Stranraer 1, Clyde 0
Shaun Niven at Stair Park
Workmanlike and effective are two of the more appropriate adjectives to describe this performance where a hard-working Stranraer side successfully got the job done against a resolute Clyde outfit and claimed the points by the narrowest of margins.
Despite the score looking like a close encounter, it would be fair to say that it would have been a travesty had the Blues not triumphed having dominated the game for long periods, being frustrated by a Clyde side who are very adept at keeping the play tight but lack any sort of cutting edge going forward and they rarely threatened David Mitchell in the home goal who had a quiet afternoon.
A quiet opening saw few genuine chances. Gavin Brown ended a move for the visitors with a shot from outside the box that he dragged well wide, before Stranraer applied some pressure but only had a couple of corners to show for their endeavours, neither of which came to anything tangible. Scott Taggart created the next opportunity for Craig Malcolm but in stretching to reach the ball he could only head the ball wide. Taggart then outstripped Declan Gallagher and after being fouled he got up and delivered a cross into the danger area which the visiting defence cleared as far as Stephen Stirling who struck a great drive just over the top with David Crawford grasping at thin air. With Stranraer restricting Clyde to efforts from long range only, Stephen McDonald had a go but his shot went high and wide of the home goal. Stranraer attacked through Grant Gallagher who was looking lively in midfield and his persistence gave him the chance to cross to Martin Grehan but the striker couldn’t get the ball out of his feet and the chance was gone. Clyde cleared and broke quickly down the left and when John Neill played a through ball to Kieran Brannan he was through on goal but Mitchell blocked his effort from a tight angle as the Bully Wee had a rare shot on target. As Stranraer struggled to clear with the strong wind favouring Clyde the visitors fashioned another chance for Brannan but from the edge of the box his poor effort went hopelessly wide of the target. Stranraer surged forward eventually and Malcolm and then Stirling were denied by great tackles from Jason Marr and Paul Hay respectively as each of them prepared to shoot but Malcolm did have a crack at goal 6 minutes from the break only to see his first time connection with a Taggart cross crash back into play off the underside of the crossbar. Neill and McDonald combined to beat the Stranraer offside trap and the latter should really have made a chance for himself but John Kane pursued him and his challenge ensured no chance would ensue. If that was a break for the Blues then they got another as half time beckoned. Michael Oliver burst clear on the left and appeared to have been upended by Mitchell as he homed in on goal. With the away supporters howling for a penalty and the red card that would have resulted, referee Hilland, saw things differently and adjudged Oliver to have dived and booked the Clyde player who certainly could feel a little hard done by.
The opening exchanges of the second half produced little of note at either end until in the 54th minute, Stranraer broke the deadlock. Stirling advanced from deep and had the initial shot that Crawford saved well. The Bully Wee defenders had switched off and Malcolm was able to pick up the loose ball unchallenged and despite the temptation to have a go himself he spotted that Stephen Stirling had continued his run into the box and laid it perfectly into the path of former Rangers midfielder who smashed home his 10th goal of the season with an unstoppable left footed drive. Stranraer now had the forward impetus and would go on to dominate the remainder of the game. Chris Aitken curled a free-kick around the wall that Crawford anticipated well. Malcolm was next to threaten in the box but when poised to shoot Gallagher showed the kind of defensive prowess seen from him at Stair Park last season to prevent a scoring opportunity. Another free kick for the Blues resulted in another Aitken shot but although the effort was well struck it narrowly missed the target as Stranraer continued to seek the second goal that would undoubtedly make the points secure. The Blues introduced Michael Moore, making his 250th appearance for the club, and he created a chance, floating a cross over Brian McQueen for strike partner Grehan to hit on the volley but Crawford made a fine save, throwing himself into the path of the ball and beating it away to safety. Moore then created a chance for himself, winning a tackle in the middle of the Clyde half and advancing forward before resisting the temptation to pass to Grehan and blasting at goal. However, his attempt was foiled by a bobble and therefore sliced well wide of the Clyde goal. Stranraer were then denied only by a fantastic last ditch tackle by Kris Irvine as the pressure mounted on the visiting goal. Moore played a lovely pass out to the right which Gallagher latched on to and squared into the middle to meet a lung bursting run from Steven Noble who would have surely scored but for Irvine’s intervention. A move that involved half the team created a headed opportunity for Sean Winter but his glancing effort went wide and while frustrating for Stranraer that the seal couldn’t be placed on victory, in truth Clyde had not threatened and the likelihood of an equaliser never reached any great heights. There was time for another missed opportunity as Gallagher in tigerish fashion won a challenge and surged forward before finding Moore on the right. He unselfishly squared for Grehan who sclaffed the shot over the top when he should have ended his 8 game drought but it didn’t matter as Stranraer held out comfortably for the victory epitomised by a great challenge in stoppage time by David MacGregor who prevented Neill from gaining space to shoot from a great position.
Jim Duffy conceded that while there were a few positives he could take from the game, his team had been second best for long periods and Stranraer had fully deserved the points. He was philosophical about the penalty that might have been and accepted that it was a break that on another day could have gone their way.
Keith Knox was pleased that Stranraer had defended very well and created plenty of chances although it would have alleviated the pressure had the second goal arrived. The important issue was gaining the three points and although not the best game seen this season that was the statistic that counts.
Stranraer: David Mitchell, John Kane, Steven Noble, David MacGregor, Frank McKeown, Chris Aitken (Sean Winter 75), Scott Taggart, Stephen Stirling, Craig Malcolm (Michael Moore 72), Martin Grehan, Grant Gallagher. Subs Not Used: Stuart McColm, Nathan Shepherd, Ryan Marshall
Goal: Stirling 54
Clyde: David Crawford, Gavin Brown (Kris Irvine 67), Lee Sharp, Declan Gallagher, Brian McQueen, Paul Hay, John Neill, Jason Marr, Stephen McDonald (Ryan Kane 72), Kieran Brannan, Michael Oliver (John Sweeney 60). Subs Not Used: Jack Sloss, Barry McCue
Booked: Oliver, Hay
Referee: G Hilland