Stevie Farrell’s Stranraer side moved to within three points of a promotional play-off spot after they defeated Stirling Albion at Forthbank.
It was two former Binos who combined to put the visitors ahead just after half-time, a quick counter-attack seen Darryl Duffy play through Andy Stirling, with the midfielder keeping his cool to calmly slot home the one-on-one.
Albion made several attempts to get back into the game but couldn’t grab that crucial equaliser, Jordan McGregor was sent off late on after he was shown a second yellow card.
Brig Sport were there to live tweet as the action unfolded, and here are three of the things we learned!
Stirling may be over-reliant on Ryan…
Andy Ryan has had an incredible 2020/21 campaign.
The 26-year-old sits only one goal behind the division’s leading scorer, but it’s not just his goal output Albion badly missed.
Ryan’s link-up and creative play cannot be underestimated. As well as being the club’s top goalscorer, his five assists in all competitions put him ahead of any teammate in that regard, all in all out of the 24 goals scored by Stirling Albion players this season the striker has had a direct involvement in 14!
Unfortunately for Stirling, he missed out last night through suspension, and ultimately this influence Stirling struggled to cope without. Byrne and Mackin were paired up-top but truth be told neither managed to cause a consistent threat to Stranraer’s defence. If Albion have to keep up the chase with Edinburgh City in second, they might need some more contributors at the top end of the pitch to help out.
Stranraer’s creative midfielders thrive
Despite just having the one goal, last night’s match was more than an entertaining watch. A large reason for that was Ruari Paton, and in particular, Andy Stirling and James Hilton.
Blues boss Farrell pointed out his side’s aim of playing two false tens in behind the striker, with Paton and Hilton handed the roles of drifting inwards towards Stirling’s three centre-backs.
With both men moving forward in possession, vast amounts of space became open for left-sided centre-mid Stirling to drive into, and he didn’t half take advantage!
Stirling’s direct running was a joy to watch, perhaps not for the Albion defence though, who repeatedly had to resort to fouling the 31-year-old. Eventually resulting in the sending off of Jordan McGregor on 86 minutes.
Hilton’s halfway line crossbar hit was part of a particularly effective first-half of his, similarly to Andy Stirling his ability to dribble by a man was a threat throughout, which massively helped the game plan from the coaching team be put into action.
Albion still look solid defensively
Slipping three points behind Edinburgh City is of course not the result Kevin Rutkiewicz would’ve hoped for, but perhaps last night conveyed the foundations his Stirling Albion side are based on.
The Binos have conceded just 13 goals in the league this season, not allowing more than two in a single game in the process, which is a very strong record. Had their star man been up-front things might just have gone differently tonight, at the back, Albion were fairly solid throughout. The goal they let in came from a cheap loss of possession in the Stranraer third, with the away side being able to break with pace and find the only goal of the game.
Throughout the 90 minutes though Stirling’s back three/five was fairly well organised which limited Stranraer’s attacking output, in particular, Kyle Banner and Jordan McGregor produced two sublime blocks in the second half.
One lapse in concentration aside and Stirling might just have taken a point tonight. Football, of course, doesn’t work in if’s, but’s and maybe’s, however, it’s important to remember the club sit in a healthy third position for a reason, and their sturdy defence is a major factor behind that.
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