Bonnyrigg Rose boss Robbie Horn felt referee Craig Napier scuppered their hopes of a league and cup double as they lost out to Lowland League champions East Kilbride in a tight SFA South Region Challenge Cup final.
Horn, inset, was furious at full-time yesterday as he believed Napier should have sent off East Kilbride defender Craig Howie who brought down Ross Gray when he had already been yellow carded, but he escaped without punishment midway through the second half.
To compound their woes, Rose ended the match with nine men after Lee Currie and Dean Brett were red carded late on in the space of 30 seconds for voicing their displeasure in the direction of Napier, who was duly booed along with his other officials when they collected their medals for denying Rose a penalty.
“I thought there was a decision that should have been a second yellow card and it was very similar to the first one which was given; you could see the reaction from the crowd,” said Horn.
“That was a disappointment, I think it was an obvious second yellow, he deliberately pulled him back and tripped him when we were on the attack and that would’ve changed the course of the game. We would’ve been in the ascendancy with 11 men against ten.
“In terms of the penalty decision I don’t have any complaints about that, the boy didn’t know where the ball was and the wind was playing a factor in it, it would have been harsh.
“Sometimes you don’t always get the decisions and that was the way it panned out for us. We’ve got to keep our discipline better but if the decisions were correct then you don’t get the reaction from the players.”
East Kilbride had taken the lead through left-back Bernard Coll with 20 minutes remaining, but were pegged back ten minutes later courtesy of a sumptuous free-kick from dead-ball specialist Currie, only to concede again two minutes later as Coll netted once more.
There was very little to separate the Lowland and East of Scotland champions, with Horn immensely proud of his players for their performance.
He continued: “I think they are a really good side and it was two good sides going at it. It was a big test for us going up against the Lowland League champions and I didn’t think there was a lot in the game. I thought they maybe looked a wee bit more dangerous in the second half.
“When we went 1-0 down we got a reaction from the players and we got ourselves level. To lose a goal as quick as we did after scoring ourselves was a wee bit disappointing.
“I think we’ve given a decent account of ourselves against the Lowland League teams this year. It’s disappointing to lose a final, but I am proud of the players again for the way they performed.”
The opening period failed to live up to expectations with both sides sizing each other up. Neither goalkeeper had a save to make until Rose’s Michael Andrews denied striker Ross McNeil late in the first half.
Cameron Russell’s cross found his team-mate who prodded the ball goalwards, with Andrews, about to dive to his left, managing to adjust his feet just in time and he flicked out his right arm to send the ball over the bar.
Russell’s spectacular free-kick led to the East Kilbride opener with his fierce effort from 35 yards dipping and hitting the crossbar, with Coll quickest to react to head in.
Ten minutes later and Rose were level with a trademark Currie free-kick. Keeper William Muir was rooted to the spot and could only watch as the ball careered into the net.
Bonnyrigg’s defence was sleeping just minutes later as Coll pounced at the back post and slid the ball past Andrews, and Rose capitulated with Brett and Currie departing early to end hopes of a comeback.
East Kilbride: Muir, Stevenson, Coll, Howie, Reid, Holmes, Winter, Brady (Anderson) McNeil, Russell (Longworth), Woods.
Bonnyrigg Rose: Andrews, Brett, Brown, Young, Moyes, Martyniuk, Horne (Swanson), Stewart, Currie, Lough, Gray (Murrell).