Our U20 side were beaten 2-1 by champions Raith Rovers in the final match of the Development League East campaign on Monday night.
Alberto Vezza opened the scoring from the penalty spot but Rovers hit back to earn all three points on the Forthbank Astro as Andy Todd’s team finished third in the table.
Report by Andrew MacDonald
The boys were assisted by first-team goalkeeper Craig Wight and Ross Cameron also came back into the fold. U17 player Connor Preston was named as a substitute.
As expected, the recent league champions played very astutely throughout, as they kept possession well and didn’t give our U20 side time on the ball. But it was Stirling who had the first meaningful attack of the game. Top scorer Reg McLaren was fed down the right wing, where he skilfully held off two opponents and set up Cameron at the edge of the box. The forward’s low left-footed drive was saved by the keeper and spun away for a corner.
The young Binos then took the lead with 23 minutes on the clock. Left-back Luke Martin went on an outrageous run down the left, as he skipped past three Raith challenges, before advancing into the box and winning a penalty for his side after a defender handled the ball. Fantastic play by Martin! Vezza slotted the kick into the bottom corner, out of reach of the keeper.
The visitors hit back fairly quickly, however. Raith won the ball back in midfield and worked a shooting opportunity at the edge of the box. The resulting shot hit the crossbar but fell kindly to striker Jack Smith who headed the ball into the net from four yards.
There weren’t many other opportunities of note before half-time. Ryan Lockie had a free-kick saved and Wight made a save low to his left from distance.
The second half was very similar for Stirling. Rovers dominated possession so our boys had to hit on the counter attack and try and make the most of opportunities when they had the ball. Justin Watson and Declyn Cumming both had half chances but their efforts hit the side netting.
Vezza nearly single-handedly put our U20s into the lead after an hour. The winger picked up the ball on the left side of the box and tried to work a shooting opportunity. He managed to keep the ball despite being challenged by four Raith players before cutting back on to his left foot, now on the right side of the box, and deliciously curled the ball towards the top left corner. To his and his team-mates’ dismay, however, the ball cannoned off the bar and spun away.
The visitors took the lead five minutes later with a well-worked goal. The Raith midfield did well to keep the ball and draw out the Stirling defence. They made space on the right wing for Lewis McCann to advance into and strike a shot into the bottom corner with his left foot.
The young Binos showed some desire in the last five minutes as they sought the win which would see them finish second in the league but Rovers defended resolutely and restricted Stirling to shots from distance.
K. Banner (Trialist 55’)
J. Watson (Mair 75’)
R. Cameron (Preston 75’)
Sub (not used): C. Law