Aug 15 2012 by David Ogilvie, Stirling Observer Wednesday
Binos hit five on opening day
Stirling Albion 5 Annan Athletic 1
ALBION made a dream start to their first campaign in the lowest tier of Scottish football for eight years with a demolition of 10-man Annan to storm to the top of the day-one table.
After two successive relegations the Binos badly needed a positive result at the beginning of the new league season and they got it thanks a four-goal blitz in the first half.
Albion were already ahead through Scott Davidson when Graeme Ramage was sent off for what was deemed to be an elbow on Mark Ferry and they took full advantage of the extra man to record their biggest home win since thumping Brechin 6-2 in April 2010.
In a remarkable 11-minute spell Graham Weir, Danny Ashe and Jamie Clark all scored their first goals for the club and all of them came from corners as the Annan defence self-destructed.
Harry Cairney’s side lost in the play-off final two seasons ago and finished in sixth place last term, having led the table at Christmas. They have already knocked Livingston out of the Ramsdens Cup this season but will not look back on their first Forthbank visit with fondness.
Gavin Macpherson claimed Albion’s fifth goal with a deflected free-kick midway through an uneventful second half and Davidson was denied by a spectacular save, while Daly McSorley rattled the post as Stirling finished the match with a flurry.
Annan’s only consolation came 18 minutes from time when substitute Graeme Bell’s free-kick deceived keeper Sam Filler and floated into the net, denying Stirling a clean sheet going into Saturday’s trip to face an Elgin team who opened up with a 0-0 draw at Berwick.
The concession of that goal hardly mattered but it was more of a concern to see striker Bradley Coyne carried off with a knee injury at the end of the first half. The former St Mirren striker had come close to a goal before he overstretched for the ball and collapsed to the ground in agony.
It is too early to know how long the summer signing from Forfar will be out of action and you can only hope the damage is not as serious as it first appeared.
Other than that, this was a perfect day for Stirling. Cup defeats to Falkirk and Arbroath were perhaps expected, although they were unfortunate to lose to Arbroath on penalties, but no one was quite sure what to anticipate in the opening league fixture.
Last season’s top scorer Davidson had a big influence on proceedings and Weir was a key man in a 4-3-1-2 formation that saw Ross McGeachie start in place of the suspended Kieran McAnespie while Filler returned from a ban to take his place between the posts.
In front of a bigger than average crowd on an ideal day for football, there was a fairly low-key start to the first ever meeting between the clubs before Davidson pounced in 16 minutes with a crisp finish on the turn after being set up by Weir to become the first player to ruffle the new red-and-white nets at Forthbank.
When Ramage was sent packing Stirling’s hopes soared but their fans will have recalled a horrible struggle to see off Brechin from a similar position last year and a hugely damaging defeat to East Fife when they played more than half the game with an extra man.
Here it was Annan’s inability to defend corners that saw this game run away from them, as much as Albion’s numerical advantage. There was a startling statistic that showed Aston Villa had failed to score a single goal from 218 corners in the Premiership last term – here Stirling profited three times in little over 10 minutes.
Weir has had to wait a long time for his first Stirling goal since arriving from Brechin in January but he coolly nodded in a Davidson cross. Ashe lashed home number three at the back post and central defender Clark guided his effort into the top corner a few minutes later.
The contest was over by half-time and Stirling were heading for the top of the table, two points clear of a certain Glasgow-based club. Rangers will doubtless be at the summit when they arrive at Forthbank on October 6 but this was a day to savour for the success-starved Stirling fans.
STIRLING ALBION: Filler, McGeachie (McClune 68), Ashe, McCunnie, Clark, Allison, Davidson, Macpherson (McSorley 68), Weir, Coyne (Brass 46), Ferry. Subs not used: Flood, Cleland.
ANNAN: Mitchell, Blake, Thorburn, Swinglehurst, McGowan, Chaplain, Sloan, McKechnie (Steele 46), Daly (McGachie 70), Ramage, Love (Bell 46). Subs not used: Jardine, Summersgill.
Referee: Greg Aitken