Aug 15 2012 by David Ogilvie, Stirling Observer Wednesday
STIRLING Albion head for Elgin on Saturday, sitting proudly at the top of the Third Division thanks to a 5-1 thrashing of Annan Athletic on the opening day.
Graham Weir and youngsters Danny Ashe and Jamie Clark all scored their first goals for the club, with Scott Davidson and Gavin Macpherson also on target for Greig McDonald’s team.
The first-half dismissal of Annan forward Graeme Ramage certainly eased Albion’s path but no one could have expected them to storm to a 4-0 interval lead for the first time since thrashing Alloa 5-0 at Forthbank almost six years ago.
Full-back Kieran McAnespie will return from a ban for this weekend’s game against Ross Jack’s men, who opened up with a 0-0 draw at Berwick Rangers in Division Three and have exited cup competitions to Arbroath, 7-5 in an astonishing 90 minutes, and 2-0 away to Falkirk.
Elgin’s strong home record was the springboard that led them into the play-offs last season and they were unfortunate to lose to Albion Rovers at the semi-final stage.
This will be a big test for Stirling on their first visit to Borough Briggs for eight years but the campaign could not have got off to a better start against Annan and the Binos ended the day two points ahead of Rangers – held 2-2 at Peterhead – and level with Queen’s Park and Clyde at the summit.
McDonald said: “I thought we were good value for the win and I felt were on top even before they went down to 10 men. Last year we were in a similar position a couple of times and it didn’t actually help us but the boys adapted to it really well.
“I’m delighted for the players because they have been working really hard in terms of the shape and the way we want to play.
“I’m pleased for the supporters as well. They have had a couple of tough years but there is an air of optimism around the club now and we are starting again almost. We want to have a positive season and this is a great start but we know Elgin are a good side because we had them watched at the end of last year when they were potential play-off opponents for us.
“It was good for Graham Weir to get his first goal but, even taking that out, I thought he was different class. His work-rate is exceptional and some of his play was a joy to watch. Last year he did everything but score but he is a great professional and that is why we brought guys like him, Jamie McCunnie and Mark Ferry to the club.”
Weir said: “We took advantage of the red card but I felt we were the better team even before that. It was hard to keep it going in the second half when we were 4-0 up but it’s a great start to the season.
“It was nice to get my first goal for Stirling and I feel as if I’m playing well. I enjoy the role I am playing behind the strikers.”
Annan manager Harry Cairney said of Ramage’s red card: “His elbow was high, he had no chance of winning the ball and it was silly challenge to make. Their manager turned to me immediately and said it was a bit harsh but we conceded poor goals from corners and I expect better. We beat Livingston a couple of weeks ago but you have good days and bad days in football.”
The one negative from Saturday’s five-star show was a knee injury suffered by summer signing Bradley Coyne, who was carried off at the end of the first half.
The former St Mirren forward left the stadium on crutches and is out of the trip to Elgin but it is too early to know how long the 19-year-old will be missing.
McDonald added: “It could be a ligament strain but we won’t know how it is looking until his knee settles down. I hope it is something that only keeps him out for a few weeks, rather than anything longer, but unfortunately we just need to wait and see.”
Keeper David Crawford has left Forthbank after his short-term deal came to an end.
Crawford was signed to play in the League Cup tie at Arbroath on August 4 as Sam Filler, Mark Peat and Jamie Cleland were out but all three are now available for selection and Crawford will move on, despite an impressive showing in his only outing at Gayfield.
Binos boss McDonald said: “I’d like to thank David for helping us out at such short notice and for putting in an excellent performance up at Arbroath. He is a great guy and a good professional and I am sure he will be a great asset for whoever he chooses to sign for. Everyone at Stirling Albion would like to wish him all the best for the future.”