Stirling cruised to victory at a sunny Central Park to move level on points with second-placed Edinburgh City.

Kevin Rutkiewicz had asked his players for a response following the disappointing midweek defeat to Stranraer and he certainly got one in the 12 noon kick-off, which was preceded by a minute’s silence on the day of the funeral of HRH Prince Philip.

Albion rattled in five goals and could easily have had at least a couple more against a Cowden side who had gone into the game having shut out Elgin and Albion Rovers in their previous two outings.

Stirling won 4-1 on their last visit to Central Park in February 2020 and went one better at the weekend thanks to a double from top scorer Andy Ryan and goals from Chris Hamilton, Kyle Banner and Dylan Mackin.

The Blue Brazil were briefly level through defender Craig Barr but in general offered little threat and the difference between the teams was as wide as the scoreline suggests.

Albion were without Paul McLean, Aldin El-Zubaidi, Jordan McGregor and Kurtis Roberts but Ryan returned from a one-match ban in one of seven changes to the team beaten 1-0 by Stranraer.

We were ahead inside four minutes in Fife. The home defence failed to deal with a long throw from the left touchline and Ryan profited to fire past on-loan Rangers keeper Nicky Hogarth, who had a spell at Forthbank last season.

Stirling should have been further ahead before Cowdenbeath equalised out of the blue in 17 minutes when Barr scored with a fine header from Fraser Mullen’s free-kick.

It was a blip rather than a turning point and within a few minutes Albion were back in front. Ryan went down under a challenge from Barr and struck the resulting penalty into the bottom right-hand corner.

The visitors were playing some great stuff and Ryan almost had his hat-trick when his 25-yard free-kick beat Hogarth but came back off the underside of the bar.

Cowden couldn’t stem the tide and the third goal wasn’t long in coming. It was a thing of beauty –
Mackin’s touch and perfect pass released Jordan Allan on the left and his cross was swept home from six yards by on-loan Hearts midfielder Hamilton.

Central defender Banner got in on the act early in the second half when he headed home a Leitch corner for his first goal of the season and Mackin made it 5-1 after 65 minutes when he gathered the rebound to fire a low shot into the net after Ryan’s effort had rebounded from the post.

Cowdenbeath: Hogarth, Mullen, Finnie, Todd, Barr, K Miller, Buchanan (Hamilton 74), Hutton (Herd 68), Renton (Russell 74), Morrison (Z Miller 57), Swann (Taylor 57). Subs (not used): Whyte (GK), Pyper, Pollock, Sandison.

Goal: Barr 20

Stirling Albion: Binnie, McGeachie, Eadie, Banner, Hamilton, Allan (Thomson 70), Ryan (Bikey 77), Docherty, Leitch (Heaver 77), Moore (Roberts 84), Mackin (Kirkpatrick 70). Subs (not used): Currie (GK), Byrne, Wilson.

Goals: Ryan 4, pen 20, Hamilton 37, Banner 48, Mackin 65

Referee: Calum Scott