Apr 25 2012 by David Ogilvie, Stirling Observer Wednesday
STIRLING Albion will be relegated to the Third Division if they fail to defeat at Dumbarton at the Doubletree Dunblane Stadium on Saturday.
Greig McDonald’s side were beaten 1-0 by East Fife at New Bayview at the weekend, when a controversial last-minute penalty from Ryan Wallace gave the hosts a win they scarcely deserved and left Albion on the brink of dropping into the bottom tier of Scottish football.
The only positive news for Stirling is that a victory on Saturday will take the issue to the final day because Forfar, five points ahead of the Binos, and Albion Rovers, with a six-point cushion, clash at Station Park, where the worst result for McDonald’s men would be a draw.
If Forfar win then Stirling would have to beat Dumbarton and Rovers and hope to overturn a six-goal deficit to avoid the drop on goal difference while a win for the Coatbridge men would also require Stenhousemuir to beat Forfar on the last day to provide hope.
It’s a complicated scenario but Albion’s task is clear. They must beat a Dumbarton side still requiring points to be certain of the play-offs and follow it up with another victory at Cliftonhill on May 5.
Stirling deserved better than to lose to a disputed spot-kick at East Fife. Referee Mike Tumilty, on the advice of his assistant, ruled that Gary Thom had impeded Bobby Linn when he clearly looked to have won the ball but they ultimately paid the price for being unable to turn some excellent passages of play into a goal.
McDonald was understandably frustrated at the decision but feels a similar display against Dumbarton will be enough to end a run of four home matches without a win.
He said: “It’s not over yet and if the guys show the same level of performance against Dumbarton on Saturday then I’m sure we’ll be celebrating three points. Anyone who was at the game would say Albion deserved to win and even the East Fife guys said that.
“It’s not over. We maybe have to rely on Albion Rovers to do us a favour against Forfar next week but they will be wanting to ensure safety so hopefully they can do that.
“I thought we dominated the game against East Fife. We encourage the guys to play passing football and we knocked the ball about really well. I thought we were good value for a win and were on top in the game when an unbelievably bad decision was given against us.
“I thought the referee had an absolutely excellent game but he gave the penalty on the advice of his assistant. It’s pure physics – the ball was in between my defender and their attacker and Gary Thom won the ball, which is why it went out for a throw-in. It was a good tackle but the linesman said that he fouled the player first which I can’t agree with.
“Don’t get me wrong, this won’t define our season – it is results over the course of the campaign that have cost us – but it was a sickener to lose. The players were under pressure because of the situation we are in but they played probably some of the most attractive football I have seen all season, so to have to stand here and talk about the decision is hard to take.
“We started with three forwards and brought on another two and tried to play attacking football – the guys did everything we asked of them but it just wasn’t our day.”
East Fife boss Gordon Durie admitted Albion were unlucky losers.
He said: “We have to give credit to Stirling because they played well. I don’t know if it was a penalty either but when you are down at the bottom of the league these things tend to go against you. That’s two home games in a row where we haven’t performed well but the result was all important.”
Albion thrashed Dumbarton 5-1 away from home in August but the Sons gained revenge with a 1-0 win at the Doubletree Dunblane Stadium then came from behind to record a 4-1 victory in February.
Alan Adamson’s side put together a remarkable run of results early in 2012 to storm up the table and, although their form faltered, Saturday’s 2-1 home win over Airdrie United was a key result in terms of finishing in the top four and they now look set to face Arbroath in the play-offs.
If Stirling don’t win this weekend then their first season in Division Three since 2003/04, when they were promoted along with Stranraer, awaits next term.