Saturday 2nd October 2021 ko 14:00
BONNYRIGG ROSE 2 (Turner 17 Young 59)
DALBEATTIE STAR 1 (Todd 46)
Pie- Doner kebab & chilli sauce
The beauty of the Saturday on this edition of the Scottish Hop was that none of the 4 grounds were more than a couple of miles from the next. It seemed as soon as we’d left Dalkeith we’d arrived at Bonnyrigg and with all due respect to the other clubs we visited this weekend, this was the club I’d anticipated visiting the most.
Part of the reason was the fact we’d seen them before, frankly flattening Dunipace on the 2019 hop and their fans had been almost as entertaining as the game as they marched towards promotion. I’d kept an eye on their progress, and with them in danger of running away with this season’s Lowland League there was the other part of the equation for me. I was, for the first time, in the position in the position to compare the two clubs who, in my opinion, will compete for the right to play the SPFL’s bottom club (Cowdenbeath?) for the final place in the Scottish League.
Robyn and I had watched Fraserburgh put 6 past current Highland League champions back in August and even more so than Bonnyrigg are walking their league. It was the perfect excuse to compare those two clubs and I can report I didn’t spot a single fishing boat at New Dundas Park!
But even if Bonnyrigg do become the second former East Region Junior club, behind Kelty Hearts to be promoted the ground will need some improvements, but according to the club less than perhaps you’d think. There aren’t many seats here, just some benches in front of the changing room block, but apparently that isn’t an issue- what is an issue is the grass banking on the far side. That would have to be closed pending it being turned into terracing, which doesn’t seem a particularly onerus task.
I did wonder whether visiting an ambitious club like this would see a similar experience that we’d had at The Spartans where the club clearly saw hosting as involving a slightly larger crowd and not much more. The Lowland League is so much stronger now than then we I complained at how the catering was no more than pies, but Bonnyrigg were wonderful hosts, and while their catering did involve pies, it came with a wonderful twist.
We’ve long since realised that catering is a host club’s biggest potential money-spinner, so when a hopper spotted Bonnyrigg were doing Doner Kebab and Chilli Sauce pies, I made a beeline and so did plenty of other folks too! I’m now thinking that the way to advise Scottish Hop host clubs is to accept pies will be the staple, but make them interesting! After all, the Lasagne pies at Peebles Rovers were also hugely popular back in the day and I do wonder what else can be put into a pie, fish and chips anyone?
But there was more to Bonnyrigg than just pies. They are the kind of club that make it easy for you to spend a couple of hours in their company. That I find comes by being so completely at ease with themselves, even when on the pitch they were made to fight for the win. Dalbeattie will be remembered as being wonderful hosts on the first Scottish Hop and where ace photographer Stuart Roy Clarke captured the graffiti that informed the reader that, ““Jonathan Paynter had Nicola Patterson up against the goal posts.”, but they’ve adapted to the influx of so many former Junior clubs better than most.
Here the visitors played well, but just lacked that little bit of extra pace in the final third to really make Bonnyrigg sweat. Titles of course are often decided on those finer points but as the final whistle went and I made for the car, I found myself thinking of that comparison I made earlier.
So let’s imagine I’m right, and the SPFL qualifying play-off is between Bonnyrigg and Fraserburgh; who would win over two legs? Back in the day you would have expected the Highland League team to win every time, but times have changed, so I’m going to sit on the fence on that one. But after meeting the good people of Bonnyrigg Rose, I know for certain that if they make it, it’ll be the friendly club in Midlothian I’ll be cheering for.