Following defeat to Peterhead the Beanos hopes of a promotion play-off place were all but over. It would take a freakish set of results to keep Stirling in the hunt and it wasn’t something most Albion fans were even entertaining as a possibility. In reality the season was over but the battle for pride to avoid finishing second bottom was still alive. Despite only seeing our play-off hopes dashed last weekend the Beanos could yet finish second from last in the SFL. One of the other teams battling to avoid a ninth placed finish were today’s opponents Annan Athletic. The Galabank outfit have won two in a row and the last time Stirling visited Annan we lost five goals and two players! Today’s Albion team showed five changes from the one which started against Peterhead last week. Jamie Bishop and David McClune were missing due to work commitments and suspension respectively. Elsewhere Sam Filler, Phil Johnston and Graham Weir dropped to the bench. Into the side came four former SAFC youth players in the guise of Danny Ashe, Jamie Clark, Stephen Day and Josh Flood. Also back in action was keeper David Crawford.
Sunny day down in Annan but by ‘eck it was windy. As soon as I got out of the car and started walking to the ground you just knew this was going to be an ugly game. Plastic pitches are great for clubs at our level. However, on windy days they can exaggerate tough conditions with the ball tending to “wheech” off the pitch even if only slightly over-hit. So it proved today. It wasn’t pretty but there was still a match to be won for both teams. The game got underway with Greig McDonald’s men shooting into the teeth of the gale. The elements though didn’t stop the visitors scoring with their first attack. A Kieran McAnespie free kick found it’s way to the back post area from where STEPHEN DAY looped a header over Alex Mitchell and into the Annan net. Barely two minutes had ticked by and Stirling were ahead.
With the wind blowing towards the Albion goal it was no surprise that the home side had more of the ball. On several occasions Stirling clearances either flew straight out of play or turned tail and headed back towards David Crawford’s goal. Was a bit silly and stopped either side from playing the football they surely wanted to play. A long range dipper from Chris Jardine was easily held by the recalled David Crawford. Up the other end Scott Davidson poked a ball into the path of Mark Ferry who dragged his shot just wide of Alex Mitchell’s right hand post. The first booking of the afternoon came when Steven Sloan was carded for being late on Josh Flood. Josh was in the thick of it again moments later as he scuffed an effort wide of goal from 20 yards.
The elements may have been at their backs but Annan were struggling to take advantage. That said David Crawford did well to block a Jordan McKechnie close range stab when the danger signs were flashing. That apart Jim Chapman’s men created next to nothing in the first period. A long range ping from McKechnie flew well over as Stirling dealt comfortably with what Annan had to offer. Doesn’t sound like much but that was about it for the first period. The wind was really spoiling proceedings and it didn’t look like blowing itself out any time soon. Therefore as the ref blew for the break the teams trooped off for the half-time Percy Pigs with the Beanos a goal to the good.
Half-TimeAnnan Athletic 0 Stirling Albion 1
No changes at the break and as the match restarted the wind didn’t actually look quite as strong but what there was still seemed set to be behind us for the second 45. The first section of the second half contained a lot of over-hit passes from the Beanos as they tried to get their barrings “down breeze”. The first chance of the second period fell to Stirling courtesy of a set piece. From the left edge of the penalty box Jordan White cracked in a free kick which beat Alex Mitchell only to clatter against the bar before going over. Great attempt by the Beanos top scorer but it remained at just 1-0.
The Beanos were having most of the possession but as Annan had done in the first period, Stirling weren’t making much of it. Scott Davidson pulled a shot well wide of Mitchell’s right hand post before moments later he crumpled in a heap after a tackle. The physio was signalling for a change straight away and so as Scott hobbled off Graham Weir was thrown into the fray. Around this time Annan made a double switch as Harry Monaghan and Ally Love came on for Steven Sloan and Jordan McKechnie respectively. Monaghan had barely worked a sweat up before we was cautioned for catching Kieran McAnespie as the Stirling man cleared up-field.
In truth the game was taking on an end of season feel as neither side seemed to have the guile to change the scoreline. Ally Love sliced a weak attempt wide of David Crawford’s right hand post but it was fairly dreich stuff. Josh Flood’s afternoon was at an end when he was then hooked in favour of Phil Johnston. A ball into the box was glanced on by Jordan White but Alex Mitchell wasn’t tested. Danny Ashe then curled in an excellent cross which White failed to make contact with when a goal looked a good possibility. Recent arrival Phil Johnston was involved in a spot of handbags with Michael McGowan and both received a yellow for their troubles.
With the game entering the final stages neither keeper was being extended. Kieran McAnespie tried a cheeky wind assisted attempt from distance but Alex Mitchell saw it coming and grabbed the ball under his crossbar. Confession time. I have four more things written in my notes. Two substitutions and two bookings i.e. you have read about the last attempt at goal. For completeness the subs saw Andrew Donlay replace David Hopkirk for Annan while Jordan White was spelled late on by Sandy Cunningham. The booking was for Graham Weir.
It was fitting that a scrappy game fizzled out with little football on offer. To be fair to both teams the wind made the chances of actually playing football limited. As the referee blew for time the Beanos had therefore recorded only their second away win of the season. Results elsewhere still mean that second bottom or 6th place is possible. Last two games of the season will decide if either is where we end up. Next weekend sees Elgin City visiting Forthbank for our last home match of the season.