Baikie's men react to half-time team-talk

FOR a man who spent most of the first half resembling a volcano close to erupting, Dave Baikie did well to compose himself in time to deliver a half-time team talk that put Linlithgow's title bid on track again after back-to-back defeats.

The former East Fife manager was probably more animated on the touchline in the opening 45 minutes on Saturday as he has been in nearly two years in charge at Prestonfield, admitting afterwards that his frustration had been down to this being such a "crucial game" for his side.

But a victory secured by second-half strikes from Colin Strickland and Tommy Coyne, coupled with the news that champions Bo'ness had slipped up at Camelon, had him back on an even keel by the end of a game when a dreadful refereeing display was a big talking point.

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Defeats at the hands of Kelty and Newtongrange had raised serious question marks about the league leaders and they went into this encounter missing six players through illness or injury, leaving Baikie with only three fit outfield players on his bench.

A well-struck shot from Coyne apart, Lithgae rarely threatened their visitors in the opening 45 minutes and they were a touch fortunate that the normally lethal Brian Duell squandered the one good chance that fell Forfar's way in that period.

Baikie was forced to make a change early in the second-half when Ryan Johnstone, a recent signing from Armadale, suffered a shoulder injury as he fell awkwardly, but the introduction of Stephen Manson appeared to inject a bit more life into the home side.

Lithgae were certainly starting to build up a head of steam when they made the breakthrough with 17 minutes to go. Stuart McArthur's corner from the left picked out big Kevin Donnelly at the back post. He headed the ball down into the six-yard box for Strickland to sweep the ball home.

The second goal arrived just three minutes later and McArthur was involved once again. On this occasion, he threaded a pass through to Coyne who, for the first time in the game, found himself with a bit of space to exploit, which he did by advancing into the box and burying a shot past the helpless Stephen Vanderdeyl.

Baikie's boys should have added a third when Manson was put clean through by McArthur.

And, from being on easy street, Lithgae then found themselves having to bite their nails when the visitors pulled a goal back with four minutes to go, Graeme Gibb glancing home a header from a free-kick.

"It was more about trying to motivate the team than anything else," said Baikie when asked about how agitated he had been during the first-half. "I felt this was a really crucial game for us and I wanted us to get a win to maintain our place at the top of the table.

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"Forfar are a tough side to play against. They are well organised and it is sometimes hard to find a way through them.

"At half-time, I told the players to stay patient and not get frustrated because that would have allowed them to hit us on the break.

"I thought we were the better side over the piece and I am delighted with the result, especially on a day when we had Dario Quinn and Gary Kelly out through illness, Iain Nimmo unavailable due to work and another three - Roddy McLennan, Gordon Herd and Mark Bradley - out injured."

While Nelson had filled in admirably for the last two games, Baikie confirmed he is looking to bring in a left-back before this week's transfer deadline, while a striker is also on his radar.

Third-placed Forfar are now seven points behind the leaders but manager John Finlayson said: "The league is still wide open."

Linlithgow Rose: Pinkowski, Tyrell, Nelson, Ward, Donnelly, Johnstone (Manson 54), McLennan, Adam, Strickland (Reilly 84), Coyne, McArthur. Subs: Trialist, McPherson.

Forfar West End: Vanderdeyl, Logan, Black, Miller, Gibb, Anderson (Mann 81), Syme (Pirie 73), McKenzie, Duell, Carrick, McConnachie. Subs: McDonald, Sturrock, Law, Holden, Spence.

Linlithgow Rose 2

Forfar West End 1