Stranraer off to a flying start

Chris Aitken Celebrates a great penelty
Chris Aitken Celebrates a great penelty

Stranraer 4, Dumbarton 2

Last weekend saw competitive action return to Stair Park.

Stranraer hosted the now traditional opener to the season when Dumbarton travelled south to take on the Blues in first round of the Ramsden’s Challenge Cup.

It was the first chance to see some of Stephen Aitken’s new signings and Jamie Longworth, Martin Grehan, Scott Robertson, Mark Docherty, David McKenna and Mark Corcoran all got at least part of the game to introduce themselves to the fans.

Both sides began brightly and it was Grehan who had the first effort but his shot caused no problems for Jamie Ewings before the Sons were given a chance when David Mitchell had a clearance charged down by Kevin Smith. Docherty headed clear but only as far as Steven McDougall who cracked the return shot wide.

Stranraer beat the offside trap in the 10th minute with a pass from Ryan Borris that allowed Sean Winter through and he beat Ewings at the second attempt to put the Blues ahead.

Mitchell pulled off a fine save to deny Mark Gilhaney but the Sons would equalise on their next attack as ex-Blue Scott Agnew rattled the bar from distance and Garry Fleming stuck the rebound into the net.

Borris almost recreated the Blues’ goal with a lovely pass that allowed Winter to ghost between the centre backs and he clipped the ball past Ewings but it evaded the far post. As an entertaining half came to an end Stranraer were unfortunate to concede a second Dumbarton goal as Kevin Smith looped the ball over Mitchell and the Blues could consider themselves a little unlucky to head into the break trailing.

The opening quarter of an hour or so were even as both sides continued to press. The Blues still sensed they could get a result and they wrested the initiative with a well-worked equaliser. Winter slid a pass through for Grehan and he stroked a left-footed shot past Ewings.

The Blues would go on to dominate the remaining 25 minutes and showed superior fitness as well as technical ability as they set about putting their championship opponents to the sword.

The Blues produced a lovely flowing move as McKenna broke and passed crossfield to Winter. He rolled the ball into the path of Gallagher who struck fiercely and brought a tremendous save from Ewings who touched the ball away from the postage stamp corner. Chris Aitken delivered the corner and McKenna got to the header only to see Ewings divert the ball on to the crossbar and over the top with another excellent save.

The Blues were now rampant but one win in the last 14 attempts would pit history against the Blues but oddly enough that was a 4-2 win against Berwick in 2009). With Dumbarton at their mercy, Stranraer introduced Corcoran to the action and it took him less than two minutes to set up the attack that saw the home side regain the lead.

A surging run down the left, allowed him to pick out Winter with a crossfield pass. He looked up and rolled the ball into the path of Chris Aitken who picked his spot and curled a delighted low shot around the helpless Ewings and the ground erupted as the ball nestled in the net.

Dumbarton looked beaten and this was confirmed with a late penalty after a handball from a corner and Chris Aitken sent Ewings the wrong way as he smashed the ball home to complete a highly satisfactory afternoon.

A delighted Stephen Aitken purred at the performance and was encouraged that the good work on pre-season had showed in the players’ fitness and their attitude had been superb throughout. He felt the Blues had been unlucky to go behind and the goals conceded were poor but the attacking display was excellent and a great start to the season.

Stranraer: David Mitchell, David MacGregor, Mark Docherty, Scott Robertson (Lloyd Kinnaird 89), Frank McKeown, Chris Aitken, Sean Winter, Grant Gallagher, Martin Grehan, Jamie Longworth (David McKenna 71), Ryan Borris (Mark Corcoran 81). Subs not used: Adam Forde, Chris Fahey. 

Booked: MacGregor

Goals: Winter 10, Grehan 66, Aitken 83, 88 pen.

Dumbarton: Jamie Ewings, Paul McGinn, Scott Linton, Andy Graham, Scott Smith, Nicky Phinn (Ally McKerracher 85), Mark Gilhaney, Scott Agnew, Garry Fleming (Mitch Megginson 60), Kevin Smith, Steven McDougall (Bryan Prunty 79). Subs not used: Martin McNiff, Stephen Grindlay

Booked: Graham

Goals: Fleming 25, Smith 45

Attendance: 333

Referee: J McKendrick