The sun was shining on Forthbank as the Stirling Albion 2005 squad welcomed Inverness Caledonian Thistle in the Club Academy Scotland Cup. The Binos had taken a lot of confidence from their performance in the opening group stage match the previous Sunday and were looking forward to challenging themselves against another higher tier Academy side.
The journey down the A9 had certainly not dampened Inverness and the visitors started brightly giving the hosts an early fright before taking the lead in only the twelfth minute. Stirling however were not knocked off of their stride and although not greatly troubling the Inverness Goalkeeper, the Binos were enjoying the majority of possession and territory throughout the first half and eventually found a route through the strong visiting defence.
Ruben Lamont, who along with Finlay Barr was causing Inverness all sorts of issues down the right hand side, forced his way to the bi-line from where he drilled across the face of the goal to the onrushing Ross Pincombe. From just a few yards out Pincombe made no mistake in levelling the scoreline.
Inverness continued to look dangerous on the occasions they did get forward and just before half time should have regained the lead only to see a free header sail across the bar but that was to follow their own scare at the other end of the park just minutes before. Stirling had been unfortunate not to take the lead when Barr broke in from the right hand side and smashed a shot against the upright – striker Joe McKay’s rebound would go over the top.
Stirling moved the ball with confidence throughout the first forty-five and while impressing across the park there were stand out performances from Calum Leadbeatter and Ryan Donnelly in centre midfield and Joseph Cassidy at centre back. However the Binos failed to recreate the same composure in the second half and Inverness continued to battle well with their substitutions proving effective. With twenty-five minutes left on the clock the Stirling Coaches, Jamie Baxter and Marc Pincombe, began to respond with changes of their own and as the referee’s watch struck 75 minutes Stirling would take the lead.
Pincombe was on the scoresheet again but this time from distance having cut his way in the park from the left hand side. Working across the edge of the box he probed for an opening and eventually found the space to let his shot sail into the corner and give the home side a sight of the three points.
Alas a final twist was to follow in the 89th minute when Inverness would send a sensational free kick right into the top corner and grab their share of the spoils.
Overall the draw was a fair reflection of the game on chances created but once again Stirling Albion have taken huge confidence from their ability to compete with the top Academy teams in the country.
Final Score Stirling Albion 2 – 2 Inverness Caledonian Thistle
Meanwhile further south our U18 squad were in friendly action with a trip to Palmerston where the weather was very different but the outcome would be the same.
Having been the dominant side throughout a wet first half Stirling Albion would take the lead in at the break thanks to Matty Meechan. The hosts responded to their half time team talk though and took the game to The Binos and with only a quarter of an hour left on the clock Stirling would find themselves 2-1 down. Aurélien Mazel was forced to change his shape as he searched for an equalizer and his change had the required effect with our U18s squaring the game up as the clock ran down.
Following the final whistle Mazel remarked “I’m very glad of the team performance during the 1st half. Great attitude and application. Very comfortable in possession and the movements were good as well which lead to being one up at half time. In the 2nd half, the first 30 minutes were more complicated due to the fact that Queen Of The South were more aggressive and started slowly to put us out of our game but great reaction from the team in the last fifteen minutes with a change of shape and we equalized and have a few opportunities to win the game. Overall a good performance from the boys.”
Final Score: Queen of The South 2 – 2 Stirling Albion.