Stranraer 2, Auchinleck Talbot 2
Stranraer and Auchinleck Talbot will need to go at other again at Beechwood Park this weekend in a replay after a captivating cup tie ended all square.
The Blues would have been the more relieved, having left it very late to grab an equaliser they deserved.
Stranraer knew enough about Talbot for there to be few surprises about how they would play but they took half an hour to come to terms with Junior football’s top side and left themselves with a mountain to climb.
Poor defending, a lack of concentration and perhaps a little complaceny saw the Blues hustled and harried off the ball as Auchinleck demonstrated why they dominate their grade of football.
Disaster struck for Stranraer within six minutes as the visitors scored. As they pushed into the penalty area, Colin Spence prodded the ball into the box where Bryan Young was first to react and the Stranraer summer transfer target stroked the ball past the helpless David Mitchell to give the Ayrshiremen the perfect start.
Four minutes later, with Talbot pouring forward, Steven White found Young in some space and he had another crack at goal, but Mitchell was well placed to parry the ball to safety.
With the half-hour just gone, Talbot doubled their lead. David Gormley created the trouble with a pass through a static defence for Kier Milliken to run on to and he slotted under Mitchell and into the net.
This sparked Stranraer into action and they should have got a goal back but McKeown headed over from close range after connecting with a Chris Aitken cross. The next attack saw Andy Stirling felled by Willie Lyle as he skipped past him. Aitken swung the freekick over and Jamie Longworth nipped in front of Leishman to flick a header into the net for a priceless lifeline for the Blues.
The half-time lecture for Stranraer couldn’t have been pleasant and they emerged early, keen to make amends for their unhappy manager and a better second half was duly delivered.
An Aitken free kick that Leishman dealt with comfortably showed intent and another was delivered by McKeown and although cleared it came back to the skipper and his second attempt reached Grehan whose glancing header looked certain to be heading for the bottom corner but for a fantastic save by Leishman.
Stirling fed Grehan for another chance but the striker dragged his effort across the goal and it seemed that with continued patient build-up the equaliser would come.
Then with 68 minutes on the clock, Auchinleck broke forward and Gormley threaded a pass to Milliken. David MacGregor slid in to challenge and brought down the Talbot striker with a challenge that looked outside the box but a penalty resulted. MacGregor received a red card and the task at hand for Stranraer looked immense. However, when Gormley blazed high over the top, Stranraer realised a reprieve had been granted.
They instantly made an attacking change, bringing on Ryan Borris for Steven Bell. Despite the Blues’ pressure, it seemed that a clear-cut chance may elude them so a further throw of the dice saw Robertson withdrawn and David McKenna brought on. And with McKeown pushed up front, a four-pronged attack laid siege to the visitors’ goal.
With the game drifting into stoppage time the Blues threw everything forward. In the 93rd minute, McKenna poked the ball forward to McKeown, who had the vision to find Borris bursting forward. He charged forward into the space and unleashed a fierce drive that Leishman touched on to the post but it rebounded into the path of Longworth who bundled the ball into the net and set up the replay.
Stephen Aitken was disappointed with Stranraer’s performance in the first half but took heart from the reaction the players gave after the break and the having a chance to make amends.
Stranraer: David Mitchell, David MacGregor, Mark Docherty, Scott Robertson (David McKenna 81), Frank McKeown, Chris Aitken, Steven Bell (Ryan Borris 69), Grant Gallagher, Martin Grehan, Jamie Longworth, Andy Stirling. Subs not used: Sean Winter, Mark Corcoran, Lloyd Kinnaird, Jonathan Baxter, Chris Fahey
Sent Off: MacGregor
Goals: Longworth 34, 90+3
Auchinleck Talbot: Andy Leishman, Willie Lyle, Ally Park, Craig Pettigrew, Martin McGoldrick, Colin Spence, Bryan Young, Steven White (Kyle Faulds 89), Kier Milliken (Mick McCann 78), David Gormley (Allan McKenzie 78), James Latta. Subs not used: Kenny Connolly, Gavin Collins, Mark Armour, Robert Kerr.
Booked: Lyle, White, Latta
Goals: Young 6, Milliken 31
Referee: C Charleston