Annan Athletic v Stirling Albion
Annan’s slump in league form continued after the black and golds suffered their third successive league defeat going down 3-2 at home to the in form Stirling Albion who are now right back in contention for a top 4 finish.
It was however a much improved Annan performance from the previous weeks encounter against Elgin City and despite a late come back which had Stirling Albion holding on at the end it was however Annan’s defensive blunders which cost them the match and left them with a mountain to climb.
The Manager once again was forced to make changes due to the injury’s to key senior player Nathan Flanagan and the suspension of Christain Nade but it was an improved performance despite the defensive frailties.
Stirling boss Kevin Rutchiewicz faced a keeper crisis with both Blair Currie and Cameron Binnie facing lengthy spells out of the game due to injury and the replacement on loan Rangers keeper Nicky Howgarth filled the keepers role with distinction.
The opening exchanges were fairly even but it became evident that Stirling had key players in midfield where Annan never got to grips with the tough tackling Kevin Nicol.
The opening goal arrived in the 21st minute and it was an excellent piece of opportunity taken by Darryl Duffie who latched on to a Dylan Mackin flick to finish with an exquisite lob over Annan keeper Lyle Avci who had been caught in no man’s land but there should be no mistake about the quality of the finish from Duffie.
Annan suffered an injury to Darren Barr in the 36th minute which presented an opportunity to ex Carlisle United lad Jordan Holt, there was however no more scoring in the first half as both defences did their jobs in confining the forwards.
It was the only goal of the first half but in the 54th minute the match swung heavily in favor of the visitors who won a penalty kick, the move started in the middle of the park where Kevin Nicol dispossessed Niyah Joseph before setting up Domnic Docherty who drew the challenge from Jordan Holt, a stone wall penalty ensued which was converted by Darryl Duffy to give the visitors a 2 goal advantage.
The game looked to be beyond Annan 3 minutes later when the home team got caught down the left from a well constructed move when Mackin’s precise pass out to Docherty caught Kyle Bradley out and Docherty cut inside to finish with a clinical low shot past Avci.
The game looked all over for Annan but the home team staged a spirited fightback and it came as no surprise in the 64th minute when Jordan Holt latched on to a Steven Swinglehurst header to prod the ball over the line packed goalmouth from 6 yards. Annan continued to press forward with freedom and Stirling Albion were defending in numbers, Danny Jardine was introduced at the expense of Max Wright in the 74th minute closely followed by the introduction of youngster Harry Emmerson in the 77th minute for his second appearance for the black and golds.
Scott McLean produced a couple of promising runs for Annan but his final efforts did not match the build up. Annan eventually got the breakthrough that their play merited when Tommy Muir headed home in the first minute of extra time to give Annan hope. Annan tried in vain to grab an equaliser in the 3 remaining minutes but the Binos held out to collect three pointswhich puts them right back in the mix.
ANNAN ATHLETIC –Lyle Avci, Matty Douglas, Jamie Ballantyne, Kyle Bradley, Darren Barr (Jordan Holt 36 min ),Steven Swinglehurst, Scott McLean, Kyle Wilkie, Tommy Muir, Broque Watson , Niyah Joseph ( Harry Emmerson 77 min ) . Subs not used – Ayrton Sonkur, Jamie Walker , Russell Currie.
STIRLING ALBION – Nicky Howgarth, Paul McLean, James Creaney, Domnic Docherty (Fraser Scott 88 Min). Ross McGeachie, Jordan McGregor, David Wilson, Kevin Nicol, Max Wright (Fraser Scott 74 min ), Darryl Duffie ( Dylan NgueneBikey 80 min) , Dylan Mackin . Subs not used Kyle Banner, Craig Truesdale, Sean Heaver, Trialist GK.
Referee. David Dickenson, Assistants – Ross Hasswell and Scott Anderson
Cove Rangers relentless journey to win the league shows no signs of abatement with a convincing 3-1 victory over Cowdenbeath who were reduced to 10 men in the 64th minutewhen David Cox was sent off, Stenhousemuir grabbed 3 precious points with an injury time winner to secure a 3-2 victory for the Warriors over Elgin City to dent Elgin’s hopes of a play off place. These were the only matches played due to Scottish Cup involvement by both Queens Park and Edinburgh City who both went down against Premier League opposition Kilmarnock and Hamilton respectively.
Next Saturday Annan are back on the road to take on top of the table Cove Rangers. It is a tough ask for Annan against a team who will be all out to avenge their 6-1 defeat at Galabank in their last encounter . Hopefully Annan should have a full squad to pick from with both Nade and Flanagan being available for selection.