Our U20 side were beaten 4-3 by Ross County in the fourth round of the Scottish FA Youth Cup on the Forthbank Astro on Sunday afternoon.
The Staggies led 2-0 early in the second half but a stunning fightback saw Taylor Evans, Marc Innes and Justin Watson turn things round in the space of 12 minutes.
Goals after 72 and 75 minutes saw the Staggies through to a quarter-final against Aberdeen but this was a performance to be proud of from Andy Todd’s team.
Report by Andrew MacDonald
Andy Todd lined his side up in a 4-2-3-1 formation as Kyle Banner and Connor McMullan provided crucial first-team experience. The visitors were playing their first competitive fixture since the end of January, when they were defeated 2-1 by current Development League table-toppers Hibernian.
The young Binos started the better of the two sides as they exerted pressure on the visitors for the first 15 minutes. Ross Cameron was denied a penalty in the second minute as he appeared to be chopped down after beating his opponent. Top scorer Reg McLaren and midfielder Taylor Evans also had early efforts but their shots were wide.
The boys were playing well, as they took the game to the Staggies. Our opponents had their first meaningful effort after 18 minutes, as Stirling keeper Ronan Fallens parried the ball to the edge of the box for a Ross County player to smash over the crossbar.
County took the lead after half an hour through Sam Morrison as he slipped away from his marker from a corner to volley home. A very avoidable goal from an Albion perspective.
McLaren was trying to get his team back into contention. The striker had a fine game, his hold-up play was a joy to watch. One particularly impressive piece of play led to the striker driving infield and curling the ball into the path of advancing full-back Callum MacDonald. The defender’s cross wasn’t met by a team-mate, however.
Banner then blocked a goal-bound shot on the stroke of half-time as the Staggies went into the interval a goal to the good. Our U20s were disappointed to be trailing, considering the start they made to the game.
The second half was a thrilling affair. It started terribly for Stirling, as Ross County extended their lead in the 47th minute. Indecision with our goalkeeper and defence resulted in an easy finish for left winger Ross MacIver at the back post.
Minutes later, Evans gave the young Binos lifeline. The midfielder controlled the ball from a slack header and superbly swivelled in the box to fire a shot into the corner. An excellent effort from Evans, who had a very influential game.
Marc Innes then scored one of the most outrageous goals of the season for Stirling. The ball fell to him at the right hand side of the box – he expertly wrapped his foot round the ball and stroked a curled effort into the top left-hand corner. Outstanding technique from the central midfielder, as he opened his account for the season.
The young Binos then took the lead in the 63rd minute, as Justin Watson sent his team-mates into hysteria. McLaren picked up the ball in the centre circle, as he again did fantastically to hold up the ball. The striker played through substitute Justin Watson, who raced past his marker and slotted the ball past the on-rushing County goalie. A great finish by Watson, who wheeled away in celebration with all his team-mates.
The visitors were becoming frantic with their attempts to get back into the game but they managed to score an equaliser in the 71st minute. MacDonald made an excellent block to deny a certain goal but, following the corner, Tom Grivosti found the net. Another completely avoidable goal for the boys.
Devastatingly for Stirling, the Staggies went 4-3 ahead through Greg Morrison in the 75th minute following something of a stramash in the box. Again, Stirling should be disappointed with the way they conceded.
The young Binos pressed for a late leveller, but were unsuccessful in their attempts. Despite the loss, it was a very accomplished performance from our U20 side.
1. Ronan Fallens
2. Callum MacDonald (Declan Cumming 81)
3. Luke Martin
4. Ryan Lockie
5. Kyle Banner
6. Marc Innes (Dillon Young 81)
7. Alberto Vezza
8. Connor McMullan
9. Reg McLaren
10. Ross Cameron (Justin Watson 56)
11. Taylor Evans
Sub (not used): Brooklyn Mair