Stirling Albion 1-1 Arbroath
B. Henderson (76 pen) M. Scott (5)
Draw crowns Arbroath as Champions!
Match report by Theo Kyriacou
Arbroath drew 1-1 away at Stirling Albion, a result which, as Annan Athletic beat Forfar 4-2, meant that Arbroath were crowned as champions of the SPFL League 2. Cheered on by a huge travelling support of over 1200 Red Lichties, Dick Campbell’s men earned a well earned point and with it promotion to League 1.
Dick Campbell named the same starting eleven as the one that beat Elgin 3-2 at Gayfield last Saturday. Gomes was in goal. The back-four was made up of Gold at right-back, Hodge at left-back and Little was alongside Hamilton at centre-back. In midfield, McCord and Linn were on the right and left wings respectively and Whatley partnered Smyth in central midfield. Up front, Scott played alongside Arbroath’s fans player of the year: Steven Doris.
Arbroath named seven substitutes: Rab Douglas, Bryan Prunty, Omar Kader, Jassem Sukar, Gavin Malin, Eddie Ferns and Donald McCallum.
With a huge support and huge pressure on them, the Arbroath players could’ve been excused for being very nervous. However, this certainly wasn’t the case in the first half and they got off to the best possible start when, in the 5th minute, Scott rose above his man to head home Linn’s inviting cross past C. Smith to put the visitors 1-0 up and to send the travelling fans into dreamland.
Credit to Stirling though as they refused to lie down after this early set back and started to create some chances of their own. Black played the ball down the line to D. Smith who touched it inside past Hodge and saw his effort well-saved by Gomes.
D. Smith was a threat to Arbroath’s defence all afternoon and, if it wasn’t for a piece of heroic defending by Hamilton, looked certain to score. The Stirling attacker raced through on goal but Hamilton got back quickly and managed to make a superb tackle and to clear the ball to safety.
However, regardless of the fact that Stirling were playing well, Arbroath were by far the dominant side in the first half and Linn was playing a blinder. He managed to play a great one-two with McCord but his cross was unable to find a maroon shirt in the box. Moments later, Linn drove into the box and his cross was recycled all the way to the edge of the area where Whatley’s goal wards effort was superbly tipped onto the bar by C. Smith.
Stirling’s defence were unable to keep up with Linn’s direct running and pace and this resulted in Linn winning a penalty for the visitors after he was fouled in the box by Black. It looked a tad harsh on Stirling but Linn did superbly to drive into the box and to win his team the penalty. However, Doris’ penalty rattled the post and Smyth was unable to get a clear contact on the ball from the rebound. The Arbroath front-man was incredibly unfortunate there with his penalty.
Arbroath then had another good chance to extend the lead but Scott’s shot from inside the penalty area was brilliantly blocked and cleared.
The last real chance of the half fell to the home side and it was one which Kavanagh really should’ve done better with. Kavanagh raced through on goal and ,with Henderson and D. Smith waiting unmarked in the penalty area, all the Stirling attacker needed to do was pick out one of his unmarked teammates. However his cut back was extremely poor and was easily gathered by Gomes. It was, however, a sign of things to come for the visitors.
Half Time – Stirling Albion 0-1 Arbroath
The old football cliché that football is a game of two halves was on full display in today’s game. Arbroath dominated the first half whereas Stirling dominated the second half.
Arbroath though did have the first effort of the second half but McCord’s effort was easily saved by C. Smith.
Stirling were dominating possession and a great run from Caddis’ forced Gomes into making a smart stop at his near post.
Both teams then made substitutions as Bikey replaced McMullan for the home side and Sukar and Kader came on for Hodge and Linn for the visitors.
Stirling were beginning to turn the screw and, after Henderson’s goal wards header was superbly blocked by Smyth, were presented with their best opportunity of the match. Kavanagh found himself in space out-wide and raced towards the Arbroath goal. However, Gomes did brilliantly to get down low and to smother Kavanagh’s effort. It was a big chance for the home side but they were thwarted by a superb piece of goalkeeping.
But Stirling refused to lie down and kept on coming at Arbroath and were awarded a penalty in the 76th minute when Henderson was fouled by Hamilton. Once again, it did look soft and as if the big Stirling front-man hand flung himself to the ground. However, Henderson stepped up and sent Gomes the wrong way to deservedly make it 1-1.
Both teams then made their final substitutions as Morrison and Vezza replaced Kavanagh and Henderson for Stirling and Prunty came on for Scott for Arbroath.
The home side were then presented with a golden chance to snatch a victory. Once again Kavanagh was through on goal and this time his shot went over Gomes and looked destined to nestle into the back of the net. However, unfortunately for Stirling, his shot clipped the outside of the post and went out for a goal-kick.
However, that was the last real chance of the game and Arbroath managed to hold on to secure the championship.
Full Time – Stirling Albion 1-1 Arbroath
Arbroath put in a superb defensive shift and deservedly gained a point to win the league. The players showed commitment, desire and passion throughout the game and the scenes at the end of the game highlighted this. The players were fortunate to be supported by a truly fantastic travelling support who will no doubt be savouring this moment for a long time. Dick Campbell’s side will play in the SPFL League 1 next season after a brilliant campaign and one in which everyone associated with Arbroath football club deserves huge credit for.