Blues edge tough warm-up

Blues Shaun Winter puts pressure on the Morpeth defence
Blues Shaun Winter puts pressure on the Morpeth defence

Stranraer 3, Morpeth Town 2

Shaun Niven at Stair Park

Stranraer rounded off their warm-up matches with a useful outing at the weekend.

The Northern League second division side proved to be a much sterner test than expected.

The Blues again showed a mixture of familiar faces, alongside some new signings, with Lloyd Kinnaird and Mark Staunton having committed for the season and Russell Cadwell taking the place on the bench vacated by Ryan Marshall, who has moved on. A collection of starlets from Dexi Wingate’s under-19s completed the line-up.

The Highwaymen took the lead with the game barely underway when Morpeth’s new signing, Michael Chilton, had the simplest of tasks to bundle the ball in from a few yards after David Mitchell made a hash of a cross from Steven Anderson.

The Blues struck back with a chance of their own but Morpeth keeper Jak Wells denied Robert Love, whose shot didn’t trouble him too much. Chris Lunn had an effort blocked by the Blues’ defence and, as it broke into space, Marc Walmsley fired a 35-yard drive at the target but wasn’t able to keep it low enough to cause any concern.

Sean Winter flicked on a pass from Kinnaird on the quarter-hour and Michael Moore should have equalised but chose to try to find Love when he would have been better going alone. When Craig Malcolm fired the loose ball straight at Wells, the chance was lost.

Stranraer enjoyed a spell of pressure with both Moore and Staunton going close with efforts that forced corners and then Shaun Henderson had to look lively in defence to deny Malcolm as the home side pressed for an equaliser.

Wells was in action again to thwart Love with a fine diving stop and Stranraer were cursing their luck again. However, it was not for much longer as parity was restored in the 24th minute. Ryan Borris started the move and found Winter, who controlled and crossed from the right. Malcolm picked up the ball and, although Wells again made an excellent save, he could only turn the ball to the feet of Moore who tucked the ball home in expert fashion.

Borris created another chance with a deep cross from wide right but Malcolm was unable to direct his header downwards as Stranraer enjoyed much more of general play.

The visitors were still a threat and a touch of confusion between Ross Lundie and Mitchell almost allowed Chilton back in on goal but the Blues’ keeper rescued the situation and did enough to distract the Morpeth striker and earn a goal kick.

Chilton had the ball in the net moments later as he turned in an Anderson cross but the linesman raised an offside flag that had both benches somewhat bemused. Stranraer capitalised on this fully by turning their next meaningful attack into a goal. Creator in chief was Love who skinned the full back down the left side, picked out a target in the penalty box in the shape of Winter and he did the rest by hammering the ball into the net.

The second saw the unfortunate sight of a stoppage for treatment to a Stranraer supporter who was most unlucky to get in the way of the ball being cleared into the stand and a blow to the face ensured a dazed reaction and a hospital check-up that hopefully by now sees all is well.

Wells was soon in action again when he tipped a Love effort over the top to keep things tight. Max Wright and Adam Forde combined to make a chance for Forde but the substitutes’ combination was to no avail as the chance flew wide.

The ball swung up to the other end and a break down the right gave the route to an equaliser for Morpeth. Daniel Young caused the damage and his fine cross was perfectly weighted for Chilton, who showed his prowess in heading the ball firmly past Mitchell to tie things up again.

Wright got a shot on target when Grant Gallagher played him in but his effort was well saved by Wells.

There would be no lengthy wait for a winner as almost instantly Winter fired a cross cum shot across the goalmouth and the ever alert Wright was on hand to tuck the ball into the net. The final 20 minutes would again be used to give worthwhile experience to some of the Blues’ youngsters, and Dean Agnew, Kieron Maxwell, Kyle Rafferty and Forde all came on to enhance their chances of competitive action when Stenhousemuir come calling in the Ramsdens Cup on Saturday.

Morpeth Town manager Nick Gray took far more positives than negatives from the game and was pleased with the effort and commitment given by his team against the opponents that had given them their toughest test so far.

Stranraer boss Keith Knox was pleased with the day’s work and was confident that when the competitive matches kick off this weekend, he has a squad that gives the Blues a good platform. Many of the younger lads would be given a chance to show what they could do and none of them looked out of place alongside the more experienced senior players. He looked forward to next week and admitted they couldn’t wait to get the season started.

Stranraer: David Mitchell, Lloyd Kinnaird, Michael Dunlop, Mark Staunton, Ross Lundie, Ryan Borris, Sean Winter, Grant Gallagher, Michael Moore, Craig Malcolm, Robert Love.

Subs (all used): Dean Agnew, Max Wright, Adam Forde, Kieron Maxwell, Kyle Rafferty, Russell Cadwell. 

Goals: Moore 24, Winter 42, Wright 70

Attendance: 150

Referee: J Thomson