It’s advantage East Fife going into the second leg of the League 1 play-off final at Bayview on Sunday after Gary Naysmith’s men came from behind to win at Forthbank on Wednesday evening.
Ross Forsyth headed us in front just before the break but Scott McBride equalised midway through the second half and fellow substitute Nathan Austin grabbed a late winner.
His goal ended our nine-match unbeaten run going back to mid-March and it’s only the second time we have lost this season after taking the lead, the other occasion being the Scottish Cup tie at Alloa in November.
Binos boss Greig McDonald made one change to the side that beat Annan 5-3, with Jamie Bishop replacing Chris Smith. The visitors lost Joe Mbu to a hamstring injury in the warm-up and ex-Stirling defender Gary Thom stepped up from the bench.
Teenage keeper Dylan Rooney, the hero of their penalty shoot-out victory over Clyde, kept his place as Greg Paterson was ruled out but it was Albion No 1 David Crawford who was first called into action to make a terrific save to deny Kevin Smith.
The first half was tense and chances were few but we enjoyed a good spell as the interval approached. Top scorer Jordan White somehow diverted the ball over the top from almost under the crossbar then his header from a corner was cleared off the line.
The breakthrough came when Darren Smith hung up a corner to the back post and Forsyth looped a header into the net for his sixth goal of the season.
East Fife were stronger in the second half and we were unable to produce the flowing, attacking football of recent weeks against the well-organised visitors.
Pat Clarke missed a good chance, scooping the ball over the bar, before former Cowdenbeath and Raith Rovers midfielder McBride thumped home a header from a corner to level the tie with 69 minutes gone.
Worse was to come. With just two minutes remaining, Craig Johnstone swung in a free-kick from the left wing and Austin’s header beat Crawford despite the keeper getting a hand to the ball.
It wasn’t our night. In the final minute, Bishop was denied when his effort bounced off the base of the post then, deep into stoppage time, David McClune fired wide with just Rooney to beat.
Stirling Albion: Crawford, Hamilton (McGeachie 75), Forsyth, McClune, Bishop, D Smith, Johnston, Comrie (Ferry 78), White, Weir, Weatherston (Cunningham 75).
Subs (not used): Fulton, O’Byrne, Ashe, Reidford (GK).
Scorer: Forsyth 42
East Fife: Rooney, Cowan, Johnstone, Campbell, Thom, Stewart, McKenzie (Austin 65), Barr, Smith (Buchanan 75), Brown (McBride 46), Clarke.
Subs (not used): O’Neill, R Stewart, Inkango, Shaw (GK).
Scorers: McBride 69, Austin 88
Referee: Craig Charleston