Aug 22 2012 by David Ogilvie, Stirling Observer Wednesday
Elgin City 3 Stirling Albion 1
AT FIVE past three on Saturday all was well with the world for Stirling as they looked down on the rest of the Third Division from their perch at the summit.
Around the same time as Scott Davidson was giving Albion the lead in the Highland sunshine, 200 miles to the south East Stirling had almost unbelievably gone ahead at Ibrox.
The Binos, briefly, were five points clear of Rangers. The result in Glasgow was never going to last and Ally McCoist’s men romped home 5-1 but there was massive disappointment that Albion could not preserve their early advantage and retain top spot.
After only two rounds of fixtures no one can lay claim to a 100 per cent record. For the first 15 minutes or so Greig McDonald’s men looked very much like following the opening-day 5-1 thrashing of Annan with another notable success but it all rather fell apart against Ross Jack’s team.
Elgin had started with a 0-0 draw at Berwick but it was their home form that propelled them into the play-offs last season – only champions Alloa won more games on their own patch – and this performance suggests they will again be top-four contenders.
Davidson’s early strike was cancelled out in 17 minutes by man of the match Craig Gunn, Mark Nicolson fired City ahead 10 minutes after half-time and veteran striker Dennis Wyness sealed a deserved three points for the club who joined the SFL along with Peterhead in 2000.
Elgin have never escaped from Division Three since then but are a vastly improved outfit from the one Albion last met on league business in 2003/04 when they notched up four wins out of four.
Yet the day started so well for the visitors, who showed two changes from the previous week.
Goalkeeper Mark Peat was handed his debut between the posts as Sam Filler dropped out and Gary Brass started alongside Davidson in attack, with Bradley Coyne sidelined due to a knee injury.
On a glorious afternoon when the fans were probably at risk of sunburn – something unlikely to be a recurring problem on the Third Division circuit this season – Stirling scored inside four minutes.
Davidson surged forward from the middle of the park and fed Graham Weir on the left flank. The ex-Hearts and Raith player held the ball up and returned it to Davidson, who buried a cool finish inside the left-hand post to give on-loan Dundee keeper John Gibson no chance.
Elgin, who had not failed to score in a home game since last September, offered little initial threat but equalised out of nothing. Jamie McCunnie was caught in possession, David Niven’s cross was fumbled by Peat and the ball broke for Gunn to steer it into the unguarded net.
There has been a feeling with Albion in recent times that one goal is never enough – they have only managed a single shut-out on the road in the last 18 months – and this one changed the match.
Suddenly Elgin were menacing. Peat made a smart stop from Gunn and Brian Cameron fired wastefully over when he should have scored, although Mark Ferry’s 20-yarder at the other end produced an excellent save from Gibson.
McDonald added more experience at the interval by replacing youngsters Ross McGeachie and Gavin Macpherson with David McClune and Kieran McAnespie but they were fortunate not to fall behind almost immediately when Paul McMullan charged through the middle, only for Peat to block his shot.
The ex-Aberdeen number one may have been at fault for the opening goal but he probably ended the game as Stirling’s best player and another super stop kept out a header from Paul Millar, the tallest player in Scottish football.
By then the game had slipped away from Stirling, whose build-up play was often too slow. Elgin were eager and played some good football. They are no route one team but were happy to get the ball forward quickly when required and that seemed to unsettle the Albion defence all afternoon.
Too many times a black and white attacker got in behind those in pale blue and the warnings were not heeded. In 55 minutes Gunn’s shot was blocked on the line and Mark Nicolson rammed home the rebound to give the hosts a lead they fully merited.
Weir almost equalised when he fizzed a shot inches wide but Albion created few clear-cut openings in the second half and were always vulnerable. They conceded again 10 minutes from time when the impressive Cameron teed up the 36-year-old Wyness to find the corner from close range.
It was a dispiriting end to a match that began with so much promise but Albion now have home games against Clyde and Queen’s Park to look forward to before the international break.
ELGIN CITY: Gibson, Beveridge (Harkins 66), McMullan, Crighton, Duff, Niven, Gunn, O’Donoghue (McLean 85), Wyness (Millar 82), Nicolson, Cameron. Subs not used: Hallford, Black.
STIRLING ALBION: Peat, McGeachie (McClune 46), Ashe, McCunnie (Flood 66), Clark, Allison, Davidson, Macpherson (McAnespie 46), Weir, Brass, Ferry. Subs: Day, Filler.
Referee: Kevin Graham