Sunday, September 20, 2009

Match Report: Stirling Albion v East Fife (Scottish 2nd Division)

Everyone knew it wasn't going to last. East Fife's unbeaten start to the season had been under some pressure from almost as soon as it began and Stirling Albion ended it with a comprehensive 3-0 victory yesterday that could have been double.

It didn't look like that for the first third of the match, as both teams were evenly matched and shared possession.

East Fife's play was earning a lot of corners, which Jonathan Smart, Jordyn Sheerin and Guy Kerr all headed over, but at the other end it was another goalkeeping blunder from Michael Brown that saw the Binos open the scoring after 25 minutes.

Brown failed to collect a free kick into the box from John O'Neil and it gave Andy Graham the opportunity to easily head home the opener.

Stirling almost doubled their lead ten minutes later when Martin Grehan hit the bar with a header from a corner, but the Fife held out till half time where they hoped to regroup.

It seemed to have worked with East Fife starting the second half brightly and Paul McManus had a chance three minutes in which was headed clear.

Stirling came back into the game though and Brown made some amends for his earlier mistake when he saved a flashing shot from Andy Gibson on the hour mark.

The big turning point in the game came three minutes later though.

David O'Brien raced clear for Albion and as he checked his run in the box, Paul Nugent's momentum sent him crashing. Penalty for Stirling and a red card for Nugent.

Stewart Devine stepped up for the penalty and Brown did excellent to turn it past the post, but it was going to be an uphill struggle for East Fife for the rest of the game and so it proved.

Stirling doubled their lead on 73 minutes when a long ball bounced over Mark Staunton, allowing Grehan to race through and easily slot the ball past Brown for 2-0.

It was already a foregone conclusion as to where the points were going by this stage, but Stirling put the cherry on top of a fine performance with a third on 84 minutes.

The Fife defence had been all at sea for a lot of the closing moments and they allowed Ross Forsyth to run 30 plus yards into the Fife box, where the defender squared the ball to Ross McCord and the young Dundee United loanee easily hit home.

The final whistle thankfully came and the 211 Fife supporters in the 678 crowd went home pretty despondent.

It was a convincing 3-0 victory for Stirling that has left a lot of questions about East Fife, especially surrounding the defence. With injuries meaning a bit of a makeshift back four, the depth of our squad has been fully tested and the answers haven't been all that positive.

Michael Brown is getting regular pelters from the Fife support now and Stewart Baillie should now be given his chance between the sticks. He came highly recommended from the juniors, so now is the ideal time to see what he has.

If Stevie Crawford could get a keen young striker on loan then we could have promise ahead, but as it stands I fear a relegation battle looming. We should just be thankful that there's some teams in the division that are in a worse state than us!

FINAL SCORE: Stirling Albion 3 - 0 East Fife

** For masochists out there, you can watch "highlights" from yesterday's game HERE **

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