Preston Athletic boss David Bingham came off the bench to score for his side yesterday as they attempted to end a ten-year wait for silverware.
But by the time the 43-year-old netted midway through the second half of the inaugural Lowland League Cup final, the students of Stirling University had already claimed the trophy in a devastating display.
Chris Geddes scored four and set up the other as the students ran riot in the first hour of the match, but the timing of Stirling’s goals – they struck just three minutes after kick-off in both the first and second halves – proved to be the killer blows for The Panners, who just couldn’t contend with the pace and movement of their opponents.
“I’d easily have given up my goal for a closer game,” said Bingham. “I said to the boys before the match that during my career I played for 19 years and made it to two cup finals – they don’t come around very often, and so you’ve got make the most of it.
“I don’t think we played as well as we could have, considering how well we played down at Dalbeattie [in the League Cup semi-final]. But we had two or three players missing today and two or three carrying knocks, so to play on a pitch this size against a very good team who keep the ball and stretch you right across the park, it really takes it out of you.
“The effort was there, but we were just short in a few areas. We’ve just got to dust ourselves down and get on with it. We’ve got another big cup game on Wednesday [the commencement of their King Cup campaign versus Heriot Watt University] and who’s to say we won’t make another final before the end of the season.”
Stirling, meanwhile, add the Lowland League Cup to a haul of three trophies picked up in a clean sweep of the British University competitions this season. So, for the four Stirling players – including goalscoring sensation Geddes – who only play in the club’s Lowland League squad, Sunday’s victory was all the more important.
“The other boys have all won three medals already this season so this was extra special for me to be part of the team winning the Lowland League Cup,” said Geddes. “I’m delighted with my goals, too – scoring four goals in any cup final is a big achievement.
“To score so quickly was a bonus. I know that for Preston to lose a goal so early, and then to lose a goal so early in the second half as well, would have changed their whole game plan.”
Three minutes were on the clock when Paul Jon Sludden robbed Preston of possession in the middle of the park, and then tore free down the middle of the park before setting up Geddes to side foot home.
Stirling’s pace and movement were all too evident again when Geddes grabbed his second of the match in the 24th minute. This time it was Tomas Jones who provided the assist, with Geddes knocking the ball into the net from a tight angle.
The students struck again barely two minutes after the restart, delivering another sucker punch to Preston. Geddes this time took a turn to provide the assist, setting up Sludden to rifle home from 12 yards.
Geddes completed his hat-trick in the 59th minute with an audacious lob over Gilbertson, and then tapped in for his fourth in the 64th minute after Sludden had stolen the ball from Dodd at the near touchline.
Just before Geddes had grabbed his third and fourth goals to wrap up the victory for Stirling, Bingham had taken to the field to partner Michael Osborne in attack. Although too late to change the result, Bingham latched on to a low cross from the right to direct the ball into the net in the 66th minute, prompting Preston’s brightest spell of the match. Ryan Marshall knocked Osborne off the ball five minutes later to gift Athletic a penalty, and although the Stirling goalkeeper stopped Ross Elliot’s spot-kick, Elliot buried the rebound.
Stirling Univeristy: Marshall, Sutherland, Robertson, Nixon, Geddes, Sludden (Atkins 88), McKee, Cuff, Jones (McWhirter 88), Mitchell-Williams (Leigh 46), Faulds. Subs: Donaghue-Kelly, Hughes.
Preston Athletic: Gilbertson, Cherrie, O’Hara (Bingham 56), Morrison, Foster (Dodd 30), Ramsay, Stewart, Elliot, Osborne, Devlin, Moore. Subs: Davidson, Pennycuick.