Changed days at Bonnyrigg ahead of war of the Roses

BONNYRIGG ROSE boss Alan Miller has hailed the hard work on and off the pitch that has set up tomorrow's top-of-the- table East Region Super League clash with Linlithgow.

The "War of the Roses" at New Dundas Park (kick-off 2pm) sees both sides locked together on 19 points, with Linlithgow, who have played a game fewer, in top spot on goal difference.

Miller expects Dave Baikie's side to still be in that position at the end of the season, having tipped the Scottish Cup holders for the title before a ball was kicked in anger,

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But, at the same time, he believes Bonnyrigg can give them a run for their money if the 2008-09 champions continue to show the same determination that has seen them get through a difficult period for the club. "We are doing okay at the moment," admitted Miller. "I think what's happened is that things have settled down after a lot of changes in the background last season.

"Contracts were being re- negotiated and, once we got players off the books who wanted to go, we were able to bring in new ones for a lot less consideration in terms of finance.

"I think the atmosphere is back in the club. People are working hard, both on and off the pitch. The players are demonstrating good effort while hats off to the committee as well."

After a stuttering start to the campaign, Miller's men have never really looked back since recovering from being 2-0 down at home to Newtongtange to win 3-2 against their local rivals.

Since then they've also beaten Camelon, Tayport and Musselburgh away, drawn at home to defending champions Bo'ness and progressed to the next round of the Scottish Cup after overcoming Johnstone Burgh.

"The big turnaround for us was definitely the Newtongrange game," added the Rose manager. "If we had lost that day the current positions of ourselves and (bottom-of-the-table] Newtongrange could easily be the other way around.

"The fact we are going into the game against Linlithgow sitting level on points with them at the top of the table is definitely down to us working well as a unit.

"At the same time, though, there are individual factors that have also played their part over the past few weeks.

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"Sean Grady, for instance, has been scoring important goals for us, while Ryan McCallum has also been outstanding.

"I also feel we are more solid defensively at the moment. Our goalkeeper, Michael Burgess, has stabilised the back four and our central defenders have been playing really well." So, too, has midfielder Kevin McLeish, who suffered a frustrating first season at the club due to injury but is now firing on all cylinders.

"Kevin has been a stick out for us," noted Miller. "But, while I know some people might have been doubting why I'd signed him, I knew that he had a lot of ability.

"More importantly, the players knew about his ability and, during his injury problems last season, there was both loyalty and respect shown to Kevin because of that ability.

"All in all, we are certainly happy with how things are going at the moment. We have made a good start, which has been welcome after the way we finished last season.

"We've had some particularly good results away, winning at both Tayport and Lochee. But, as we said to the players during a chat with them at training the other night, Saturday is the real test for them.

"I went on record at the start of the season saying I felt Linlithgow were probably favourites for the title - and I stick by that.

"Our aim is to try and compete with them for as long as we can and it would certainly be helpful if we can stop them opening up a gap on us this weekend."

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Miller, who, in additon to seeing Brian Wilson return to Preston Athletic, will also be without David Burrell and Kevin Moffat tomorrow, added: "We are under no illusions. We know Dave Baikie has a very good squad of players. But we always enjoy games against Linlithgow and we will certainly be doing our best to win this one."

Linlithgow's sole league defeat of the season so far came at Forfar West End, but they've bounced back from that to beat Lochee, Newtongrange and Musselburgh.

Baikie was also pleased to see his side overcome a tricky start to their Scottish Cup defence against Clydebank, defender Dario Quinn grabbing the winner on his return from injury.

"It was good to have Dario back," said the Lithgae boss. "He gave us a more phsyical presence at the back and, at the same time, also took a bit of the burden off John Ward.

"It is important for us to keep accruing poinys in the league but a trip to Bonnyrigg is a really tough one for us.

"They are going exceptionally well. They are are a strong team and also well balanced."

"The atmosphere is back in the club. People are working hard, both on and off the pitch" alan miller