Football returned to Forthbank after a seven-month absence as we kicked off our Betfred Cup campaign against Dick Campbell’s men on a perfect autumn evening. It was, of course, a strictly closed-door fixture although in a historic first the match was streamed live on Stirling Albion TV.
Those watching at home saw Arbroath claim the points but there was plenty of encouragement for Kevin Rutkiewicz’s side, particularly in the second half. With a bit of luck we might have forced a draw against a team who finished fifth in the Championship last season.
Ross McGeachie and Blair Currie missed out through injury and Dom Docherty was suspended. There were debuts for Kurtis Roberts, Andy Ryan, Jack Leitch and Kieran Moore in a 3-5-2 formation for our first competitive fixture since the heavy defeat to Cove Rangers on Tuesday March 10.
There was a familiar look to the Arbroath side, with most of their new signings on the bench. The Gayfield club won 6-1 here in last season’s Betfred Cup and were two goals in front by the interval.
Striker Luke Donnelly headed a superb opener from a Jason Thomson cross after 14 minutes and the second goal just after the half-hour mark was even better. A short corner was only partially cleared and centre-half Thomas O’Brien smashed a fabulous volley into the net from 10 yards.
Derek Gaston pushed a David Wilson free-kick round the post and Ryan fired into the side netting before the former Airdrie and Dunfermline forward got one back with a wonderful goal 14 minutes from time. Ryan curled a beauty into the corner from the far edge of the area and only a fine save from Gaston prevented him from equalising. Leitch, who was excellent in the middle of the park, fired over late on as Arbroath held on for a matchday one victory.
Stirling Albion: Binnie, Banner, Creaney, McLean, McGregor, K Roberts (S Roberts 71), Ryan, Wilson, Mackin (Byrne 88), Leitch, Moore (Thomson 77). Subs (not used): Law (GK), El-Zubaidi, Greenhorn, Heaver, France.
Scorer: Ryan 76
Arbroath: Gaston, Thomson, Hamilton, Little, O’Brien, Gold (Smith 67), McKenna (Swankie 67), Hilson (Ruth 59), Linn (Stewart 59), Virtanen, Donnelly (Doolan 71). Subs (not used): Gallacher (GK), Craigen.
Scorers: Donnelly 14, O’Brien 32
Referee: Barry Cook