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Saturday 30th March 2019 ko 20.00

East of Scotland League Conference C

LINLITHGOW ROSE 3 (Roddie MacLennan 15 39 Coyne 63)

JEANFIELD SWIFTS 2 (Davies 6 Connor McLaren 46)

Att 618

Entry £6

Programme £2

We left Blackburn, and headed over Cockleroi Hill. We were a little tight for time, I’d spent a little too much time thanking those involved at our previous game. The nerves jangled slightly, was driving past a Korean War Memorial part of the plan? But then the county town of the Lothians peeped into view, and as it turned out, the hop coach used exactly the same route as we had. The over-riding reason for the nerves was due to a massive sense of anticipation.

With all due respect to clubs like Mid Annandale a trip to Linlithgow comes with far more to excite. Put simply if Linlithgow had have picked a different route back in the day, I’m fairly certain they’d been an SPFL club by now. At the start of this season Livingston used Prestonfield Park for two League Cup ties while a new artificial pitch at Almondvale was being installed.

Rose’s history is with the Juniors, those 4 stars on the badge are for Scottish Junior Cup wins, so like for Camelon Juniors the switch to the Seniors for this season must have been a wrench, both in footballing and cultural terms. As such, and from a purely GroundhopUK perspective we did wonder how this visit would pan out.

By reputation Rose were seen as one of the more conservative clubs, the stories of them refusing to publish a programme are the stuff of legend so we did wonder whether they’d firstly want to stage a hop game, and then whether they want to do anything different from normal? We were also very aware that we wouldn’t be supplying the majority of the crowd, it would be a case of us adding around 200 on a gate of 400. The worry was that we’d get another The Spartans who 3 years ago did almost nothing different from a normal league game when they hosted a hop game. On one hand that was their prerogative but it all felt like a massive missed opportunity.  We very quickly stopped wondering, the club were straightforward to deal with.

Firstly our thanks should go to all at Jeanfield Swifts. A fixture on a Saturday evening is a big ask for any away club and even more so when its an important game and you’re travelling down from Perth to fulfill it. We will of course be looking forward to visiting Bute Drive in due course. It will be the furthest north GroundhopUK will have been and the nearest we’ll probably get to a Highland Hop. I know how much groundhoppers want that to happen, but I also know how much that league’s committee don’t!

Any perceived problems with programmes didn’t materialise, and what I received was excellent. Perhaps the best way to sum up Linlithgow Rose’s staging is to tell you want happened as soon as the coach arrived.

Immediately after the turnstiles, the club had posted the team line-ups and since the groundhoppers already had their programmes they stopped and started jotting down the team lines. The club had posted a young lady to both welcome their visitors and sell them a programme. It was clever, kind, welcoming and the young lady was rather flattered that so many people had stopped in front of her! That was until she realised that the vast majority of the hoppers were far more interested in the teamlines than her!

After that, I enjoyed Linlithgow Rose for what they are, and that was a friendly, outward looking club who coped admirably with a large crowd. I enjoyed the Jeanfield fans antics, and their consumption of Buckfast and “Dragon Soop” was staggering. And for those of you aren’t aware of the “Cocktail” that is Dragon Soop I suggest you Google it…. it’s quite something!

Thankfully the players hadn’t been near the beverages, and this was easily the highest quality game we saw, to the extent that looking back its a real shame only one side from across the 3 East of Scotland League Conferences will be promoted to the Lowland League. In fact neither side even made the playoffs! They will however both grace the EoSFL’s Premier Division next season.

The final whistle sounded and since I didn’t have the coach to catch I waited awhile. Perhaps it was the Stuart Roy Clarke habit of being the last out of a ground, but Prestonfield deserved a linger, and as I left, I reflected on how Linlithgow Rose had completely altered how I thought of them. I suspect I wasn’t the only one to think that way either.