The sun didn’t shine on Whitehill Welfare on Saturday as manager Mickey Lawson returned from a short break in Majorca in time to see his men lose.
A double from Chris Geddes – his second goal from the penalty spot – either side of Aaron Somerville’s spot-kick for the hosts, was enough for the Students to replicate the scoreline from when the sides met at Forthbank earlier in the season. Stirling’s winner was a double blow for Welfare after Ryan McKenzie was shown a second yellow card for conceding the penalty.
Despite a vast improvement in the second half, Lawson admitted Uni were worthy winners. “We were lucky to be in the game after half an hour,” he admitted. “Our goalie kept us in it – he’s the best in the league by a mile. I’d seen Stirling against Spartans when they ran out of steam after an hour and I thought the longer the game went on, we were still in it. We were lucky to be in it – it was a fortuitous penalty but we had the momentum and then they broke clear. Whether it hit his [McKenzie’s] arm or not he couldn’t get out the way.
“They ran out good winners though. They’re putting on fresh legs and we’re down to ten men with two of our work horses – Kerr Dodds and Andrew Kidd – suspended and that’s the sort of surface they excel on. A lot of things didn’t go our way but we get on with it. We’ve still got games in hand in the league so we just battle on from here.
“Although I wasn’t happy with the way the game was decided, over the 90 minutes they were the better side.”
It took just six minutes for Stirling to establish their lead. Geddes pounced on a woefully short pass-back by John Hall before rounding Bryan Young in the Whitehill goal and rolling the ball home via the near post.
Geddes’s strike partner, Lewis Bonar, then missed a hat-trick of chances to further extend his team’s lead.
Firstly, Geddes squared to him in the box but the No. 11’s finish trundled wide with only Young to beat. The same combination had Bonar in on goal only for Young to save well with his legs before the keeper again denied him, parrying Bonar’s header from Callum Burns’ floated free-kick.
Whitehill waited 38 minutes for their first chance and it was gilt-edged, Somerville sliding the ball wide when one-on-one with Ryan Marshall. The front man did make amends 12 minutes after the restart. Wayne McIntosh went down claiming to have been tripped by Matt Sheridan when little contact was evident. Referee Barry Reid initially ignored shouts for a penalty, only to then award one on the advice of his far-side assistant, which Somerville duly dispatched for his 23rd goal of the season.
That lifted Mickey Lawson’s team, who had further efforts from McIntosh and Somerville, whose looping volley nearly caught out Marshall before Stirling won it with a controversial spot kick award of their own 15 minutes from time. Kyle Faulds’ shot was blocked by McKenzie from close range – with his hands according to Reid – who showed the defender his second yellow before Geddes stroked home his and Uni’s second to claim the victory. The striker fluffed his chance of a hat-trick with just a defender on the line to beat before Burns was denied by Young and McAfferty’s follow up hit the post in the dying minutes.
Uni boss Shelley Kerr was satisfied with the result but was reluctant to comment on either penalty decision. “We’’re delighted to get the win,” she said. “We try and play the game the right way at Stirling and I think we’ve shown that this season. We want to finish as high up the league as possible so I’m pleased for the lads who deserved the points. I’d rather not comment [on the penalties] – decisions go for and against you in games and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Whitehill Welfare: Young, Hall, McKenzie, O’Donnell (W Kidd 53), Thom, McGlashan, Manson (Noon 87), Martin, McIntosh, Somerville, Sproule (Kerr71).
Stirling University: Marshall, Burns, Sheridan, Cuff, Drummond, Faulds, Kessie, Kelly (McAfferty 82), Geddes, Williams (Gillen 71), Bonar (Kellock 14).