Annan v Stirling Albion
This may be looked back on as the day that both these teams conceded their chances of lifting the title drifted away from both of them. Annan coasted into a two goal lead and created enough chances to have put Stirling Albion out of site but Stirling fought back superbly to grab a deserved share of the points. With all the title contesting teams winning apart from East Fife the only losers were the two teams who only grabbed a point each from this thrilling encounter.
Annan boss Jim Chapman made one change to his starting line up from the team which defeated East Stirlingshire the previous week with Lewis Guy starting up front at the expense of Smart Osadolor. The visitors started brightly and Annan had Peter Watson to thank when he cleared Mark Lamont’s net bound low shot from entering the net in the opening minute. At the other end Ben Jago played in Rabin Omar who’s shot was scrambled off the goal line by Phil Johnston.
It was a promising start by both teams and in the 10th minute Lewis Guy was denied by a full length Smith save. It was a fine effort and an equally impressive save. Annan were pushing forward and minutes later a promising Annan move broke down ending with a poor Flynn cross. Blair Currie had to be quick of his line in the 20th minute to avert a dangerous through ball aimed at Doris. The Annan keeper then pulled off an outstanding save to push Mark Lamonts low shot past the post for a corner.
Stirling were enjoying a fine spell in the game and in the 24th minute Ross McMillan’s header struck the outside of the post. Annan’s Lewis Guy was proving a handful up front and the striker had a good opportunity he failed to connect with a Flynn shot in the 26th minute but minutes later the Annan striker broke the deadlock from what appeared to be a tight angle when he managed to loft the ball over the defender and the keeper and into the net.
As the match approached half time Josh Todd was presented with a glorious opportunity to double Annan’s lead when Ryan McStay’s penetrating pass sent the forward clear in on goal but Smith saved the day for the Binos with a fine save to ensure Annan retained only a slender goal advantage at half time.
Annan made a promising start at the start of the second half and in the 49th minute they doubled their lead. Lewis Guy did damage slipping aside the attentions of Johnston before squaring the ball to Josh Todd who’s initial shot was half blocked but Todd reacted quickest to slam the rebound into the roof of the net at the second attempt from 6 yards.
Annan looked to be well on their way to winning the match and in the 55th minute Lewis Guy’s lob over the top of the keeper was cleared off the goal line. It was an anxious period for the visitors and they immediately made a double substitution which had an immediate effect when one of the substitutes, Moses Olanrewaju cut in from the right to square the ball to Lewis McLear who made the space for himself to finish with a vicious well struck shot from 12 yards which ripped into the net.
Annan pulled off Ryan McStay and reshuffled the team with Osadolor, in the 58th minute Rabin Omar played in Lewis Guy who set up Osadolor beautifully but somehow from 3 yards Osadolor failed to convert for the miss of the match. It was to prove a costly miss as the visitors started to impose their authority on the game with Annan being put to the sword, in the 67th minute the Annan goal was fortunate to survive after Steven Doris’s well struck shot beat Currie but crashed off the top of the cross bar and to safety.
The visitors lost goal-scorer McLear to injury in the 70th minute. Osadolor came close in the 75th minute when his low shot went wide of the target. The game switched to the other end and in the 76th minute Stirling were awarded what looked like a very dubious penalty kick when Watson and Moses Olanrewaju clashed with referee Craig Napier pointing immediately for a penalty, Sean Dickson converted the spot kick to square the game at 2-2. Annan had what appeared a fortunate break when Stirling had strong claims for a penalty brushed aside in the 79th minute.
The game was finely balanced and if you had to put money on any team winning at this stage it would have been Stirling who were on the ascendancy. Currie in the Annan goal then pulled off a brilliant save to deny Darren Smith in the 86th minute pushing his net-bound effort round the post as Stirling cut open the Annan defence. For the final minutes of the match Annan started to impose their authority back in the game and Steven Sloan’s delicate chip was tipped over the bar by Smith and from the resulting corner Josh Todd’s header crashed off the inside of the post and was scrambled clear as Annan pushed forward looking for the winner. Osadolor’s 90th minute effort flashed over the bar .
This was a highly entertaining game between two evenly matched teams which left both sets of spectators with plenty to talk about but the harsh reality is that draws will not be enough to win this league and it would appear that both these teams chances of promotion will be only be via the play offs.
Annan face Clyde at Galabank next week in a match Annan must win to enhance their chances of a play off place against a Clyde team who are on a good run and have risen up the league into a very good position.
ANNAN ATHLETIC: Blair Currie, Ben Jago, Kevin Nicoll, Martin McNiff, Peter Watson, Ryan McStay (Smart Osadolor 57 min), Steven Slaon, Matty Flynn, Lewis Guy (Jordan Morton 76 min), Josh Todd, Rabin Omar, SUBS NOT USED: Jordan Hart, Greg Macdonald, Stuart McColm, Scott Norman, Steven Black.
Annan Goals- Guy (29) Todd (49)
STIRLING ALBION :Smith Chris, Phil Johnston, Ross Forsyth, William Robertson, Ross Smith ( Ross McGeachie 55 min), Ross McMillan, Mark Lamont (Moses Olanrewaju 55 min ), Lewis McLear ( Craig Beattie 70 min), Steven Doris, Darren Smth, Sean Dickson. SUBS NOT USED: Lee Hamilton, Salim Kouider-Aissa, David Velaque, Callum Binnie GK,
Stirling Goals- McLear (57) Dickson (77)
REFEREE: Craig Napier. Assistants Gary Hilland and David Doig