Jul 27 2012 by David Ogilvie, Stirling Observer Friday
THE new season begins for Stirling Albion tomorrow (Saturday) when they make the short journey along the M9 to face Falkirk in the first round of the Ramsdens Cup.
It is a tough opener for Greig McDonald’s side and the Bairns will be expected to take their place in the draw for the second round of a competition they won in April, beating Hamilton in the final.
Binos boss McDonald planned to take in Falkirk’s friendly with Bolton on Wednesday night and will have been impressed by the hosts’ performance. Former Bournemouth striker Lyle Taylor, who scored a hat-trick in Sunday’s 7-3 defeat by Middlesbrough, netted after just 14 seconds but Owen Coyle’s men hit back in a match that ended 1-1.
Falkirk won 3-0 and 4-2 at home when the teams met in Division One in 2010/11 and they also chalked up a 5-3 success in the Challenge Cup in 2004/05, although Albion will take some comfort from a penalty shoot-out triumph in the same competition two years ago.
Stirling last won away to Falkirk on New Year’s Day 1975 and their record in the Ramsdens Cup is patchy. They have twice reached the semi-final stage but have also suffered some disappointing exits and were thrashed 5-0 at Livingston last year after knocking out Deveronvale in round one.
Player-assistant boss Shaun Fagan is set to miss out with a groin problem that has seen him sidelined for the pre-season matches. He played no part in the Highland tour games against Strathspey Thistle (a 4-0 win) and Brora Rangers (a 3-0 defeat) last weekend.
Midfielder Marc McCulloch, another member of the management team, has work commitments and could also be absent, while summer signing David McClune is doubtful. The former Brechin defender has been troubled by a calf problem picked up in one of the club’s early friendly fixtures.
There is better news on Kieran McAnespie, who was able to take part in training on Tuesday night. The ex-Fulham and Hearts man could face one of his many former clubs tomorrow.
McDonald has 24 signed players at his disposal and it will be fascinating to see his preferred line-up, with most of the squad having been given plenty of game time in the friendly matches.
Falkirk will be among the favourites to win Division One in 2012/13 and Stirling could not have asked for a more demanding assignment but the travel is light – a 10-hour round trip to Wick was one possibility when the draw was made – and a share of an expected 2000-plus attendance will provide a welcome cash boost to the club.
McDonald said: “Falkirk are a very good side and they play the game in the right way. We played them in a friendly because I wanted our players to see the level we want to get to but I thought 3-0 was harsh in that match and there were plenty of positives. Falkirk are the favourites but that was also the case two years ago and we managed to beat them.
“We don’t have too many injury worries so that is a good thing and we are looking forward to getting started. The guys have worked really hard in the last few weeks and, although the last game against Brora was disappointing, we can learn from it.”
Admission prices for tomorrow’s tie are £12 for adults and £6 concessions. Stirling fans will be housed in the North Stand, which is behind the goal to the left of the Main Stand.
Stirling Albion season tickets are still on sale, priced £150 (£100 senior citizens and students, £30 children). The next late opening of the club office is on Thursday, August 2, until 7pm. Contact 01786 450399 for details.