Stirling Albion 2 v 1 Hearts – Match Report

Stirling Albion 2 v 1 Heart Of Midlothian

By Craig Brown

Forthbank is now officially open for the 2015/16 season and all but one of Stuart McLaren’s new signings had a run out against SPFL Premiership side Hearts in the Supporters Direct cup this evening.

There was a wave of anticipation and excitement throughout Forthbank before Kick Off. From the starting 11 announced to start the game, only Phil Johnston, Sandy Cunningham & Craig Comrie featured in the 3-2 win against Stenhousemuir to end or disastrous 2014/15 season. So this is very much Stuart McLaren & Martyn Corrigan’s team.

Hearts lined up with a team mixed with Experience and Youth however there was no sign of Angus Beith who impressed during his loan at Forthbank from Hearts last season which goes to show how far down the pecking order he must be.

During the opening quarter of an hour it was a First Team regular that really stood out above anybody else for Hearts as Callum Paterson tried to get himself on the score sheet. However a shot come cross in the opening 4 minutes of the game and a back post header on the 15 minute mark were all that he had to show for his efforts.

It was clear to see that Robbie Neilson had sent his team out to get at Stirling down the wings, and it was from there that the opening goal came from.

A quick throw in from the Away team released Kevin McHattie down the left hand side of the pitch. The Full Back sent over an inviting cross which Under 20’s Striker Russell McLean met unmarked to side foot the ball past Chris Smith from inside the 6 yard box. 1-0 to Hearts.

Although the Binos were 1-0 down, heads didn’t drop and the players never looked like they were out of their depth or that there were 2 leagues between the sides. Both teams were playing nice football trying to work the ball into the box and trying to create chances.

The Albion’s first real effort fell to Sandy Cunningham and in truth he should have done better with it. Picking the ball up on the left hand side, the youngster jinked and weaved his way through the Hearts Defence but when he got close enough to Neil Alexander’s goal to comfortably shoot, he scuffed his effort off the side of his foot and into the side netting.

More misery was to follow for Stirling when Ex Peterhead Defender Ross Smith was taken off injured on the 20 minute mark. From the stand it looked like a precaution but it gave Ross McGeachie a chance to make an impression.

Hearts were the more dominant side of the two, their pace and power, and their all-round movement were making The Albion work hard in closing down the ball. Striker Soufian El Hassnaoui had two efforts well saved by Smith and the impressive Paterson had another effort that was inches past the Goalkeepers post.

The last chance of the First Half fell to the Bino’s however and again it was a missed opportunity to grab what would have been a deserved equalizer.

Cunningham took a quick Free Kick out on the left hand side, the ball worked its way over to Comrie whose delicate chip was met by the head of Steven Doris, but The Albion Striker could only guide the ball past Alexander’s post.

HALF TIME: STIRLING ALBION 0 v 1 HEARTS

A complete change by Hearts at Half Time resulted in Jahmai Howlett–Mundle being the only player who played the First Half stay on the pitch for the second. In the Home dressing room, McLaren decided to stick to what was already out there and continue with the same 11 that ended the half.

It was a ploy that seemed to work right away as The Binos pushed for an equalizer. Phil Johnston was causing havoc down the right hand side and young Daniel Baur just didn’t know how to stop him. Twice in the opening 5 minutes of the half the Ex Celtic player managed to put dangerous crosses into the Hearts box with nobody getting on the end of them.

John Paul McGovern also came close to pulling the score level with a 25 yard free kick but the ball fizzed past replacement Goalkeeper Jack Hamilton’s post.

Steven Doris squandered 2 good chances 60 minutes in. The ball broke to the hitman about 16 yards from goal, but his volley was hit straight at Goalkeeper Hamilton and moments later he once again found himself with the ball in the Hearts box. When laying the ball off to Sean Dickson who was unmarked at the back post seemed the better option, Doris decided to try a chip shot into the top corner which Hamilton dealt with ease.

Although Stirling were now looking more dangerous on the attack, Hearts continued to look at picking the hosts off at the back and press for the second goal.

New signing from Queen of the South, Gavin Reilly, looked lively for the visitors and Smith again had to be alert to save one of his efforts on the 70th minute.

McLaren then decided to change things and give some of the Development Squad youngsters a try. Ross Forsyth along with Doris & Cunningham were replaced by Scott Davidson, Sam Davidson and a Trialist who has featured for Hearts at youth level along with Motherwell & Stenhousemuir but more recently played in Queen of the South’s First Team.

Within minutes it was Sam Davidson who changed the game for Stirling. Bursting into the box he was brought down by Howlett–Mundle and despite Hearts Manager Neilson claiming the youngster dived, Referee Craig Charleston rightly pointed to the spot.

Sean Dickson stepped forward to take the penalty and made no mistake, hitting the ball low and hard into Hamilton’s left hand corner, sending the Goalkeeper the wrong way. 1-1 and Stirling finally got their just rewards.

It took The Albion only 3 minutes to go into the lead. On the 78th minute McLaren’s men were awarded a corner. John Paul McGovern sent over a good cross into the heart of the Maroon Defence, our Trailist managed to force his way past his marker and fire an unstoppable shot into the roof of the Hearts net. 2 – 1 Stirling.

It was starting to look like it was going to be comfortable night in the end for The Binos but Hearts had different ideas. Regrouping, the Edinburgh outfit came back all guns blazing.

Liam Smith won a Free Kick right by the line of the box. Jordon McGhee stepped up to hit the Free Kick, but Smith palmed the ball over his bar.

On the 84th minute Hearts hit the post. Robbie Buchanan did a fantastic job controlling a “hoof up the park” by Baur, bringing the ball down he squared it to Reilly, only for the Striker to watch his effort hit the woodwork.

FULL TIME: STIRLING ALBION 2 v 1 HEARTS

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Thoughts: A pretty tough workout for the Stirling players, but one they will take a lot of positives from. First impressions on the new squad are good. The Defence looks to be a lot more organised and dealt well with most of what was thrown at them.

In the First Half especially, Hearts looked dangerous going forward but other than the goal didn’t really create too many clear cut chances and that was down to the hard work of the outfield players and Smith in goals. Cross balls were dealt with better and we just looked like a more solid unit.

Going forward we used the ball well. A few players were guilty of holding onto the ball for far too long and inevitably losing it, however they were up against some really good players tonight and players that made me (at 6ft 3) look pretty small. Robbie Neilson is really building a team of giants at Tynecastle but our players battled with them and worked the ball well.

McGovern & Dickson tried to pull the strings for us and with the legs of Cunningham and Phil next to them they were able to find their men, usually without too much of a problem.

Doris played well and worked hard to find space. I’m convinced if the season had been 3 or 4 games in already he would of finished at least 1 of his chances tonight.

There were no negatives tonight with regards to individual players, in fact I left Forthbank pretty confident that we’ll be alright this season. For all the quality that Hearts had in the First Half (quality we won’t come across in League 2 I may add) they didn’t really threaten as we dug in. Then when it became our turn to play football, we used the ball well and generally we made the right choices.

Attendance: 1,012

Stirling Albion: C Smith, Hamilton, Forsyth (Scott Davidson 71), McGovern, R Smith (McGeachie 21), McMillan (C), Johnston (McKenzie 78), Comrie (Robertson 61), Doris (Trialist 71), Dickson, Cunningham (Sam Davidson 71).

Hearts: Alexander (Hamilton 46), Paterson (C) (L Smith 46), McHattie (McGhee 46), Jones (Baur 46), Howlett-Mundle, McKirdy (Walker 46), Zanatta (Buchanan 46), Anderson (King 46), McLean (I Smith 46), El Hassnaoui (Sow 46), Moore (Reilly 46).

Referee: Craig Charleston