Graeme Love's joy tinged with sorrow

FORMER Hibs player Graeme Love has revealed how his joy at seeing Bathgate beat the champions on the opening day of the new Super League season was soured by a horror injury to a former Capital derby rival.

Love was delighted after his side, bidding to overcome the loss of star striker Jim Lister to Alloa in the summer, started the campaign with a 2-0 win at Bo'ness.

But his mood darkened when news filtered through that Mark Bradley, the former Hearts midfielder, had suffered a bad leg break playing for Linlithgow up at Tayport.

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He sustained the injury late in the game following a tackle by Derek Wemyss, who was shown a red card, and the game was held up for 30 minutes with Bradley lying stricken on the pitch until he could be lifted into the ambulance.

"It was bad news about Mark, who is a good friend of mine," said Love as he looked forward to taking his Bathgate side to Linlithgow tomorrow (2.30pm kick-off).

"Mark was at Hearts at the same time as I was at Hibs and I booted him up and down the park a few times. But I was also fortunate to play alongside him as well for a spell at Bathgate.

"It is a bad injury for any player but for it to happen at this stage of his career is awful and I'll certainly be thinking about him when we play Linlithgow."

Love was left with a big pair of boots to fill after the prolific Lister left for the senior ranks, while he also the services of an experienced duo in Paul Riley and Brian McPhee over the summer.

But he's been delighted so far with new signings like Chris Wilson, Gary McCulloch and Lee Johnston, all of whom started in the victory at Bo'ness.

Former Armadale striker Johnston scored the second goal, having earlier been involved in the incident that saw Bo'ness reduced to ten men when Will Snowdon got his marching orders.

"It was a good start and I was pleased with the way we played as well as the result. I thought we deserved our victory," admitted Love, pictured right.

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"The sending-off did have an impact on the game and, as I said afterwards, if it had been one of my players then I wouldn't have been 100 per cent happy with the decision.

"Having said that, it was a cynical challenge that would have been a clever one if he'd got away with it.

"We still had to try and take advantage of having an extra man and I was delighted we did because we've all seen situations where ten men have still managed to win games."

Now Love's men face another tough test against the side that pipped them for second spot in the Super League last season thanks to a strong finish.

"They certainly don't come any tougher than Bo'ness and Linlithgow away to start your season," noted the Bathgate boss. "We made a good start last weekend - but that's all it is.

"We've got to try and produce another top performance against Linlithgow.

"If we've got any ambitions to win the title, and I certainly have, then these are the teams you've got to beat. For us to go to Bo'ness and do what we did at a time when we've still got players settling in at the club was fantastic, as it would if we could win at Linlithgow."

Left-back Wilson is the younger brother of club captain Willie and was showing up well against Bo'ness before going off with a knock.

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"Chris is a young player who's still learning his trade. But he's got bags of ability and enthusiasm," said Love. "I think he can go further in the game and, if we can help him progress, then that would be great.

"Along with the other new boys, he's been doing very well for us.

"In fact, I think we are probably further on at the moment than I expected us to be.

"I'm still trying to strengthen the squad but I will only bring in players if I think they are absolutely right for us."

Love also hopes to make the occasional appearance himself this season, having recovered from the ankle injury that prevented him from playing much for the Creamery Park outfit last term.

"I think I tried to come back a bit too early after dislocating my ankle but, after taking a few weeks off in the summer, I had a good pre-season," said the 37-year-old.

"I tweaked a calf muscle a couple of weeks ago but I intend to help out when I'm needed. The fact my boots haven't been put away yet might help keep a couple of guys on their toes."

ACA Sports East Super League

Linlithgow Rose v Bathgate Thistle; Lochee Utd v Bo'ness Utd; Kelty Hearts v Tayport; Camelon v Newtongrange Star; Forfar West End v Bonnyrigg Rose; Musselburgh Ath v Hill of Beath Hawthorn.

ACA Sports East Premier League

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Ballingry Rovers v Armadale Thistle; Glenrothes v Whitburn; Broxburn Ath v St Andrews Utd; Arniston Rangers v Penicuik Ath; Thornton Hibs v Kinnoull; Carnoustie Panmure v Broughty Ath.

South League

Dunbar Utd v Harthill Royal; Edinburgh Utd v Pumpherston; Fauldhouse Utd v Dalkeith Thistle; Livingston Utd v Spartans; Sauchie v Tranent; West Calder Utd v Stoneyburn; Blackburn Utd v Haddington Ath.

(all kick offs 2.30pm)

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