Scotland’s lowest crowd of the day witnessed Stranraer’s winless streak continue.
It now numbers eight matches since they were victorious as they lost to the odd goal in three to Brechin City at Stair Park on Saturday.
Surprisingly, such is the unpredictable nature of results in League One, they still maintain their third place spot with their chances of reaching the play-offs still very much in their own hands with two matches to play.
The blues got off to the worst possible start with only four minutes gone Grant Gallagher clumsily barged into the back of City striker Andy Jackson inside the box and referee Duncan had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Alan Trouten given the honours and he strode up and coolly stroked the spot kick into David Mitchell’s left hand corner.
It was a set-back but one that did not appear to make the home team dispirited as they took the game to the visitors with City all but penned back in their own half for long periods. A throw in by Andy Stirling found Martin Grehan who shielded the ball well and laid it off to strike partner Jamie Longworth with his first time snap shot held in his midriff by Graeme Smith in the Brechin goal. Moments later the same player had another effort on target, once again Grehan held the ball up and waited to play the ball to Scott Robertson who had made up ground down the wing, his cross into the box saw Stranraer’s top scorer get a toe poke on the ball but Smith was down quickly to save. The signs were bright for a home equaliser at this stage as they were in complete control, Andy Stirling looking to have an appetite for taking on the City defence combining well with the Stranraer front pairing. Sean Winter should probably have done better when a deflected ball found him clear on the right but his shot although carrying plenty of venom lacked direction and nestled in the side netting with a quarter of an hour gone.
Then the best move of the game and reminiscent of some of the fast, free flowing football that was the trademark of Stranraer’s post Xmas form. Mark Docherty played the ball down the left to Stirling, a one two with Longworth down the same wing saw Stirling in full flow leaving three Brechin defenders in his wake. He played in an inviting low cross that Grehan flicked goalwards but with Smith beaten it hit the base of the post, rolled back out and was booted out for a corner by Greg Cameron. Grehan then won a powerful header at the far post, the ball knocked back across the Brechin goalmouth but there were no takers and it was cleared by Graham Hay.
Home fans didn’t have to wait much longer for the equaliser as Steven Bell took control of the ball in midfield and passed to Winter who charged forward looking for an opening, Andy Stirling available on the left was the recipient of the pass, he cut inside and his low curling ball into the box evaded both Longworth and Smith to nestle in the net. Home fans must have thought this would be the first of many at this stage as the home team were in complete control of proceedings, Mitchell able to bask in the sunshine such was the lack of action at the Approach end.
Brechin lost the services of former blues centre half Gerry McLauchlan through injury after just twenty four minutes, Steven Jackson coming on to replace him but it was still one way traffic.
Stirling again played in his in swinging low cross, this time more central in the City goalmouth, Grehan went for it with Smith and the ball went out for a corner off Hay as Stranraer continued to crank up the pressure. Winter had a drive blocked, Scott Rumsby headed wide from a Stirling corner and Longworth’s flicked header flew narrowly past the post. Stranraer lost the services of Bell with an ankle injury, replaced by Stephen Stirling who was quickly up to speed of the game firing just over with a clever effort. Trouten did have a good run and cross from the right hand side but his effort was cleared by Rumsby then Andy Jackson skied an opportunity from the edge of Stranraer’s box well over the bar.
In the final action of the first half Robertson did well to quickly turn inside the visitor’s box but his shot was well held by Smith. Brechin must have wondered how they had managed to go in level at the interval but would Stranraer rue not capitalising on their first half superiority?
Brechin certainly did look a more confident outfit at the start of the second half and pushed forward, Robert Thomson and Bobby Barr had been quiet but the tall Jackson was getting involved in most forward moves City made. Hay and Jackson played a one, two, Hay’s shot blocked by Rumsby but fell for Barr who skied his shot high over the Stranraer bar. Stranraer had a real opportunity to take the lead almost on the hour, Stephen Stirling played the ball into Winter’s feet inside the Brechin area, he cut inside to evade Craig Molloy but then his shot was wild and over the bar.
Robertson was next to spurn a chance and keep the ball boys busy heading a Winter cross into the Approach. Grehan and Andy Stirling combined for the latter to pick out Longworth in the box but his first time effort went past Smith’s post the home crowd were getting frustrated about the missed chances and this was filter through to the team especially when moments later Brechin took a shock lead.
A hopeful ball was floated into the Stranraer box, both Rumsby and Frank McKeown were dragged to the ball that Jackson headed back into the path of the unmarked Robert Thomson and the former Dundee Utd striker didn’t miss firing home from the centre of goal. Longworth was replaced by David McKenna after 73 minutes and the within minutes he could have got one over on his former employers. Grehan won a header that set McKenna clear and he set off towards goal but hesitation set in and he cut inside rather than getting a strike away and the Brechin defence crowded him out.
The same player saw Smith tip over a side footed effort from a Winter pass with time against the Blues in their endeavours to pull level.
Goal scorer Thomson could have put the result beyond doubt in stoppage time but with Stranraer committed up field leaving holes at the back he pulled his shot wide of the post with the goal at his mercy. The three points secure Brechin’s place in League One for another season with Stranraer heading to Ibrox on Saturday for Sky’s live televise match hopeful that lightning can strike twice and they can ruin Rangers trophy day.
Stranraer: David Mitchell, Scott Robertson, Mark Docherty, Scott Rumsby (Adam Forde 84), Frank McKeown, Steven Bell (Stephen Stirling 33), Sean Winter, Grant Gallagher, Martin Grehan, Jamie Longworth (David McKenna 73), Andy Stirling. Subs Not Used: Ryan Borris, David MacGregor, Lloyd Kinnaird, Chris Fahey.
Booked: S Stirling, Gallagher
Goal: A Stirling 22
Brechin City: Graeme Smith, Paul McLean, Darren Petrie, Graham Hay, Gerry McLauchlan (Steven Jackson 24), Craig Molloy, Alan Trouten, Greg Cameron, Andy Jackson, Robert Thomson, Bobby Barr (Ryan Ferguson 68).
Subs Not Used: Derek Carcary, Steven Robb, Ewan Moyes, Garry Kenneth, Craig Nelson.
Booked: Hay, Cameron, Thomson
Goals: Trouten 5 Pen, Thomson 67
Attendance: 407 Referee: G Duncan