Scottish League Cup
Ross County 2
A fine summer’s evening was the setting for the sequel clash between Stranraer and Ross County as the Blues tried to repeat last season’s magnificent victory over the Premiership side from Dingwall.
In an entertaining and hard fought match the Blues ultimately fell agonisingly short.
As early as the third minute Stranraer shocked County as their opening salvo resulted in them taking the lead through Sean Winter who finished a great move by curling a looping shot over Mark Brown from the edge of the box after Craig Malcolm had seen his initial effort blocked.
The exchanges that followed were fairly even and both sides had at least one half chance, the Blues one being a snap shot from Stephen Stirling that he screwed wide of the target, but the Premiership side got back on terms when they forced a defensive error on 15 minutes.
A long ball from the right into the box from Jordi Balk wasn’t gathered cleanly by David Mitchell, who dropped it under pressure at the feet of Melvin De Leeuw.
The Dutch striker, although facing away from goal, was the quickest to react, setting himself nicely and hooking the ball over his own shoulder and into the net in fine style to square up the contest.
Stranraer responded with a good move that saw Chris Aitken find Winter on the right and his shot from a tight angle smashed into the side netting courtesy of a crucial deflection off Uros Celcer.
Although the corner was initially cleared, the second phase saw the ball knocked back into the path of Scott Rumsby who blasted just over from the edge of the box and it had become clear that Stranraer fancied their chances of getting a result.
Stranraer began the second half in fine style too and forced the first chance when an Aitken free kick found Malcolm who had managed to get ahead of Richard Brittain but could only head over the top.
Ross County had a great chance of their own but Jervis struck the free kick disappointingly straight at the Blues defensive wall and it wasn’t long before he was replaced by former Cliftonville striker Liam Boyce.
Great play by the Blues followed and a superb long range pass by Grant Gallagher allowed Malcolm to exchange passes with Longridge only for the final ball to be inches out of the reach of the Blues hitman or he would have been clean through.
Longridge was involved in the thick of the action minutes later and appeared to be brought down in the visitor’s box. However, as the referee waved for play to continue, County burst up the park and grabbed their winner.
Joe Cardle initiated it when he cut in from the left, but his shot was blocked and so was the next attempt from Graham Carey which drew a save from Mitchell, but the Blues keeper couldn’t hold on and it was Liam Boyce that was on hand inside the six yard box to fire the rebound home.
Stranraer did their best to get back on level terms and can take a lot of plaudits from their performance.
Derek Adams was relieved that his side had done enough to get through praising the efforts of Stranraer who had given everything for their manager and impressed him greatly. Jokingly he said that he hoped never to have to come to Stranraer again as it is such a difficult place to visit for a cup tie and it was a relief to be through to the next round.
Stephen Aitken beamed with pride at the efforts of his players who had been excellent and given a very good Premiership side areal run for their money. He felt that as the game went on, It was Stranraer who were the likelier of the two sides to go on and win but sometimes good teams can catch you on the break and that’s what happened. He echoed that what he had seen from his players gave him great encouragement for the league programme that lies ahead.
Stranraer: David Mitchell, Scott Robertson, Scott Rumsby, Craig Pettigrew, Frank McKeown, Chris Aitken (Adam Forde 80), Sean Winter, Grant Gallagher, Craig Malcolm, Stephen Stirling (Jamie Longworth 74), Jackson Longridge (Anthony Marenghi 74).
Subs Not Used: Barry Russell, Sam McCloskey, Daniel Tobin.
Ross County: Mark Brown, Uros Celcer, Scott Boyd, Joe Cardle, Richard Brittain, Jake Jervis (Liam Boyce 58), Filip Kiss, Melvin De Leeuw, Jim Fenlon (Ben Frempah 33), Jordi Balk, Graham Carey (Rocco Quinn 80).
Subs Not Used: Darren Maatsen, Steven Ross, Stephen Miller, Antonio Reguero
Referee: C. Charleston