Late goal keeps Stirling play-off hopes alive

Declan Byrne’s 93-minute equaliser kept the battle for the League Two play-offs alive.

7 mins read

Declan Byrne’s 93-minute equaliser kept the battle for the League Two play-offs alive, after it looked like Stranraer’s Daryll Duffy had ended Stirling’s promotion hopes.

Duffy scored what looked like the winner just before 90 minutes, heading home from a pinpoint Jamie Hamill cross to make it 2-1 to the away side. But Stirling refused to go down without a fight and equalised through Declan Byrne who was in the right place at the right time to give Stirling a play-off lifeline.

The result leaves Stirling in third, and currently in a play-off place, but if results go against them on Tuesday night, the play-offs could be out of reach until next season.

Stirling fielded a much-changed team from Thursday’s defeat to Elgin

Stirling came into the game needing a victory to confirm a play-off place and given that was their last game of the regular season it was vital that they took the points in this one.

They started the stronger of the teams, with chances for Ross McGeachie and Jordan McGregor, but Stranraer looked dangerous on the break, and perhaps the more likely side to score.

This proved to be the case when the away side took the lead on 28 minutes, with Binos defender Jordan Allan being unfortunate to turn the ball into his own net after a good cross from Andy Stirling.

Stranraer could have added more goals just moments later when James Hilton and Thomas Orr had big chances saved by Blair Currie.

Stirling didn’t let Stranraer’s attacking dominance get the better of them though and managed to equalise just before half time through captain Ross McGeachie, who headed home from a well taken free kick.

The second half was a cagey affair to begin with – it was clear to see that neither side wanted to lose this game.

Stranraer began to pile on the pressure, with left winger Andy Stirling especially proving to be a thorn in the Binos side.

Albion could have wrapped the game up as it came to a close, with striker Sean Heaver seeing two massive chances go a miss.

They would rue the missed chances when veteran striker Darryl Duffy popped up with an expert header, which looked to cement Stranraer’s play-off position.

But right at the death Stirling showed their character – putting themselves back in contention for one of the remaining play-off slots. Chris Hamilton floated a ball in to Dylan Mackin who headed the ball off the post, where substitute Declan Byrne was on hand to fire home.

In the end, a point a piece was a reflective result of what was a thrilling match.

The battle of the shapes

Stirling lined up in a 4-4-2 for this match – one of a couple systems they have played in recent weeks. Chris Hamilton was the pivot in the midfield with attacking responsibilities shared between Jack Leitch, Kurtis Roberts and David Wilson.

Stranraer went for a 4-2-3-1 which provided the away side with the width to get in behind the Stirling defence. This proved to be effective in scoring form open play, with both their goals coming from getting in behind and firing balls across the box.

The Binos on the other hand struggled throughout the match to utilise the wide areas, with most play from the wings coming from full backs, or Dylan Bikey who often played the channels in his role as second striker. This often limited their chances to set pieces, where they looked more dangerous, and eventually scored.

But in the end both shapes provided chances for the teams, with Stirling looking dangerous on the break in the second half in-behind a tiring defence, whilst Stranraer always looked like they could create when in and around the Stirling box.

A tale of chances taken, and chances missed

Stirling will feel aggrieved not to have taken all three points in the end – a result which would have confirmed their play-off place.

Sean Heaver missed two big chances late in the second half, which could have secured the points for Stirling, and with more composure they could be sitting comfortably, in preparation for upcoming play-off games. Dylan Bikey was also wasteful when played in behind on occasion.

Stranraer were also wasteful at times too though, and could have easily taken the win themselves, if they had been more clinical.

Both sides took their chances at key times however, and on balance the two late goals produced a deserved result.

What does the result mean for both sides?

This result continues the play-off battle onto the last game of the regular season – with Stirling, Elgin and Stranraer all in with a shout of earning the last two play-off slots, after Edinburgh City confirmed their place today.

Stirling don’t play on Tuesday and are now relying on both Elgin and Stranraer failing to win in their games against Queen’s Park and Edinburgh City respectively. The three teams are within a point of each other and have identical goal difference.

To keep up to date with the drama of the final day of the season, follow our coverage on our Twitter, where we will see whether Stirling have done enough to earn a play-off place.

Featured Image: Daily Record

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4th Year Journalism Studies and Politics Student at Stirling University. Sports Editor. Bylines in Brig Newspaper and The Oban Times

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