A DEJECTED Stevie Dolan walked towards the Jimmy Millar stand and was embraced by Darren Cummings. 

Whatever the veteran said to console his mate must have done the trick as Dolan’s shoulders dropped and his brow ever so slight lifted. 

In a game of moments, Dolan had his chance to have the decisive one. In the dying seconds, he latched onto David McCaughie’s pass and steadied himself. But, his shot clipped off the post and even more agonisingly spun away from his despairing lunge to tap home the rebound.

What a difference an inch the other way could have made to the mood at Beechwood Park and only time will tell whether this hard fought draw will be looked upon as a point won or two dropped in Sauchie’s battle to avoid the Premier Division trapdoor. 

Dolan’s moment was one of many in a match against mid-table Linlithgow Rose which brought a slumbering game to life in front of one of the biggest crowds the Reds have seen for years. 

The game’s other telling contribution came from the whistle of Jordan Curran when he decided the otherwise excellent Stewart Houston had blocked a certain goal with his hand. It was hard to tell but the Sauchie bench certainly didn’t see eye-to-eye with the whistler. 

The Reds’ had been 2-0 up - courtesy of first-half goals from Jon Tully and Craig Donaldson - when Houston was given his marching orders with over half-an-hour to go and from that moment on the guests stormed towards Brett Young’s goal at every opportunity. 

With eleven men, this would have been a defensive performance to be proud of. But, with ten for over 30 minutes it was a sign that Duncan’s quest to fill his side exclusively with those who’d bleed for the cause is nearing its end. 

There was Mark Sharp, filling in at right-back in Houston’s absence, rolling his sleeves up and doing the job he was asked. If a ball dropped in the middle of the park, there was Ant McTaggart to buzz in and nip it off the toes of an opponent and clear the danger.

But, in the end, Linlithgow’s pressure told and a waltzing Ruari Maclennan sunk Sauchie hearts when he nipped into the box and fired beneath Young to snatch his side a point. 

New chairman Karl Rennie called for the Clacks community to lend them their support and all the fans asked for in return was 90 minutes of Wee County fight.

Both sides delivered their side of the bargain as the Reds continued to give themselves a chance of escaping the relegation mire in a packed Beechwood. 

That was due in part to the appearance of Sauchie’s walking footballers and while some of the more seasoned followers may have been forced to clamber to their seats in a packed Jimmy Millar stand, they’d have all agreed it was worth the effort as Fraser Duncan’s boys clawed their way to a point.

Albeit, come the final whistle, most of a Wee County persuasion struggled to see the positives. 

Pretty, tiki-taka football this was not and at times the first-half looked like the more harrowing scenes of 1917 rather than the riches of the English game on show in the hospitality suite before kick-off. Sauchie will have had no qualms about admitting they were second best for large parts of the game and yet somehow enjoyed the half-time cuppas with a 2-0 lead. 

After a quiet opening period, Young, who had taken the place of the absent Darren Dolan, must have been the most relieved man in Clacks when his lapse in concentration almost broke the game’s opening stupor.

He rushed out of his box to collect an aimless long ball with his hands and had Tully to thank when the defender flicked a goal bound effort from the free kick over the bar. 

Young was again at the heart of things minutes later when he flicked a dangerous cross off a striker’s head, only to bounce up and block a snapshot from the same man. 

Linltihgow continued to stream forward on the counter and should have opened the scoring when Ross Allum raced behind a static Sauchie rearguard, before Houston came from nowhere to block his effort into the woodwork. There was still time for the guests to come even closer as a flicked effort fell inches past the post. 

Football is a funny old game and Sauchie defied their slow start to take the lead when Tully got his head to a looping cross from Alan Comrie and found the net. 

The visitors were still fuming in disbelief when Duncan’s boys made it two shortly after. No one will ever doubt Donaldson’s ability and while he can frustrate, he has such a beautiful way of finding space when there seems to be none. The little magician was at it here when he twisted his way into Linltihgow’s box and fired a deflected strike past Lee Wilson on the stroke of half-time.

But, back came Linlithgow Rose and eventually their pressure told when Houston’s bravery was punished with an early bath and a penalty for the guests. Young dived the right way but couldn’t get near Allum’s fine finish.

Both sides had their chances but it was Maclennan who had the telling one when he wriggled past a static Sharp and found Young’s bottom corner.