As I wipe away the tears so it begins. My last home match report as “RedWeb”. Next week at Clyde will be our final stand. This is it for Forthbank. On we go. The visitors for this momentous occasion were Ross Jack’s Elgin City. The former Highland League side knew defeat against the Beanos would end their play-off hopes. In fact anything less than a win and results elsewhere would need to go their way for Elgin to take matters to the last day. In short a big game for them. End of season fare for us. That said the oft repeated managerial cry of “playing for contracts” was pulled out of the cliche almanac by Greig McDonald. In all my years I don’t think I can remember a player trying extra hard in these fag end encounters because contracts were on the line. Ho hum. So was the background to this potentially epic clash of the nearly men. Following the win at a breezy Galabank the Beanos made three changes to the starting XI. Out went Jamie McCunnie, Kieran McAnespie and Josh Flood. In came the fit again Ross McGeachie, David McClune and Sandy Cunningham.
On a sunny but chilly afternoon at the mecca of Stirlingshire football the match started with the home side attacking the Springkerse end. The worn and pothole ridden surface didn’t look conducive to a flowing affair and both sides were victims to a few early bobbles. Being honest I think the pitch has been fairly poor this season. Hopefully some TLC over the summer and we will be back to the bowling green our players surely crave. A free kick fell the visitors way but from the far post delivery big Mark Nicolson could only steer his header wide of David Crawford’s right hand post. Twelve minutes in and Elgin hit for front. David Crawford if you’re reading this please skip to the next paragraph! The ball broke to CRAIG GUNN whose shot could at best be described as a trundler. If he’d been wearing a cap Davie Crawford could have thrown it on the ball. Instead he decided to dive over the top of it. Howler of all howlers.
While most inside Forthbank Towers were still scratching their heads following Crawf’s clanger the game struggled to catch fire. A long range ping from Gavin Morrison was safely pouched by the Albion keeper. Not a difficult save but one which received a hearty cheer none the less. Morrison was booked shortly afterwards for a foul on Ross McGeachie. The caution count was evened up when Jamie Clark was yellowed for clattering into Daniel Moore. The next note I have written down says the half-time score was 0-1 i.e. nothing much else happened. Fact was the first 45 was classic last home game of the season stuff. Elgin though would have been happy enough as play-off rivals Berwick and Montrose were both losing.
Not great then and the break gave Greig McDonald the chance to gee up his lackluster side. Therefore as the teams trooped off for the half-time suckling pig it was the men from “oop norf” who maintained their narrow one goal advantage.
Half-TimeStirling Albion 0 Elgin City 1
Elgin made a change at the lemons as David Niven made way for Graeme Beveridge. Early second half signs were slightly more promising for the hosts. Mark Ferry volleyed a poor clearance well over the bar from 30 yards. Not particularly close but it was our first attempt at goal so it was a step in the right direction. Up the other end Paul McMullan tried one from distance but was as far off as Ferry. Verbals? Handbags? Bit of both perhaps. Whatever it was resulted in Mark Ferry becoming the second Stirling player to be cautioned. Mark would have been feeling happier moments later as his team were back on terms. A neat ball from Sandy Cunningham put STEPHEN DAY clean through and the U19 graduate made it two in two as he dinked the leveler past Joe Malin.
This goal meant squeaky bum time for Ross Jack who knew his troops really needed the three points. His response was to make a double switch. On came Dennis Wyness and Cieran MacLean as Gavin Morrison and Paul Harkins headed for the bench. The changes didn’t really impact proceedings as the Beanos were now having the better of things. Mark Ferry cracked in a low 25 yarder which Joe Malin did well to tip round his left hand post at full stretch. Scott Davidson then slid Jordan White in down the Elgin right and White’s angled drive fizzed inches wide of Malin’s left stick. The Stirling management played their first card of the day as Sandy Cunningham was replaced by another U19 kid in Lee Hamilton. Sandy did well to set up Stephen Day for the goal but is a bit away yet from being physically capable of holding off SFL defenders. Most of Sandy’s best work came when he was in space and not wrestling an Elgin centre half. He has the talent and the brain. Now just needs a bit of help from his body.
It was pretty much all Stirling as the match ticked on. Jordan White nodded a ball into the path of Danny Ashe who drilled a shot straight at Joe Malin. Elgin skipper Mark Nicolson sent in a shot which was easily saved by Crawford. Stirling could see the win was there for the taking and therefore made a double change. Full backs Ross McGeachie and Danny Ashe were replaced by Jamie McCunnie and Phil Johnston. Not sure if McGeachie had an injury but he looked healthy enough when running off. Didn’t quite get those changes but such is life. Not a new sensation. Nicolson likes a shot from outside the box and he was at it again when he volleyed well over Crawford’s bar. Talking of bars, the Elgin one was in the thick of it moments later. A quickly taken free kick was lumped into the box by Jamie Clark and Mark Ferry’s looping header clattered against Joe Malin’s woodwork before going behind.
Other than a couple of Nicolson tries from 25 yard range the visitors had created almost nothing in the second period. However, they very nearly took the lead courtesy of lapse in concentration by Gary Thom. The Albion defender dithered in possession and gifted the ball to Dennis Wyness only yards from goal. The veteran striker poked his attempt towards the net and it required a desperation stretch by Jamie Clark to keep the ball out. Have to say this is the kind of brain fart which should see Mr Thom departing the scene in the next couple of weeks. Just too prone to rash challenges or daft moments like this in his own box. That said it wouldn’t surprise me if we kept him as everybody else seems to be staying! Albion sub Phil Johnston found space inside the Elgin area only to see his shot smothered behind for a corner kick. From the resulting set piece the ball broke to Scott Davidson who “strangled” a shot wide of Malin’s right hand post.
Not sure if Elgin knew what was happening elsewhere but they didn’t seem to be breaking a neck to get a winner. Daniel Moore’s attempt was miles off target but the final whistle brought good news for Ross Jack. Both Berwick and Montrose had lost meaning a win for Elgin against a hapless Shire outfit combined with Rangers beating Berwick at Ibrox next week and it could be the play-offs. Elgin would need an eight goal turnaround but it’s far from fanciful to think they might win 5-0 and Berwick lose 3-0. You never know. At least they have a chance. For the Beanos our last chance came and went against Peterhead two weeks ago. For us it’s just the last rites of 2012/13 and RedWeb at Broadwood next weekend. See you there.