ROYAL Albert’s hopes of gaining a result were well and truly dashed by Stirling’s late goal salvo in last Friday night’s clash.
However, with 78 minutes on the clock, it looked as though Royalists would pick up at least a rare point, but it wasn’t to be. For in a devastating 12-minute spell, they conceded four goals and were left to ponder what might have been.
Up against a well-drilled, good footballing outfit, the Albert did emerge with credit, though, in giving an encouraging performance.
With former signing and ex-Hawick United and Gala Fairydean man, Chris Anderson, deputising for the suspended Willie Turner in goal, and Roddy McConnell making his first competitive appearance of the season, Royalists were first to look like opening their account.
Following a Jody Easdon corner kick, Sean Owens rattled in a shot that appeared net-bound until being blocked by Jason Atkins. Minutes later, McConnell set up a chance for Easdon with a headed lay-off, but the Albert midfielder fired wide.
Despite the heavy rain and a gusty wind, both sides were moving the ball about well and the pace was fast and lively.
Stand-in Albert number one Anderson showed his mettle with two good saves in quick succession, firstly tipping away a Robert Paterson drive and then getting down to block a Chris Geddes effort with his foot.
In the 17th minute, Royalists sailed into the lead with a stunning goal from Steven Sharkey (inset). The visitors failing to clear a free kick, and Sharkey stepping up to unleash a glorious shot that zipped past the helpless University keeper, Ross Harkness.
Just past the half-hour mark, University equalised when Geddes stuck away a Steven Hoyle cross. The students’ strike looked clearly offiside, but there was no whistle from referee Scott Miller.
With six minutes of the first half remaining, Stirling stole in front. Easdon handling in the box, and Geddes making no mistake with the resultant penalty.
This was a blow for Royalists, but five minutes into the second period they drew level. Liam Lavery floating a free kick into a packed goalmouth, where Peter Gellaitry stabbed a shot into the net from close range. From here on the pace of the match began to drop. Stirling had a lot of possession, but as far as scoring goals was concerned, were making little headway due to Royalists’ defensive set-up.
A change was then made in the Albert line-up when McConnell was substituted. And his influential presence was to be greatly missed as the students got their noses in front in the 78th minute.
On being fed by a Pearson pass, Daniel Denholm produced a piece of spot-on finishing in drilling a shot out of the reach of Anderson. Within two minutes of this, Geddes completed his hat-trick and the game’s storyline had now changed dramatically.
Royalists were tiring, and with University appearing as though they could run all day, it was all Stirling. Craig Mason notching a fifth and, just on time, Emmot Gallagher adding to the super-fit students’ tally.