Feb 29 2012 by Donald Morton, Stirling Observer Wednesday
10 man Albion suffer heavy defeat
FOR 45 minutes it looked as if Stirling’s recent love affair with Dumbarton would continue, but the second half was more akin to being stood up on a hot date ... anticipation followed by despair.
The Binos triumphed 5-1 here in August and also won 3-2 and 4-2 en route to the Second Division title in 2009/10, the second of those successes coming just three days after a 9-0 humiliation in the Scottish Cup at Ross County.
In short, Dumbarton has often been a place of comfort for Albion and, leading at the interval, Greig McDonald’s men were on course to end a seven-match barren sequence and climb off the foot of the table at the expense of Albion Rovers, who visit Stirling on Saturday.
But it all went horribly, horribly wrong. Scott Davidson’s early goal, his seventh of the season, was cancelled out when Ally Graham took advantage of some shoddy defending just after half-time.
Davidson was then sent off for what referee Brian Winter deemed a dangerous tackle on James Creaney and goals in the final 16 minutes from Scott Agnew and Mark Gilhaney (twice) saw Dumbarton strengthen their grip on third spot.
Davidson’s dismissal was a key moment. Winter’s decision enraged the Albion management team, who had a good view of the incident.
From the press area on the opposite side it was hard to tell, and views were mixed, but some felt the 20-year-old may have led with his studs. It doesn’t take much to be sent off in the current climate and Davidson is the fourth Stirling player to see red in the space of six weeks, following John Crawley, Brian Allison and Josh Flood – a worrying trend for a club that were fined by the Scottish FA for a poor disciplinary record in 2010/11.
It was 1-1 when Davidson walked but the momentum already appeared to be with the hosts, who had won six and drawn one of their seven previous matches to storm into the play-off places – a stark contrast from the team that were demolished by Albion six months ago.
Alan Adamson’s men shrugged off the loss of top scorer Bryan Prunty to injury in the warm-up and were unfortunate to be behind at the break. It didn’t matter. They have specialised in comebacks in recent times and have much to look forward to in the remaining weeks of the season.
Stirling just can’t stop conceding goals. It’s 14 now in four consecutive away defeats. For the third game in a row they took the lead but only the 1-1 midweek draw with leaders Cowdenbeath yielded anything positive and it was sandwiched between a 3-2 reverse to Brechin and this latest setback.
The Binos were at Glebe Park for a rearranged fixture against play-off chasing Brechin last night (Tuesday) but their season may well be defined by momentous home games against Albion Rovers on Saturday and Forfar next Tuesday.
This turned into a desperate afternoon on a damp, dreich day in Dumbarton, yet it had all started so brightly. Kevin Kelbie had already missed a good chance before Stirling took the lead inside four minutes.
Davidson capitalised on a poor clearance and squeezed a low shot in off the post, although the ball may have taken a touch off a defender on the way.
It was an advantage the visitors failed to build on. A team showing one change from midweek, with Shaun Dillon back from injury for the suspended Brian Allison, gave the ball away too often. Dumbarton’s passing was sharper but the same could not be said of their first-half finishing.
On-loan Falkirk teenager Graham steered a shot wide, Alan Lithgow headed over from a corner and Graham missed another opportunity before Pat Walker failed to convert after Callum Reidford had parried an awkward shot. It was looking like it might be Stirling’s day.
Unfortunately, their habit of starting the second half slowly resurfaced and Graham got away from Dillon, who hadn’t put a foot wrong before the interval. That shouldn’t have led to a goal but Graham could hardly believe his luck as the defence parted and he slotted past Reidford.
The Binos coped well with Davidson’s subsequent dismissal until the closing stages. A kind bounce of the ball allowed Scott Agnew a sight at goal but there was nothing fortuitous about the finish as the midfielder thundered a drive high into the net.
Stirling were up against it now and there was no way back when Mark Gilhaney thumped a shot past Reidford following a corner, before the right winger was left unmarked to head home the fourth.
Substitute Darren Smith hit the post when it was 3-1 and also smashed a shot into the side netting with only keeper Stephen Grindlay to beat, but there was no denying Dumbarton’s superiority as Stirling’s suffered their third 4-1 away defeat in the space of four weeks.
DUMBARTON: Grindlay, Nugent, Creaney (Finnie 70), Lithgow, McNiff, Lamont (Borris 87), Gilhaney, Wallace (Nicoll 70), Walker, Agnew, Graham. Subs not used: Gray, Gastal.
STIRLING ALBION: Reidford, Fagan (Jacobs 62), Crawley, McSorley, Thom, Dillon, Davidson, Ferry, Kelbie (Smith 58), Weir, McLeish (Cook 62). Subs not used: Macpherson, Filler.
Referee: Brian Winter