Jordan White hit a hat-trick as we sealed our place in the League 1 play-off final against East Fife with a memorable victory in a thrilling and goal-laden game at Galabank on Saturday.
Midfield duo David McClune and Craig Comrie were also on target as Greig McDonald’s men progressed 8-4 on aggregate against Jim Chapman’s team, to the delight of the 300-strong travelling support who had made the journey south.
It was our fourth straight win – with 16 goals rattled in during that run – and sets things up perfectly for the two-legged decider on Wednesday at Fortbank and Sunday at Bayview, against an East Fife team who beat Clyde 7-6 on penalties.
This was another outstanding attacking display from the Binos but Annan were also a threat and it was only after the dismissal of Martin McNiff early in the second half – he picked up a second yellow for a bad challenge on Comrie – that the tension eased.
McDonald named an unchanged team while Annan recalled Steven Swinglehurst and Ally Love. The hosts pressed from the start but it was Albion who scored first when McClune lashed the ball home from close range after good work by Comrie.
We doubled our lead midway through the first half when David Weatherston did well on the right, his cross was diverted towards the net by a defender and White made sure with his 20th goal of the season.
Annan refused to buckle and top scorer Kenny MacKay smashed a shot off the underside of the bar before McNiff’s close-range header slipped past David Crawford as the interval approached.
Love coolly slotted home to haul the home side level on the day just after the break but we took full advantage of McNiff’s dismissal and it was all over when Comrie followed up to score in 56 minutes after Kenny Arthur had parried White’s drive.
The outstanding White added the fourth with a superb finish from the edge of the box after being picked out by Weatherston and he completed his hat-trick three minutes later, sweeping the ball home after substitute Mark Ferry had been denied by Arthur.
Ex-Albion striker Scott Davidson pulled one back in stoppage time when he slammed the ball high into the net but it didn’t matter and we now face two massive games against Gary Naysmith’s East Fife as we attempt to claim a place in League 1.
Annan Athletic: Arthur, Chisholm, McNiff, Swinglehurst, Watson (Jardine 67), Sloan (Henderson 72), Todd (Davidson 72), Mitchell, MacKay, Hopkirk, Love.
Subs (not used): Black, Brannan, Orsi, Mitchell (GK).
Scorers: McNiff 40, Love 49, Davidson 90
Stirling Albion: Crawford, Hamilton, Forsyth, McClune, C Smith, D Smith, Johnston (McGeachie 35), Comrie (Fulton 70), White, Weir, Weatherston (Ferry 80).
Subs (not used): Cunningham, Bishop, Ashe, Reidford (GK).
Scorers: McClune 9, White 22, 79, 82, Comrie 56
Referee: George Salmond