Stirling Albion vs Annan
Annan Athletic face a difficult but not un-surmountable task if they are to proceed beyond the first play off tie. Stirling Albion have a distinct edge courtesy of superb first half performance when they scored 3 goals without reply as they picked Annan off at will with superb attacking play. However in a much improved second half Annan started to take the game to Stirling and they were rewarded with what could prove a precious goal in the 70th minute to ensure the tie is by no means dead .
From the first whistle Stirling made their intentions clear forcing several corners and Annan had to defend deep . The opening goal arrived in the 14th minute and was finished clinically by the veteran Graham Weir who latched on to a through ball from Darren Smith and with Arthur tempted off his goal line Graham Weir clipped the ball over the advancing keeper and the ball rolled into the empty net from 12 yards.
The home team kept Annan on the back foot and in the 28th minute Stirling doubled their lead. It was a free kick flicked on by Jordan White and David Weatherston nipped in at the back post to guide the ball over the line from close range. Worse was to follow 4 minutes later when Andrew Mitchell slipped on the bye line and the ball played into the heart of the Annan defence was once again guided into the net by the alert David Weatherson from close range.
Stirling started the second half where they left off in the first taking the game to Annan and forcing several corners as the home team went out to kill the game but as the game progressed it was Annan who started make their presence felt . In the 60th minute Martin McNiff came close when he latched on to a Hopkirk through ball and his effort was cleared off the goal line by Chris Smith. It was a let off for the home team.
Annan continued to take the game to Stirling and in the 70th minute they finally broke through when Ian Chisholm’s inviting cross whipped in from the right was prodded into the net by David Hopkirk . It was just the break Annan were looking for and in the 75th minute David Crawford pulled off a superb save as he spread his body to deny Kenny MacKay from 6 yards . Immediately at the other end Kenny Arthur pulled off a magnificent save to deny Jordan White who connected with a fine header from a David Weatherston cross.
As the game entered the final 10 minutes Annan continued to look the most dangerous team and substitute Blair Henderson tested keeper Crawford in the 88th minute but the Stirling keeper dealt easily with the effort.
Annan Assistant boss John Joyce said, “the game is still very much alive and we can most definitely win this tie, if we score first it is very much game on, it is only half time and although Stirling hold a 2 goal advantage it is by no means beyond our players to win this tie, it is still well within our grasp and with the home support behind us we can win the tie.”
Stirling boss Greig Macdonald was delighted with the result and in particular his teams first half performance he said, “the game was won in the first half with a superb display of attacking football which Annan struggled to cope with. We are most definitely coming to Annan to win the match and if we score we will have a distinct advantage.”
Stirling Albion: D Crawford, L Hamilton ,R Forsyth,, D McClune, C Smith, D Smith (J Bishop 63 min), P Johnston ,C Comrie, J White, G Weir ( S Cunningham 88 min), D Weatherston (D Ashe 78 min).
Subs (not used): M Ferry, M O’Byrne, C Redford.
Goalscorers- G Weir 14, D Weatherston 28, 32.
Annan Athletic – K Arthur, I Chisholm, M McNiff ( B Henderson 78 min) , P Bradley, P Watson, S Black, K Brannan ( S Sloan 57 min), A Mitchell, K MacKay , D Hopkirk , J Todd . Substitutes Not used S Davidson, M Flynn, B Henderson, A Love, S Sloan, S Swinglehurst, A Mitchell
Goalscorer- Hopkirk 70.
Referee: Greig Aitken . Assistants : Frank Connor and Tom Murphy Crowd: 973