Annan v East Stirlingshire
Following their mid week replay victory over Inverurie in the William Hill Scottish Cup it was back to the main business of the Ladbrokes League for Annan when they entertained East Stirlingshire on Saturday. The last time the 2 teams played each other was at the beginning of the season when the shire ran out comfortable 3-1 victors but there was to be no repeat this time with Annan making their intention known from the start.
The Annan team not surprisingly showed changes from the cup game with Rabin Omar making a welcome return along with Stuart McColm up front, Steven Black was relegated to the bench and his place at the centre of defence was taken up by Bryan Gillfillan.
It was the visitors who were first on the attack when Gillfillan lost possession on the edge of the 6 yard box to Max Wright but the Annan defender rescued the situation blocking Wrights shot. It was a promising start for the visitors but they soon found themselves chasing the game when Annan opened the scoring in the 4th minute. Matty Flynn’s well directed header went over the arms of keeper Darren Dolan after Chris Townsley headed Rabin Omar’s header off the goal line.
The energetic Omar then came close after he fought off a challenge and drove forward into a great area finishing with a low shot down to the keepers left hand side forcing Dolan into a good save turning the ball round the post. From the resulting corner Weatherson was denied a goal when his superb header beat the keeper but not the cross bar. It was a real let off for the Shire who were being put to the sword by Annan.
Annan were the team asking the questions and mid way through the half Annan once again prized open the Shire defence when Omar and Flynn’s quick one two set up McColm who’s low shot was well saved by Dolan.
The visitors first real effort in the 31st minute went close when Nathan Shepherd brushed aside the challenge of Sloan to finish with a cracking low shot which tested Jordan Hart who pulled off an important full length save.
However it was Annan who were the team asking the questions and they doubled their lead in the 36th minute after they broke from the middle at speed with Omar and Flynn prizing open the visitors defence and Flynn’s pass was perfectly weighted for Weatherson who hit an unstoppable low shot from 15 yards past Dolan’s left hand side.
Bryan Gilfillan had to leave the field of play injured minutes into the second half with Steven Black taking over at the heart of the Annan defence. Within minutes Annan were awarded a free kick when Rabin Omar was fouled after cutting in from the right and Annan’s Peter Weatherson struck another blow to Shires chances when his powerfully hit 27 yard free kick beat Dolan all ends up to give Annan a three goal advantage.
Weatherson was then presented with another free kick from an almost identical position but this time his shot went wide of the target. It was all Annan but three substitutions by the visitors all within a space of ten minutes changed their fortunes to a more attack minded team. Michael Wallace tested Hart with a 25 yard effort, this was followed by a Roy shot which hit the side netting.
It was the Heart of Midlothian loanee Alistair Roy who eventually pulled a goal back for the Shire in the 78th minute when he rode three challenges to finish with a swerving shot from 15 yards which gave Hart no chance.
It was a much improved performance from Annan after their cup exploits and the 3 points ensured they retained their position at the top of the league after all the likely title contenders won their matches. Annan face a mid week journey up to Montrose on Tuesday night and next Saturday they travel to Stirling Albion.
ANNAN ATHLETIC: Jordan Hart, Bryan Gillfillan ( Steven Black 48min),Steven Swinglehurst, Martin McNiff, Peter Watson, Steven Sloan, Ryan Finnie ( Smart Osadolor 81 min ), Mathew Flynn , Peter Weatherson, Rabin Omar ,Stuart McColm (Liam Park ). SUBS NOT USED: Blair Currie, Greig Macdonald , Jame Watson, David Ferguson.
EAST STIRLINGSHIRE :Darren Dollan, Lloyd Kinnaird, Nathan Shepherd, Christopher Townsley, Connor Green, Aaron Lynass (Kristopher Faulds 57 min), Andrew Kay ( Michael Wallace 64 min), Neil McCabe, Max Wright, David McKenna ( Alistair Roy 67 min), Ross Gilmour. SUBS NOT USED: Jonathan Court, Jon Tully, Adam Murray, Richard Barnard GK.
REFEREE: David Munro Assistants Ralph Gordon and Paul O’Neill Attendance 357