Greig McDonald’s men will take a two-goal lead to Galabank on Saturday for the second leg of the League 1 play-off semi-final after an outstanding first-half performance at Forthbank.
Graham Weir opened the scoring after 12 minutes and a David Weatherston double had us 3-0 ahead inside 30 minutes. It could have been more by half-time as we produced our best display of the season but Annan rallied after the break and David Hopkirk reduced the deficit.
We went into this match on the back of a seven-game unbeaten run but the intensity and level of performance was taken to a new level in a thrilling first half.
Albion, unchanged from Saturday, were in the mood right from the start and the breakthrough came when Weir made space and lobbed the ball over Kenny Arthur.
It was all Stirling and Weatherston doubled the lead in 26 minutes when he latched on to a Jordan White flick and fired the ball home.
Weatherston grabbed his ninth of the season when he slid in to convert a Craig Comrie cross and Arthur denied Phil Johnston as we chased a fourth goal.
Comrie came close early in the second half when his deflected shot skidded wide but Annan top scorer Kenny MacKay almost pulled one back before Hopkirk got on the end of a cross with 20 minutes left to score a vital goal for Jim Chapman’s men.
David Crawford made a superb save to keep out MacKay and also did well to hold on to a Hopkirk effort in stoppage time as we claimed a terrific victory to take into Saturday’s return match at Galabank, where we have drawn and won this season.
Stirling Albion: Crawford, Hamilton, Forsyth, McClune, C Smith, D Smith (Bishop 63), Johnston, Comrie, White, Weir (Cunningham 89), Weatherston (Ashe 77).
Subs (not used): Ferry, Fulton, O’Byrne, Reidford (GK).
Scorers: Weir 12, Weatherston 26, 29
Annan Athletic: Arthur, Chisholm, McNiff (Henderson 77), Bradley, Watson, Black, Brannan (Sloan 57), Mitchell, MacKay, Hopkirk, Todd.
Subs (not used): Davidson, Flynn, Love, Swinglehurst, Mitchell (GK).
Scorer: Hopkirk 70
Referee: Greg Aitken