Blues stumble to defeat and lose top spot

Action from the Scottish League One match between Stenhousemuir and Stranraer at Ochilview Stadium.
Action from the Scottish League One match between Stenhousemuir and Stranraer at Ochilview Stadium.

League One

Stenhousemuir 1

Stranraer 0

Stranraer were toppled from the top of the league table on Tuesday night after stumbling to a disappointing defeat against Stenhousemuir at Ochilview.

The Blues began the game brightly and for the opening period looked the more likely to break the deadlock and it was 18 minutes before Stenhousemuir ventured over the halfway line.

But two minutes later the home side punished the Blues and took the lead. A great surging run by former Blue, Anthony Marenghi, made ground from halfway and as he approached the edge of the box he found Josh Watt out on the right. He cut inside on to his left foot and fired in a shot which eluded David Mitchell with the aid of a deflection.

The Blues tried to work their way through the Warriors defence and a good break between Gallagher, Malcolm and Jamie Longworth ended when Longworth attempted to return a one-two into the path of Gallagher’s run which didn’t get past Ross McMillan when perhaps having a go himself from the edge of the box would have been a better option. Stenhousemuir certainly grew in confidence after their goal and were much more threatening thereafter. A deep cross into the Blues penalty area caused great uncertainty as it bounced around but fortunately it was Jackson Longridge who reacted quickest and hammered the ball clear with home attackers lurking.

Then a floated Kieran Millar cross was headed wide by Lithgow as another attack went begging. The Warriors on-loan Celtic youngster Paul McMullan burst into the game with a darting run down the left before cutting inside and trying to beat Mitchell but his shot went wide of the target.

Stranraer huffed and puffed but struggled to trouble Fleming much further while the Warriors began to threaten a bit more, particularly through the lively McMullan who always looked willing to run at the defenders.

After the fine performance at the weekend, much was expected of the Blues but the second half didn’t generate the recovery that the noisy band of visiting supporters had hoped to see.

An early Craig Pettigrew cross towards Chris Aitken who had made a good run to the far post was dealt with by Fleming and Stenhousemuir for the most part defended comfortably with centre backs Lithgow and McMillan being able to deal with the Blues aerial attacks with ease.

A Blues corner from Willie Gibson almost found Frank McKeown but a vital Fleming touch directed the ball away as Stranraer tried in vain to cause the home keeper problems but he coped well under what pressure the Blues exerted. Stenhousemuir always the dangerous outlet of McMullan to find and he should have scored when sent clear down the right but he shot wide from 12 yards out although the referee spared his blushes, adjudging that McKeown’s efforts had got a crucial touch and awarded a corner.

Stranraer made a triple change midway through the half and although it did freshen things up the laboured build up play which seemed to affect both sides didn’t improve significantly and chances would continue to be few and far between at either end.

Pettigrew tried his luck from 30 yards as space opened in front of him and struck his shot fiercely but a deflection ensured it flew wide of the goal. Aitken then had a shot from a free kick but his effort went straight to Fleming who didn’t have to move to collect the ball.

Lithgow cleared a cross destined for Jon McShane as Stranraer tried in vain to create a clear cut opportunity but it just wouldn’t happen for the Blues who in all honesty couldn’t find a way to do enough to make anything happen in the final third.

The clear cut chance that the Blues needed for an equaliser just never came and a disappointing performance ended with the Warriors remaining as the only side Stranraer haven’t managed to beat this season and results elsewhere determining that Morton had leapfrogged Stranraer at the top of the table.

Warriors boss Brown Ferguson was delighted with the hard working performance of his side who had shown a great spirit and attitude to grind out an excellent result that was reward for the efforts of the past few weeks and he hoped it would give his players a lift to take into the games ahead.

Stranraer boss Stephen Aitken was disappointed at losing the game to a deflected goal but felt that the exertions of the weekend game had perhaps taken quite a bit out of the team. He had no doubt that the players would be able to pick themselves back up again for the Stirling game at the weekend.