ROSELEA faced one of their fellow title challengers on Saturday in Blairgowrie, who were relegated from the Premier League last season along with the home side.
Four points separated the sides with Roselea having the advantage and both having played the same nine games. A win either way would have a massive impact on the title race.
Roselea had a few selection worries with Jonathon Mitchell and Mark Fotheringham unavailable, and Calum Rae out with flu although he made the bench. In came Lee Hood and Scott Riach with Sean Mustard replacing Matt Miller at fullback and Colin Kennedy replacing Rae in midfield.
The game almost did not go ahead after heavy frost on Wednesday and Thursday. However a thaw and rain on Friday improved matters and, following a 9am inspection, it was given the green light.
On a perfectly calm day the wind was not going to be a problem, but underfoot conditions were greasy with an inch of soft ground covering ice underneath.
Roselea were first on the attack and Collier headed a Craig cross goalwards in five minutes, but O’Brien held well at the second attempt.
Soon after, Ireland of Blair was booked for attempting to win a penalty. Dewar came close for the visitors a minute later when his shot from the edge of the area was deflected behind for a corner. Two minutes later Cruickshank had another chance for Blair but his shot was direct at McLeod.
Blairgowrie were getting on top and Neave intercepted a ball played between Doug Craig and Riach in 15 minutes. Only a great save from McLeod prevented the opener.
In 21 minutes Urquhart received a yellow card for the home side and was lucky that he got some of the ball, otherwise a straight red would have been the only outcome.
Cruickshank had another header go just wide in 23 minutes with Blair controlling the traffic towards the Lea goal.
Hood went on a great run in 41 minutes, gliding past his full-back before hitting a great low cross which was excellently dealt with by O’Brien in the visitors’ goal.
Roselea almost broke the offside trap with a well timed run from Riach which was adjudged offside. At the other end Brash should have given Blairgowrie the lead when he also timed his run to perfection but slid the ball past the post with McLeod beaten at the edge of the box.
There was still time as the half drew to a close for Nicoll to beat the offside trap and again be thwarted by another terrific McLeod save. The Roselea stopper then put in a great tackle while the ball was bouncing about in the box following a corner.
Half-time: Roselea 0, Blairgowrie 0.
Roselea made a change at half time with Miller coming on for the booked Urquhart. The visitors’ pack was shuffled to contain the Blairgowrie attacks.
Roselea were becoming more positive and a Kennedy cross came off a Blair player at close range in the box. Surprisingly the referee gave a bye kick, only for his assistant to correct him, awarding the correct corner decision. Blairgowrie dealt with the corner well with O’Brien holding Kennedy’s cross under pressure.
Roselea were coming more into the game and in 55 minutes they had a great chance to take the lead through Collier. He broke in to the box getting in front of Christison, but ‘keeper O’Brien came flying out and made a great blocking save. From the corner kick a well rehearsed move saw Dougie Craig strike a first time shot which whistled just wide of the upright.
In 65 minutes another Roselea break saw Kennedy find himself in a useful position on the left, but with Collier poised on the penalty spot on his own the cross found Ferguson at the near post who cleared the danger.
Kennedy picked up Roselea’s second booking of the day for a late tackle in 68 minutes.
Minutes later, Roselea served up another chance. This time Lee Hood drifted in and met Craig’s cross with a downward header which seemed to take the power out of the ball. O’Brien held easily.
Menzies, the Blairgowrie right-back, made a strong run in 72 minutes, and David Craig’s timely block almost went into the net via his own player, Mustard.
In 78 minutes disaster struck for Roselea. Reoch went in for a tackle and although he brought the player down he also made strong contact with the ball; however referee Beats saw fit to administer a straight red card to the youngster. This was also Roselea’s first red card of the season.
In 84 minutes there was an unusual site at Broomfield Park as Whyte had to leave the field due to injury. He was replaced by Aitken.
Roselea were looking to hold on. However, deep into stoppage time they got a dramatic winner. Kennedy fed the ball through to Hood and, with keeper O’Brien committed he slid and prodded the ball past him into the path of the inrushing AITKEN who took his time and finished from six yards.
There was still time left for a lengthy treatment to Aitken following a head clash, and for Roselea to run down the clock with the replacement of Kennedy for Strachan.
Roselea: McLeod, Mustard, Whyte, Reoch, Doug Craig, Hood, David Craig, Urquhart, Kennedy, Riach and Collier. Subs: Aitken, Strachan, Miller, Reid and Rae.
This was a very welcome win for Roselea, and a very important one at that. With Blairgowrie holding the upper hand in the first half and McLeod saving the bacon at times, they were happy to go in all square at the interval. The change of formation at the break seemed to swing it more in the home team’s favour but Blairgowrie may feel that they should have had things wrapped by then anyway.
Away to Kirrie
This Saturday throws up another tough league match, away to Kirrie Thistle with a 1.45pm kick-off. The home side have been dormant since November 20, but in such an unforgiving league nothing will be taken for granted.
Following the match on Saturday everyone will meet in the Links Hotel for the annual Sportsman’s Dinner.