In their first season in the East of Scotland League the minimum aim for Bo’ness United was to finish in the top five of their Conference to gain a place in the Premier Division for the following year. The BUs had been placed in Conference B alongside hot favourites Bonnyrigg Rose and although they were in it to win it this was always going to be tough task.
A shaky start meant Bo’ness never looked likely to be the top dogs but a late surge saw them finish in second place with the bonus of winning some silverware in the form of the League Cup. Overall this has to be seen as a successful season and something Bo’ness can build on into the next campaign.
Going into the campaign which was to be manager Steven Kerrigan’s first full one in charge there was the usual coming and going of players. In came Brian Morgan and Iain Syme, both from Sauchie Juniors, Joshua Watt from Clydebank, Josh Macdonald from Raith Rovers, and the return of goalkeeper Alex Marshall from Hamilton. Going the other way was Scott Gibb who had decided to hang up his boots, Hassan Nyang and Ryan Millar. Marc Kelly and Ryan Stevenson had returned to their parent clubs Hamilton Accies and Raith Rovers respectively although Stevenson was to come back for another loan spell in the New Year.
A new League with new competitions kicked off with the League Cup section and the BUs had a wake up call right away going down at home to Jeanfield Swifts. They recovered to progress in the tournament thanks to wins against Leith Athletic and at Oakley United. The first league match was at home the previous season’s runner up Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale and the BUs chalked up an impressive five goals without reply.
The early cup competitions included the Alex Jack Cup, the Football Nation Cup and the South Challenge Cup. The Alex Jack Cup was significant in that the winners played off against the team from the South League equivalent competition for a place in the following season’s Scottish Cup. The other two trophies included teams from the Lowland League and it was in the South Challenge Cup that Bo’ness travelled to East Kilbride and although giving a good account of themselves the BUs lost out to the Lowland League front runners. Bo’ness had an easy home win against Tweedmouth in the Football Nation Cup but an altogether tougher win against the first of three games in as many weeks against Crossgates Primrose. The second and third games were a League and Alex Jack Cup win both at Humbug Park.
Other players came in during this early part of the season, the return of Ali El Zubaidi, Kieran Sweeney from Falkirk and Craig Comrie previously of Sauchie Juniors. The Alex Jack Cup was progressing quickly with a comeback win at Tranent Juniors and a semi final at Haddington Athletic. Bo’ness won that game but it was found out Craig Comrie, who had come on as a substitute, had a suspension pending from his time at Sauchie and Bo’ness were thrown out of the tournament and Camelon were presented with the cup before winning the game against the South League opposition to take their place in next season’s Scottish Cup.
This was a blow for Bo’ness who dropped points in their next two league games and, although they won at Dundonald Bluebell in the Football Nation Cup they lost out in the next round at Tranent. Bo’ness were just outside the top five at this point although a draw at Sauchie put them into fifth place at the Christmas break.
Into the New Year and as well as Ryan Stevenson’s return, Michael McMullen and Tiwi Daramola had come in. Ali El Zubaidi, Joshua Watt and Kieran Sweeney were now gone and James Rintoul moved to Stoneyburn Juniors on loan. Two wins and a draw in the League had Bo’ness still on track and they looked forward to yet another visit to Tranent this time for a league game. An even first half gave no clue as to what was to come as after the break. A defensive slip up and two wicked deflections saw Bo’ness three goals behind early on. They lost another two before the end and it proved too much for Steven Kerrigan who resigned his post as manager.
Ironically before the week was out it was the man in the Tranent dugout, Max Christie who was appointed as the new manager for Bo’ness bringing in his backroom team of Ian Black and Kevin Haynes. Most people agreed this was a good choice but few would have guessed what the following weeks would bring. Michael McMullen and Tiwi Daramola moved on leaving a seventeen man squad but the BUs went on to achieve an unprecedented seventeen game winning run that included two victories against East of Scotland League Champions Bonnyrigg before lifting the League Cup after the final against Musselburgh Athletic at Penicuik Park.
The League Cup was won the hard way three of the ties going to extra time two of which were decided after a penalty kick shootout. The BUs beat Tynecastle in the extra thirty minutes and at Newtongrange Star and versus Bonnyrigg, despite missing their first kick, keeper Andy Murphy made key saves to help Bo’ness progress. In the quarter final at Tranent Bo’ness came from two goals down to win the tie. A first half goal from Ryan Stevenson in the final was enough to see club Captain Chris Donnelly lift the trophy.
The winning run came to an end in the last game of the season, a King Cup defeat at Bonnyrigg, and although there was disappointment at losing an opportunity for more silverware, having already sealed second place in the League in previous weeks the campaign was undoubtedly a triumph.
The close season will no doubt see transfer activity as players come and go, Max Christie looking to build a team capable of challenging for the Premier Division of the East of Scotland League. Bo’ness also hope to return to Newtown Park as early in the new season as possible as they lost only twice there last season and home is always best.
The BU Faithful did their bit supporting the team over the season and were delighted with the tangible reward of a cup plus the good showing in the League. Many are already looking forward to the new campaign the first game a mere nine weeks away.
27 May 2019