So it’s the first weekend of 2013 and we are back on the road again to take in the 3rd Division fixture at Forthbank Stadium for Stirling Albion against Queens Park. It’s incredibly very mild for January and it is most welcome! We’ve had to do a quick pick up in the Maryhill district so the journey time has had to be adjusted!
We got to the ground about 15 minutes before kick off and parked on the main road along from the leisure centre. There was a small trickle of fans heading towards the turnstiles of the main stand, which is the only area of the ground open but there isn’t much to see so we ventured into the main doors of a smart looking building to the left of the main stand which comprised a reception area, possible social club area and souvenir shop. We had a brief look in at the latter, with one of the top items for sale being the DVD of Stirling’s 1-0 victory over The Rangers from earlier in the season.
We asked where you could buy a programme but were informed it was sold out so turned to leave just as the guy said he would go up the stairs and get us one, which was odd! On first glance it looked as though we’d been stung as it is A4 in size and was priced at £3 for what looked more like a club magazine than a programme but it is packed with features, up coming events, interviews, stats, match reports and is actually both good value for money and an interesting read.
On leaving there we walked over to the car park to take a couple of photo’s and were eyed suspiciously by one steward in particular! We then went into the stadium and took up seats on the right of the main stand, near the front as a lot of the seats were marked ‘Reserved’ and we didn’t want to mess with any of the regulars!
I was fortunate enough, for want of an expression, to have seen Queens Park in one of Sky Tv’s featured matches last week so I was more familiar with their playing squad than I would’ve been normally. From Stirling’s ranks I knew of Jamie McCunnie, Kieran McAnespie, Bradley Coyne and Graham Weir, the latter being suspended for this game.
When the game got under way it was set at a very high tempo and Stirling dominated the early openings and should have been ahead in just 2 minutes. Some nice passing on the left hand side led to a through ball for striker Jordan White to run onto but he failed to beat Queens keeper Neil Parry and the follow up was cleared to safety. Albion then forced a couple of corners in quick succession but couldn’t capitalise though remained in control of the first half hour of the game.
It was ironic then that the home side fell behind to a freak goal and completely against the run of play. From out on the right wing Aidan Connolly whipped a cross in which was intended for the back post and although the keeper Mark Peat initially came out to deal with the cross he retracted back anticipating the ball would be cleared by his defence. However the ball evaded everyone and ended up nestled into the bottom corner of the net to give the Spiders a somewhat unjust lead.
Things got worse for Albion just into the second half. A cross field pass found young Connolly again and he threaded a ball through to the over lapping full back, Paul McGinn who took a touch before rifling an unstoppable shot high into the top right hand corner of the net for 2-0. Although we were in the home end we didn’t have a preference for either side and could only applaud the quality of the goal, albeit discreetly as it was befitting of a venue like the Bernabeu or Nou Camp!
The lead didn’t last long though and just as it looked like the 3 points were going back to Glasgow, Stirling were back in the game within 4 minutes of going two down. Albion broke down the left hand side and from a tight angle Scott Davidson saw his shot saved by Neil Parry but the ball broke out to the penalty spot and Mark Ferry volleyed into the top right hand corner to make the last half hour very interesting. Again this was a top drawer finish and eight minutes later we were treated to yet another when Queens Park were awarded a free kick twenty yards out. Stirling could feel aggrieved as it was a pretty soft foul but the referee was right next to the incident. Tony McParland placed the ball down before curling it over the wall and past Mark Peat into the bottom left hand corner for an impressive strike to make it 3-1.
With 15 minutes left, Albion reduced the deficit again when a corner on the right wasn’t cleared properly and although a bit scrappy, Mark Ferry headed in from close range to make it 3-2. The home side didn’t let up their pressure in pushing for an equaliser and came close on a couple of occasions with Michael Keenan passing up two very good scoring opportunities. Despite a late goalmouth scramble right at the death there was no more scoring and Stirling were unfortunate to not pick up a point from this match.
This was an enjoyable game to watch and gave us five goals, three of which were outstanding and it was a great advert for the Scottish 3rd Division. There were some impressive passages of play at times and there are a couple of players in each side who could play at a slightly higher level.
From my recollection Stirling Albion had been on the look out for a new ground location in the late 1980’s and the move to Forthbank Stadium in 1993 also coincided with being one of the first stadiums built to comply with the Taylor Report. It is quite a neat set up with the main stand holding both sets of fans including the 657 in attendance at this game and a similar type stand opposite. Behind both goals there is a small section of terracing which are used for bigger games.
The facilities are modern, admission prices are good value as is the match programme and based on that performance i’m not sure how Stirling Albion are currently propping up the table!