Jeanfield Swifts 2-4 Bonnyrigg Rose
Football Nations Cup
Riverside Stadium, Perth
A devastating opening twenty minute display was enough to see Bonnyrigg into the next round of the Football Nations qualifying cup at Riverside Stadium. Rose raced into the lead thanks to goals from Ross Gray, Lee Currie and a double from Keith Lough as the visitors threatened to run riot. Connor McLaren gave Swifts a lifeline prior to halftime, before Aaron Whitehead’s strike mid-way through the second half ramped up the pressure, but Rose held on to advance to the quarte-final stage.
Rose are currently sitting pretty at the top of Conference B, only needing one point from their remaining four fixtures to make sure of their spot in the three-way Conference play offs.
Mathematically, Swifts are still in with a shout of the Conference C title, but need an unlikely collapse from both Broxburn & Linlithgow. The Perth side are safe in a top five slot though, enough to guarantee them a place in the Premier division next season.
But the Cup gives both sides a chance to put league business on the back burner for a week as well as another opportunity for silverware.
Rose have been the standout side in the EOSFL this season and came flying out of the blocks, Gray getting on the end of a cutback and keeping his head to slot his right foot finish into the bottom corner from 15 yards out and giving the visitors the lead after just five minutes.
Three minutes later, Jeanfield fell further behind, Dean Brett’s delivery from the right hand side of the box was perfect and although Lough jumped for the header, it looked like the cross went straight in. The goal was given to Lough although both teammates later claimed the credit on social media. Either way, the visitors were two up inside of 10 minutes.
Bonnyrigg on this kind of form are a difficult proposition for any side: pressing hard all over the pitch, closing down space and refusing to allow their opponents any time on the ball. Swifts just couldn’t get any kind of rhythm going and were struggling to contain their visitors. Lee Currie got number three in the 17th minute after Whitehead conceded a free-kick on the right. Currie's cross to the near post eluded everybody and sneaked past Mitchell into the top corner.
Number four followed quickly, Keith Lough making sure there was no debate about the scorer this time, beating the offside trap to get on the end of Gray’s through ball and tuck it low beyond Mitchell.
It was a killer 20 minutes from Robbie Horn’s side, the visitors already looking they had one foot in the next round with a little more than a quarter of the game gone. Jeanfield really needed to up the tempo if they wanted to avoid a drubbing, and to their credit they got the sleeves rolled up and got on with the job.
Captain Chris Anton was leading by example and Paul Simpson was starting to look more comfortable on the ball. Rhys Davies had two chances in quick succession, one saved and one fired just over the bar, as Swifts finally began to make an impression on the game. Connor McLaren pulled one back on 25 minutes, showing great control on Simpson's pass from deep and finishing with his left peg from close range to give the hosts some hope.
After a hectic opening half hour, the pace slowed slightly as Swift began to cope better with Rose pressing game and it certainly looked like they had stemmed the flow as the watch ticked round to half time.
After an entertaining first half, the second 45 had a lot to live up to, but tempo just dropped a little and the game started to get a bit scrappy. Swifts were doing a decent job of breaking up the rhythm of the game and although Rose still carried a threat, they didn’t get close to the intensity they had shown in the first half.
The game took on a stop / start kind of nature, with both sides guilty of a string of niggly free-kicks and referee Scott Lambie had his work cut out keeping on top of things. not that it ever looked like getting out of hand, but Swifts game plan seemed to be to disrupt Rose and signs of frustration began to creep into the visitors play.
Jeanfield were starting to get some joy from the quick ball forward and sensing the change in momentum, gaffer Ross Gunnion introduced Holden & Deward from the bench to try and seize the advantage. Bonnyrigg made a couple of substitutions of their own, sending on Swanson & Murrell to try and get things going again and although the fresh legs gave them a lift, they still couldn’t carve out too many clear cut chances.
Rose's frustration peaked midway through the half when Anton won the ball in midfield, and quickly floated a high ball into the box. Keeper Young went up to claim it, but couldn’t hold onto it under pressure from two Swifts players and the loose ball fell to Whitehead, who poked it over the line to give the Perth side a lifeline. Rose clearly felt there had been a foul on the keeper, the players surrounded the ref and there were protests from the away bench, but ref didn’t want to know and the goal stood.
The scoring may have finished there, but don’t be fooled into thing the game fizzled out as it was still competitive right to the end. A couple of flash points kept things interesting for the fans, Deans and Brown getting into a bit of handbags. Brown was involved again a few minutes later, this time with Anton, as the two has a bit of a wrestling match on the touchline. There were a couple of bookings for late challenges in midfield and on another day, a different ref might have been tempted to flash a card of a different colour. In the end everybody stayed on the park, more to the annoyance of the away fans.
So Bonnyrigg advance to a quarter-final against Peebles Rovers, while Jeanfield turn their attention to the League Cup, with a trip to Saughton on Wednesday night to face Lothian Thistle Hutchinson Vale.
Man Of The Match: Dean Hoskins was solid at the back for Bonnyrigg all afternoon long, breaking up attacks and dealing with danger, but always looking to play it out from defence rather than just empty it.
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