Vale of Leithen 1
By any standards, this was a shock result in the East of Scotland Premier Division, writes Dave Ryce.
Stirling sat second in the table, Vale sat second bottom. It was the Innerleithen men’s first game in five weeks, while the Students had played seven in that time. Most significant was the fact that while Stirling selected their starting line up from a full squad, Vale were already missing half a dozen players to a variety of factors before other circumstances denied them the services of three more close to kick off.
Consequently the team picked itself up, with former goalkeeper Mark Wilson drafted in alongside five new signings – Charles McAleavy, Daniel McAleavy, Jim Young, Eddie Mearns and Charlie Brigain. There wasn’t much in the way of options on the bench, either, with only manager Fraser Ogilvie and sub goalkeeper James Hudson on it.
But sometimes, in times of adversity, the true character of players emerge. And under the guidance of a technical area featuring former Civil Service Strollers boss Chic McAleavy and former Vale and Whitehill Welfare manager Rab Paget, the makeshift side pulled off a superb performance to pick up three precious points.
As expected, there was some early pressure to soak up, with Stirling gunning to put their title challenge back on track. But the defence did a fine job, restricting Stirling to long-range shots after their attempts to break down the defensive wall came to no avail.
Stirling’s Liam Corr did manage to get a shot on target, but keeper Wilson got down to block the powerful effort well. Then, in the 22nd minute, Vale made the breakthrough.
Charles McAleavy sent a free kick into the area which was knocked down by Kerr Dodds into the path of debutant Brigain, who fired an unstoppable volley into the net from 14 yards out to put the home side in the driving seat.
The second-half comeback you might have expected from Stirling failed to materialise and the game settled into an intriguing, if not exciting, contest.
The students came agonizingly close to snatching a dramatic equaliser in the closing moments as a free kick from Jack Sutherland came crashing off the underside of the bar, but the ball bounced in front of the line and out to safety.
Vale of Leithen: M. Wilson, C. McAleavy, D. McAleavy, J. Young, J. Blaikie, C. Inglis, E. Mearns, K. Dodds, S. Moffat (F. Ogilvie), C. Brigain, D. Thomson.