Two goals in flying start for dominant Linlithgow

Linlithgow had this game done and dusted in the opening three minutes, with a blistering two-goal start leaving Bathgate shell-shocked and battered.

Rose boss Dave Baikie said: "That start gave us the lift we wanted after a tough game midweek against Arniston."

If boss Baikie wanted a response from that hard win over Arniston, he had his answer after only one minute and 25 seconds. A ball played through to Stuart McArthur allowed him to slip the ball to Chris King, who curled the shot into the net for a dramatic opener.

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A minute later and they were two up. The Bathgate defence made a complete hash of a passback to keeper Andy Carlin, who also made a hash of an attempted clearance, allowing McArthur to stroll forward and blast the ball high into the net for the Rose second. This was a sign of things to come in the opening 45 minutes. Linlithgow blew the Bathgate defence apart every time they pushed forward.

Tommy Coyne, King and McArthur all had super chances to kill the game off but luck and some poor finishing kept the score down as half time approached. They hit the woodwork, hit their own players and by the half-time whistle could have won half a dozen games with the chances created.

Bathgate were staring a heavy defeat in the face and had to recover their poise. The problem was their usually sound defence was guilty of schoolboy errors every time Linlithgow had the ball. However, they had a good 15-minute spell at the start of the second half when they pulled a goal back with a sensational strike from Gary McCulloch.

He drifted into a good position just outside the Rose box down the left-hand side. The ball was played into him and he met it perfectly to volley home from 20 yards. However, the celebrations lasted only a couple of minutes. The usually reliable Carlin made another complete hash of a clearance in his own six yard box, hitting McArthur on the legs. He tried to recover the ball but only succeeded in hitting the ball off McArthur's legs again. This time it rolled along the goal line to Coyne, who knocked it over the line from six inches.

Bathgate were shell shocked again and had to respond. Lee Johnstone gave them hope with a terrific strike which came off the bar but they were soon deeper in trouble with another super strike from King. In the 70th minute he ran on to a ball played through a static Bathgate defence before rifling a shot high into the net.

Bathgate kept trying and pulled a goal back with quarter of an hour to go. A Willie Wilson free kick was met by Steven Payne who glanced a header into the net for Bathgate's second.

There was no more scoring and it was a relieved Bathgate side who trudged off the field at the end after giving some respectability to a scoreline when they could so easily have been facing a real hammering.

Linlithgow were unstoppable and look like a successful side in waiting. They created enough chances to win several games. They had luck and a string of horrendous mistakes presented to them, but they had to take them, which they did and once Coyne finds his shooting boots again they look a good bet for the title.

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Afterwards, a delighted Linlithgow boss Baikie said: "Without being disrespectful to Bathgate, we didn't want half-time to come. We were so dominant we thought we should score every time we went upfield. We missed an incredible amount of chances and it looked like six inches was the only way Tommy was going to score.

"We had control of the game apart from a 15-minute spell in the second half. I think the turning point was us scoring so quickly after Bathgate had scored their first. OK, we missed a lot of chances, but somewhere along the way that tide will turn in that respect and goals will start flowing again."

Bathgate manager Graeme Love said: "It's disappointing the way we lost goals. We were under pressure after only five minutes and tried to recover, but still we made schoolboy errors.

"The players who made mistakes have been big enough to hold their hands up and take the blame but, these players have been terrific for he club over the years. They'll come out good again. It was a bad day at the office for us."

Linlithgow: Pinkowski, Kelly, Virgili, Ward, Wilson, Tyrrell, Manson (Livingstone), Nelson, King (Strickland), Coyne, McArthur. Subs: McLennan, Brown.

Bathgate: Carlin, W Wilson, C Wilson, Hunter, Gupwell, McCulloch, Payne, F Love( McLaren), Johnstone( G Love), Lurinski, McColligan. Subs: Easton, Fallon, Neill.

Linlithgow Rose 4

Bathgate Thistle 2

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