Mar 7 2012 by Donald Morton, Stirling Observer Wednesday
Stirling stroll to easy win
STIRLING climbed off the foot of Division Two at Rovers’ expense to move level on points with Forfar.
A run of eight games without a win had the Binos peering into the abyss but the men from Coatbridge remain without a win since beating Dumbarton back on December 10.
Stirling and Rovers meet on the last day of 2011/12 in a potentially massive match at Cliftonhill but the weekend result means the Binos have taken seven points from nine in this fixture and that could prove crucial.
Defeat on Saturday would have been a shattering blow but, after a slow start, goals from Alan Cook and Kevin Kelbie midway through the first half put the game beyond the visitors, who have now lost seven away games on the trot, scoring just a single goal in the process.
Cook sealed the points 12 minutes from time with his seventh league goal of the campaign, bringing him level with top scorer Scott Davidson, who was suspended.
Darren Smith, Shaun Dillon and Marc McCulloch were missing through injury but skipper Brian Allison was back after a two-match ban and there was a debut as a late substitute for U19 winger Stephen Day. In his short time on the pitch the left-sided Day was quick, positive and lively and will surely be given another chance to shine in the run-in.
It was a hugely satisfying afternoon for the Binos as they recorded back-to-back league wins for the third time this season. Three on the trot has not been seen since April 2010, when Allan Moore’s team were heading for the Second Division title.
Stirling made a fairly sluggish start and might have fallen behind had John Gemmell, who shot tamely at Callum Reidford, or Robert Love, who fired wide from a good position, been more accurate.
Crucially, the opening goal came at the other end. Cook, who had broken the deadlock at Brechin in midweek, tried his luck from just outside the box and the ball flew past keeper Chris Fahey with the aid of a deflection. Kelbie later claimed he got the final touch.
There was no dispute about Stirling’s second goal only three minutes later. John Crawley swung the ball over from the left, Graham Weir nodded it down and Kelbie lashed a wonderful shot into the net for his first goal since signing from Glenavon in January.
Mark Ferry spurned good opportunities to add a third goal before half-time, twice sending efforts narrowly past the post, but at the other end Reidford made a key stop from Tony Stevenson.
McDonald sent his players out early for the second half in an effort to keep them sharp but the visitors probably enjoyed their best spell and were unfortunate to have a goal disallowed before full-back Barry Russell – who equalised here in August – forced a great save from Reidford.
Gemmell, a threat in the air as always, headed against the bar but it just was not Rovers’ day. They had lost captain Ciaran Donnelly to injury inside five minutes and were forced to replace their goalkeeper early in the second period for the same reason.
Derek Gaston did not have too much to do but was picking the ball out the net in 78 minutes when a terrific break forward allowed Craig McLeish to pick out Cook, who had time and space to make sure.
Defender Gary Thom, who has already bagged four goals in 2012, should have added another to his haul in the closing stages but scooped the ball over from close range. It did not matter. The points were safe and the fans were able to toast a first Saturday success at the DDS for five months.
STIRLING ALBION: Reidford, Fagan, Crawley, McSorley, Thom, Allison, Cook (Jacobs 83), Ferry, Weir (Day 87), Kelbie, (Macpherson 90), McLeish. Subs not used: Flood, Filler.
ALBION ROVERS: Fahey (Gaston 51), Reid, Russell, Stevenson, O’Byrne, Donnelly (Marriott 5), Love, McStay, Gemmell, Chaplain, Halsman (Boyle 56). Subs not used: McKay, Werndly.
Referee: Kevin Clancy