Saturday 7th October – Carnegie 3rd XI v Stirling Wanderers 1st XI @ Forthbank
As this was the first weekend of the School holidays, panic mode was fully enabled as the availability responses were returned. This week we were short of Grant Ogilvie, Paul Ralph, Ben Stubbs, Lewis Cameron and Robbie Pollock leaving us with a squad of 12 men for the game. Graeme Cromb after his wonder goal from the previous week (we all wondered how it went in…) graciously agreed to play in goals for us using random pieces of equipment found in the black hole that is Keith’s garage. I am sure there are still some leather kickers and cane pads in there somewhere… On the plus side, Alan Aitken was available this week! 🙂 With the way the league has been structured for the 2017/2018 season, this was the first outing for Stirling Wanderers in this year’s campaign so we had no idea what to expect, but the fact that Stirling were playing in Division 1 last year did give us an indication that this would not be an easy game.
Although there were 12 named men on the team sheet, the game was started with the bare 11 as we could not delay any longer waiting for Sean Byron to emerge from the changing rooms…From the beginning of the game it was obvious that the Stirling team were very well drilled. Their passing was crisp, their stopping excellent and it was clear that they were used to playing on this pitch. For those of you that haven’t played on the Forthbank pitch, it is a water based bouncy pitch that when the ball is played to the road side tends to skip as it runs against the grain of the turf. The pitch is also treacherous underfoot towards the dugouts as the leaves from the trees mixed with the water become very slippery. It took Carnegie the best part of 10 minutes to get used to this and within the first 5 minutes found themselves a goal down as a bouncing through ball found a lurking forward in the ‘D’ who smashed the ball home on the half volley past the onrushing keeper. 0-1 Stirling. As the ball was played back from the centre spot to re-start the game, Sean appeared at the dugouts claiming he was ready to play, even though his pallor was awful and could visible be seen shaking. With the team now up to full(ish) strength, Carnegie took the fight to Stirling and finally managed to get some good balls to the baselines and cause some problems for the Stirling defenders. It was on the 13th minute that a great baseline run by Jack Tweddle and Fraser Johnston (Chef) ended up with a cross across the ‘D’ that found Sean on the back post to one handed reverse slide the ball into the net to make the score lines even. 1-1 Carnegie. For the remaining 22 minutes of the half, Stirling continued to pile on the pressure, moving the ball from side to side, trying to create gaps in the Carnegie defence but on each occasion were stopped before the ball could reach the back of the net. Not always pretty or panic free, but effective defending none the less. The half time whistle went with the score at 1-1.
The second half was very similar to the first with Stirling mounting the pressure on the Carnegie defence and had Graeme Cromb not brought his ‘A’ game, the final score could have been significantly different as his shot stopping and movement was flawless. With the majority of the play in the Carnegie half, lone man Chef was left to patrol the Stirling 25 yard line. It was on the 50th minute of the game that a clever through ball from Finlay found Chef alone at the top of the Stirling ‘D’ with just the keeper to beat! let’s just say the score line remained at 1-1 and leave it at that. The final 10 minutes of the game however started to take a different turn, after Stirling had dominated the play for the vast majority of the game, their stamina closing players down and speed of ball movement dropped dramatically allowing the young legs of the Carnegie team (particularly Hew Bishop), more time on the ball to pick better passing options. With time running out, it looked like the points would be shared between the two teams as the umpire signalled for the last 2 minutes of the game. However, “give up” is not in Hew’s vocabulary as he intercepted a loose defensive clearance to play a deft dink shot into the ‘D’ for Forster to collect, turn and fire towards the back post for a deflection. Everyone on and off the pitch held their breath and I am sure Chef also had his eyes closed as he let the ball hit his stick and bounce into the goal. 2-1 Carnegie. Stirling had enough time to collect the ball and play the pass back before the final whistle sounded.
It was a back to the wall defensive game against a very competent Stirling team that I am sure will pick up many points this season. Although the score line at the end of the game read a 2-1 victory, this is mainly down to the fact that Graeme had a great game in goals, the defensive pairing of Mark and Adam held the middle of the pitch, Jack and Ross stopped them getting to the baselines and a fair amount of rusty finishing by the Stirling Forwards. Still, 3 points is 3 points. We now have a 2 week break before our next game against Edinburgh University at Woodmill on the 28th October.
Final score – Carnegie 2 – Stirling Wanderers 1