Andrew MacDonald gives his mid-term report on our U20 squad’s season.
The boys return to action in the Development League East at the start of February, with a Scottish Cup tie against current Development League champions Ross County on the Forthbank Astro on Monday January 8.
The young Binos sit fourth in the Development League East after 12 fixtures. They have four wins, three draws and five losses thus far. Highlights of the season have been the away drubbings of Cowdenbeath and Forfar when both games finished 6-2 to Stirling.
The biggest disappointment for Andy Todd’s side has been home form as the boys have only picked up one win and a draw in the league on the Forthbank Astro.
The Scottish Youth Cup has been an extremely successful affair for our U20s this season. After receiving a bye in the first round, a second-round fixture against Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale was the team’s first game in the competition. A 4-0 victory set up a third-round home tie against Cumbernauld Colts. Stirling again scored four goals, as they beat their opponents 4-2. The young Binos play Ross County in their last-16 tie, a quarter-final away to Aberdeen awaits the winner.
Striker Reg McLaren is currently the top scorer for our U20 team. McLaren has notched an impressive 11 goals in 14 matches. It’s evident that the clinical finisher enjoys scoring in pairs, as eight of his haul have been braces. A highlight for the 18-year-old was his performance away to Forfar, as he completely dominated the Loons’ defence, scoring two goals and assisting another.
Alberto Vezza is the top creator this season, notching seven assists in 14 games. The midfielder has enjoyed a fantastic season, his skilful dribbling and impact on matches have been evident. A particular highlight was his performance against Livingston in September, as he took the game by the scruff of the neck when his team were trailing by two goals, scoring a fantastic individual effort and laying on an assist to inspire a 4-3 victory.
Four players have showed their importance to coach Andy Todd, by playing every game so far. Callum MacDonald and Alberto Vezza have played a part in all 14 games, with Reg McLaren and captain Ryan Lockie starting every match. The former has completed every minute of play.
Andy Todd has also relied on his players’ versatility. Callum MacDonald and recent U17 graduate Justin Watson have helped out by playing a number of positions. Taylor Evans and Ronan Fallens have also been a regular fixture in the side, as Evans has looked to dictate games from the centre of the park and Fallens has used his shot-stopping abilities to keep the team in contention.
It’s been fantastic to see the likes of Kyle Banner, Ross Cameron and first year U20 player George Stanger become inclusions in Dave Mackay’s first-team squads. All three players have made appearances for the first team this season, with Banner and Stanger making their first starts recently. An excellent advert for Albion youth players, long may it continue.
Many of our U20 squad have been out on loan at Junior Clubs across Scotland for the last few months. Reg McLaren and Dillon Young are playing well for their Luncarty and Wishaw sides. The two teams are battling for the title in their respective leagues. McLaren is also using his powers of influence for Luncarty, as he’s scoring and assisting goals for the Bleachers. Young’s composure and defensive qualities are paying dividends for Wishaw.
U20 captain Ryan Lockie is playing consistently for Camelon. The left-back is assisting goals and performing his defensive duties admirably every week. Callum MacDonald also had a short stint at Carmuirs Park.
Carluke Rovers’ Alberto Vezza and Newmains United players Luke Martin and Justin Watson are playing in the West Region Central Second Division. Vezza’s Carluke sit in third place, as the winger continues to apply his direct style of play to influence games. Martin and Watson’s Newmains are firmly rooted the foot of the table. The pair are playing well in a number of positions for their side as the club is going through transition after turning over nearly all of their squad.
Defenders Brooklyn Mair, Declyn Cumming and midfielder Marc Innes are also out on loan. Mair is enjoying a spell with Oakley United, who ply their trade in the East Region South Division. Despite sitting in the bottom half of the table, the recent U17 graduate is working hard in either full-back position. His tackling abilities and physical exposure in Junior football has improved his overall game for our U20 team.
Thorniewood United are bottom of the West Region Central First Division with only one point from eight games. The Stirling pair are doing themselves proud, though. Cumming is playing either right-back or right midfield for the Wood and has come back strongly after an injury early on in the season. Innes looks to dictate games with his range of passing and ball-winning abilities.