, with the winger taking a touch to set up before unleashing a strike at goal. With the aid of a very slight deflection, the ball crashed off the underside of the bar and in. A great finish to round off a superb individual performance.
Penicuik could not get near their hosts a man-down, and Linlithgow made them pay. More positive work from Stowe sent substitute Alan Sneddon down the right. He made plenty of space for fellow subbie Conor McKenzie to smash a low drive past Leiper to put icing on the Linlithgow cake.
Penicuik did have a couple of ventures forward, but could only result in comfortable snapshots for Cammy Binnie, with the Linlithgow defence swatting anything else away. A day to forget for the visitors.
Full Time: Linlithgow Rose 4-0 Penicuik Athletic
This result is huge for The Rosey Posey. This resounding victory means they are six-points clear of now second place Crossgates Primrose and nine-clear of Penicuik. It is fair to say that the Rose are clear favourites for the division and are heavily touted for promotion to the fifth-tier if that goal is achieved.
They definitely have the ammunition to do so. I was heavily impressed by a few Linlithgow performances; none more so than from winger Mark Stowe. He caused issues all day for the Penicuik defence with his pace, close control, and drive to progress up the park. He’ll be delighted with his contribution of a goal and assist today, and rightly so. If he’s on form, so are Linlithgow.
It is fair to say that Penicuik’s afternoon could have been much better. Apart from Gregor MacDonald’s lobbed effort, they did not get the chance to lay a glove on their hosts. Obviously, the fact that they were down to ten-men for two thirds of the game did not help their ambitions and I question why tempers rose high enough for a straight red half an hour into the game. There is clearly a very good team in the ranks at Penicuik and I hope they bounce back quickly. They deserve to showcase their abilities. I hope to head to a game there this season.
Overall, I was treated to some wonderful goals, some excellent individual displays and plenty of opportunities. It is a shame the game was ended as a contest after the red card, but nevertheless I enjoyed the spectacle. 3/5.
For a top-of-the-table match, a pricing of £8 entry into Prestonfield and a further £1.50 for access to the grandstand is fair enough. It is certainly value for money; much like all football at this level. I cannot have any complaints and enjoy how accessible tiers 5 and below are. 5/5.
The Gallant finish with a respectable score of 15/20 and fire themselves up into the upper echelons of the TSFA League Table. I am delighted to have visited one of my most sought-after grounds for these adventures and was certainly not disappointed. Prestonfield is an absolutely beauty, and it hosts a wonderfully historic, successful and ambitious football club. I hope to see The Rosey Posey making their mark in the Lowland League very soon.