This afternoon couldn’t have gone much sweeter for Stirling as they battered Cowdenbeath 5-1 at Central Park, all while play-off rivals Elgin and Edinburgh City dropped crucial points.
We spoke pre-match of how important it was for the Binos to bounce back from Tuesday’s defeat at home to Stranraer. When Andy Ryan pounced on a loose ball in the box just seven minutes in it looked like the Albion were meaning business.
Perhaps it might not have been that simple. Craig Barr headed in a perfectly delivered free-kick from Fraser Mullen to grab an instant reply for the hosts, but it wasn’t long before Kevin Rutkiewicz’s side took the game and made it their own.
Barr would quickly turn the villain after he gave away a cheap penalty on Andy Ryan, in what was the first of the home bench’s many frustrations with the match officials, but the spot kick was given. Albion’s top scorer dusted himself off to convert.
Stirling made seven changes from their poor display midweek, and it’s clear to say these decisions had a great impact. Just before half-time Dylan Mackin dropped deep to spread the play to Jordan Allan on the left, he squared to the awaiting Hamilton, and by then the game looked over.
Banner added a fourth with a well-directed header just after the interval, before Mackin was rewarded for his display with an easy tap-in on 65 minutes, completing the rout.
Gary Bollan’s anger towards the referee, and perhaps somewhat his own team’s performance, earned him a red card after the full-time whistle.
Here are three things we learned from this afternoon’s match!
Rutkiewicz’s changes pay off
The Stirling Albion manager pulled no punches in his post-match assessment of the Stranraer defeat, saying that his team were miles off playing good enough and that “adjustments had to be made” going into today.
From the player’s that came in, he couldn’t have asked for much more!
Jordan Allan and Kieran Moore’s energy as wing-backs had a massive influence going both forwards and back, whilst the entirely new midfield combination of Leitch, Docherty and Hamilton caused Cowdenbeath problems all game long. All three utilised their license to get forward to great effect, and perhaps all three were lucky not to all get on the scoresheet!
Everyone knew Andy Ryan’s return would be a boost, and if anyone didn’t it probably would’ve only taken seven minutes to notice! Two goals, an assist to his strike partner, and another that hit the bar, Stirling must’ve been glad to have their top scorer back.
No support for Kris Renton up-top
The Blue Brazil’s experienced striker has an accomplished record throughout his career in Scottish football, but today even Cristiano Ronaldo might’ve struggled in that set-up.
Gary Bollan deployed his team in a 4-1-4-1 formation, with the emphasis being stressed on aiming for defensive solidity. When they went behind, their striker was left doing a lot of the work himself at the top end of the pitch. Swann and Buchanan struggled to influence the game from the wide areas whilst neither of the three central midfielders got up often enough to support.
A lot of this might be more based on the Stirling Albion team though. As mentioned the energy of their three centre-mids left blue jerseys chasing shadows from the off, whilst the Cowdenbeath wide-men were occupied by either the wing-backs, or if they were caught out, the central defenders on either side.
What this unfortunately left for Renton was not much in terms of options when he had the ball. Stirling’s shape was superb, and really limited the home side’s attacking opportunities.
Massive Games for Both Midweek
This afternoon’s encounter set up Tuesday’s League Two card to be quite the entertaining watch.
For Stirling, it’s second vs. third as Edinburgh City make their way to Forthbank. Both teams go into the cash level on 32 points in the race for second place, and with this weekend’s results, the Binos will certainly be fancying themselves as favourites.
At the same time, Stranraer will face an in-form Albion Rovers, whilst Elgin City take on champions-elect Queens Park at the Falkirk Stadium. If there’s a winner at Forthbank, they’ll be doing their chances of securing second place the world of good!
At the other end of the table it’s Brechin City vs. Cowdenbeath at Glebe Park. Many would have the Hedge dead and buried, which perhaps is understandable, but they may still have a glimmer of hope. A Brechin victory on the night would take them to within five points of 9th placed Cowden, and with the teams still to play another time before the season’s conclusion, perhaps things at the bottom won’t be quite settled yet…