By Andy Connelly
Albion Rovers starting XI: 1. Jack Leighfield 2. Adam Fernie 22. Luke Graham 4. Ayrton Sonkur 12. Ewan Wilson 3. Blair Malcolm 7. Callum Wilson 6. Kyle Fleming 8. Jamie Leslie 11. Charlie Reilly 10. Michael Paton
Subs: 9. Scott Roberts 14. Amaury Testa 15. Devan McColl 16. Barry Duncan 17. Christopher Smith 18. Kieran Dolan 19. Max Wright 20. Lewis Kidd 21. Liam Fagan
Bonnyrigg Rose: 1. Mark Weir 3. Neil Martynuik 4. Kerr Young 5. Robert Wilson 11. Ross Gray 6. Alan Horne 19. Scott Gray 7. Kieran Mitchell 10. Lee Currie 22. Callum Connolly 9. Kieran McGachie
Subs: 2. Dean Brett 8. Johnny Stewart 12. Kieran Hall (replaced Kieran Mitchell on 80′) 14. George Hunter (replaced Scott Gray on 69′)15. Josh Grigor 17. Conor Doan (replaced Ross Gray on 69′) 18. Zach Khan 21. Bradley Barrett (replaced Neil Martynuik on 28′) 25. Michael Andrews
Following a victory in this season’s previous match-up against Bonnyrigg Rose, Rovers had plenty of confidence going into today’s match.
Brian Reid’s men started aggressively with several early opportunities created from high play and lots of pressure on Bonnyrigg’s back four and their goalkeeper, Mark Weir. The visitors by contrast struggled to find any rhythm early on. It was only through some breakdowns up front from Rovers and some good old fashioned luck that The Rose were able to keep things level.
It took just 14 minutes though before Luke Graham opened the scoring. The young centre back was able to pounce on a Charlie Reilly corner and coolly slot the ball past Weir in the Bonnyrigg goal. The defender has been signed on loan from Dundee and the goal capped off a strong showing from the youngster, who looked very comfortable in the Rovers’ back line.
For much of the remaining first half Rovers held possession and continued to test the away side’s defence. Multiple chances, several throw-ins and lots of high attacking play saw the cracks begin to show in the Bonnyrigg squad. This culminated in a 45th minute penalty as Bradley Barrett dragged down Charlie Reilly inside the Bonnyrigg box. The left back had only been on the field a short while. Having replaced the injured Neil Martynuik. He picked up a booking for his trouble, but it wouldn’t be the last time he had a conversation with the referee today.
Charlie Reilly stepped up and calmly put the ball past Mark Weir to give the Wee Rovers a two-goal lead going into the break.
That wasn’t the last action of the first half though. In a lapse reminiscent of the late drama that saw Annan Athletic snatch a draw with Rovers back in August. Rovers gave up a soft free kick at the edge of their box. Bonnyrigg striker Lee Currie took full advantage, lifting his strike over the Wee Rovers wall past a helpless Jack Leighfield.
The whistle blew and as the sides headed down the tunnel, an all too familiar gloom settled over the Cliftonhill faithful. Throughout the season Rovers have played strong, creative football. Generating chances from nothing and dominating play in the opponent’s half. The results have not reflected this though, too many lapses in concentration and some baffling miscommunications have seen wins and points slip through the team’s fingers. The crowd were used to this and steeled themselves for the second half.
Wee Rovers clearly had other plans though. The second half opened much as the first half had, Rovers holding much of the possession, Callum Wilson working tirelessly in the middle of the park to dictate play, and Charlie Reilly and Jamie Leslie latching on to everything working through the middle channel. The Rose weren’t backing down though, settled after their late first half goal, the visitors looked more assured in defence and were able to generate some better chances themselves. Leighfield, now donning a cap due to the low level sunlight, had a much busier shift. He and his defenders were handily able to handle the pressure from Bonnyrigg.
Surprisingly, Brian Reid made no changes at half-time and stuck with the starting 11 for the whole of the match. Clearly feeling the chemistry was too good to interfere with and trusting his side to finish the job they had started.
There was some late drama though, Barrett dragging down Jamie Leslie on the edge of the Bonnyrigg box. The referee immediately flashed the red card and Barrett left the field after a very short day’s work. Rovers were unable to take advantage of the opportunity though and after a deflection led to a corner, which led to nothing, it became an anxious wait for Rover’s supporters as the clock ran down. Rovers adeptly held possession and played some intelligent football to safely play out the game. Having secured the points, Rovers now lift themselves up off the bottom of cinch League 2 and will head to Dumbarton next week to try and build on this momentum.
ARFC – Luke Graham – 14′
ARFC – Charlie Reilly – 43′ (pen)
BRFC – Lee Currie – 45′
Man of the match: Callum Wilson
Bookings: Ayrton Sonkur (yellow) Jamie Leslie (yellow) Ewan Wilson (yellow) Lee Currie (yellow) Kerr Young (yellow) Bradley Barrett (red – second bookable offence)
Referee: Calum Scott
Assistants: Craig Macrae and Gary Hilland