Andrew MacDonald looks back at how our U20 side fared in 2017/18
After an ordinary start to the campaign, the boys finished the season strongly. Sitting fourth in the Development League East at the turn of the year, the young Binos went on a good run to finish in third position with eight wins, four draws and six losses. Andy Todd will be happy with his side’s home form, which dramatically improved during the second half of the season. Particular highlights include the multiple thrashings of Cowdenbeath and the away drubbing of Forfar.
Todd will also be extremely satisfied with his team’s performance in the Scottish FA Youth Cup. After dispatching Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale and Cumbernauld Colts in the early rounds, our U20 side set up a last-16 tie against the 2016-17 Development League champions Ross County in February. Stirling performed fantastically and were leading 3-2 at one point. They were unlucky to not advance to the quarter-finals, as they were defeated 4-3 in the end.
Reg McLaren finished the season as top scorer. The powerful forward scored 15 goals in 21 matches. He continued his remarkable theme from the first half of the season of only scoring in twos – 14 of his 15 goals were braces. McLaren has also been a valuable provider, as he notched six assists this season. The striker has put in many an impressive performance this season. Aside from putting the ball in the net, McLaren’s tireless running and bullying of defenders has been invaluable.
Alberto Vezza finished the season as the top creator. The diminutive winger has constantly been a source of nuisance for opposition defenders and has chipped in with seven assists over the course of the campaign. He also leads the way for chances created this season. Vezza has further highlighted his importance by finishing as second in the goal charts with nine goals.
Four of Andy Todd’s squad have played in every match this season. Callum MacDonald and Alberto Vezza have played a part in all 21 games, with Reg McLaren and Ryan Lockie starting every match. Skipper Lockie has played every minute of every game. Defensive players Taylor Evans, Luke Martin and Dillon Young have also shown their importance by playing in each game where Stirling managed to secure a clean sheet. U17 goalkeeper Callum Law kept two of these clean sheets and did well in the five matches he’s played this season.
Although it was a blow for our U20 side losing George Stranger to Hamilton in January, it’s fantastic to see him advancing his career and now playing for the Binos’ first team when he was back on loan. A number of other U20 players have been involved with the first team in some capacity this season. Kyle Banner is consistently in the first-team squad and is approaching double figures for appearances made. Ross Cameron, Taylor Evans, Ronan Fallens, Callum Law, Callum MacDonald and Alberto Vezza have also been called up to the first team bench on occasions.
The majority of our U20 players have remained out on loan for the second half of the campaign. Ronan Fallens and Connor McMullan were sent on an emergency loan to Lowland League outfit Cumbernauld Colts in February. The pair have helped Colts secure sixth place in the League as well as lifting the Lowland League Cup.
Veteran U20 players Ross Cameron and Ryan Lockie have both been enjoying individual success at Camelon in the East Region Superleague. Cameron has started scoring important goals for the Mariners, while Lockie has provided nine assists for his team-mates over the course of the season. Also playing in the East Region, Brooklyn Mair, has been a consistent performer for his Rosyth side in the South Division. The Rec finished 10th this season.
Five players are plying their trade in the Central District First Division. Both Taylor Evans and Justin Watson have both been scoring and assisting goals for their Shotts Bon Accord side, who eye a top-six finish. Marc Innes and Luke Martin have both mainly been linking down the left-hand side for Thorniewood United, who have recently been performing well in the league.
Consistent U20 performer Declyn Cumming also had a loan spell with Thorniewood this season. Dillon Young’s Wishaw enjoyed a remarkable run to the semi-finals of the Scottish Junior Cup, where they were unlucky not to advance to the final. Young has recently forced his way into the team and has a number of important games to play before the Junior season ends.