David Weatherston’s double earned us a deserved win over second-placed Annan at Galabank to set up a huge game at home to Berwick next weekend.
The former Falkirk striker scored in both halves after twice being set up by Phil Johnston before Blair Henderson pulled one back from the penalty spot.
It was a terrific team performance from Greig McDonald’s men, who battled hard throughout in difficult windy conditions, as we ended our five-game barren run against a side who had won six of their seven previous matches.
We go into Saturday’s Forthbank encounter with Berwick two points ahead of Colin Cameron’s side with five rounds of fixtures remaining.
McDonald made one change for the trip to Galabank, with Weatherston replacing Sandy Cunningham, who had suffered a head knock in the 2-2 draw with Montrose, but Ross McGeachie was pitched in as an early sub after an injury to Mick O’Byrne.
Chances were few in a keenly-contested first half. Annan top scorer Kenny MacKay – replaced at the interval by ex-Bino Scott Davidson after he picked up a knock – had an effort scrambled off the line before we took the lead in 35 minutes.
Johnston cut the ball back from the right, Jordan White allowed it to run on and Weatherston swept it past Kenny Arthur from close range.
Annan, with the wind at their backs, started the second half strongly and there was a let-off when Steven Swinglehurst nodded against the bar from close range but Albion broke quickly and Johnston crossed for Weatherston to calmly convert his second of the afternoon and his fourth goal of 2013/14.
Craig Comrie had the chance to make it three but his shot was blocked and Annan were given a lifeline when referee Gavin Ross pointed to the spot after a long throw-in had been hurled into a crowded box – the decision apparently given for a handball against David McClune, with Albion furious at the award.
Henderson sent David Crawford the wrong way from the spot but we defended well in the closing stages as Jim Chapman’s men pressed for the equaliser and only a last-ditch tackle prevented Weatherston from completing his hat-trick on the break.
Annan Athletic: Arthur, Chisholm, McNiff, Watson, Swinglehurst, Black, Todd, Mitchell (Brannan 75), MacKay (Davidson 46), Henderson, Love (Hopkirk 75).
Subs (not used): Bradley, Moffat, Sloan, Mitchell (GK).
Scorer: Henderson pen 76
Stirling Albion: Crawford, O’Byrne (McGeachie 23), C Smith, McClune, Bishop, Comrie, Johnston, Weir (Forsyth 90), White, Weatherston (McAnespie 89), Hamilton.
Subs (not used): Ferry, Fulton, Ashe, Reidford (GK).
Scorer: Weatherston 35, 62
Referee: Gavin Ross