East Stirling vs Annan
Annan Athletic lifted the points in a game they will no doubt claim they should have won more comfortably than the score-line suggests but their inability to take the clear cut chances which fell their way always had the game on a knife edge right up until the final whistle. It took a superb second half Peter Weatherson free kick to separate the teams when somehow he swerved the ball low and round the wall to beat keeper Ritchie Barnard. It proved a decisive goal in a match that Annan always looked in control of but their reluctance to take the chances that fell their way on another day could cost them dearly.
East Stirlingshire will look back on the game and point to the fact they were denied what looked like a penalty kick in the 27th minute when Max Wright and Stuart McColm tussled for the ball with the linesman awarding a free kick against the home player much to the anger of vociferous home support. In truth it was the only time apart from a fine 78th minute save by Alex Mitchell from substitute Billy Vidler that there were any real concerns in an Annan defence which could take a lot of credit for their second successive clean sheet as they mopped up any threat that East Stirlingshire threw their way.
Annan boss Jim Chapman started the match with a team which showed one change for the team which defeated Berwick the previous week with Steven Sloan being preferred to Ryan McStay in Midfield. East Stirling’s Craig Tully made only one change from their sides victory over Clyde with Lloyd Kinnaird coming in for Nathan Shepherd who had picked up an injury.
Annan started positively and created a great chance in the first minute. Martin McNiff’s quick throw in sent Matthew Flynn through on goal, but his shot smashed off Connor Greene’s face and behind for a corner. Shire countered with Max Wright down the left wing, and they worked the ball into the box where Jay Doyle could only shoot into the side netting.
Annan created a brilliant chance in the 9th minute. David Hopkirk beat Kinnaird and his powerful shot was kept out by Richie Barnard’s one-handed save, but the ball fell to Stuart McColm. The ex-Clyde player picked out Kenny Mackay whose shot from 6 yards was saved fantastically on the line.
Shire came close from a 40 yard free-kick. Martyn Shields’ delivery picked out Doyle who headed down to Neil McCabe who easily saved the effort. They came even closer minutes later, when Ross Gilmour’s cross picked out Wright, and his shot was saved at the near post.
Annan maintained their superiority. Steven Sloan found Flynn, who turned the defender but his curled effort was easily saved. McNiff’s left-wing cross picked out Hopkirk, but he shot straight at Barnard. Then came a moment of controversy. Shields’ brilliant diagonal pass split the Annan defence and sent Gilmour into the box when he appeared to go down under McColm’s challenge. But instead of awarding a penalty, the referee decided Gilmour had dived and showed him a yellow card. In the 40th minute, Annan came close once again. Annan’s Trialist played Hopkirk in behind Shire’s defence but he was denied by a superb save from Barnard.
Annan started the second half strongly. A defensive mistake allowed Flynn’s pass to reach Todd but Tapping recovered to deflect his shot wide. Minutes later Flynn’s pass sent Todd one-on-one with Barnard, but the Shire keeper once again pulled off a great save.
Shire came close from a corner, when Wright’s delivery picked out Greene, but the Shire defender could only head over. The Galabankies kept on searching for a goal. Their corner was cleared to 30 yards from goal where McNiff was waiting, whose first time left-footed volley was well saved by Barnard.
The decisive moment in the match came in the 64th minute, Greene fouled Hopkirk 25 yards from goal and Weatherson curled the ball around Shire’s three-man wall, and despite Barnard getting a hand to the ball, he could not keep it out. Annan nearly doubled their lead a minute later. Hopkirk was sent through on goal, but he complicated things with a chipped pass to McColm who was given offside.
As the game entered the final 10 minutes the Shire started to come more into the game, and a period of possession saw Doyle played into the box, but his shot was blocked by Steven Black, and the ball fell kindly into Mitchell’s hands. Craig Tully made an unorthodox substitute by bringing on Michael Bolochoweckyj in place of Doyle to play as a striker. A long kick from Barnard picked out Bolochoweckyj in the Annan box, and his header fell to Billy Vidler, whose shot was brilliantly saved by Mitchell.
In the 90th minute, Shire created their best chance of the game. David Greenhill’s corner picked out Vidler, who headed back across goal finding Greene who could only head over with Mitchell beaten. Annan went up the other end and nearly doubled their lead when their Weatherson put Omar through on goal, but once again keeper Barnard denied him with his legs.
There was one more chance for Shire when MacGregor’s cross was cleared to Kinnaird, but his 30 yard curled shot was a simple save for Mitchell.
EAST STIRLINGSHIRE. Ritchie Barnard, Ross Gilmour, Lloyd Kinnaird, Connor Greene, Jordon Tapping, Graeme McGregor, Max Wright (David Greenhill 69 min),Neil McCabe, David McKenna, Jay Doyle (Michael Bolochoweckyi 75 min), Martyn Shields (Billy Vidler 59 min). Substitutes not used Sean Quinn GK, Steven Brisbane, Paul Brennan, Andy Kay.
ANNAN ATHLETIC: Alex Mitchell, Steven Black, Ian Chisholm, Martin McNiff, Peter Watson, Steven Sloan , Josh Todd (Rabin Omar 83 min), Mattew Flynn, Kenny Mackay (Peter Weatherson 14 min), David Hopkirk, Stuart McColm ( Steven Logan 78 min) Subs not used Gary Black GK, Ryan McStay, Dan Wood, Jordan Brown.
Annan Goalscorer- Peter Weatherson
REFEREE: Colin Steven
Assistants Kylie McMullen and Jim Burns