University of Stirling 2 – 1 Blackburn United
Saturday 17 August, 2019
The University of Stirling will face high-flying Bonnyrigg Rose in the second round of the Football Nation Qualifying Cup after seeing off the challenge of Blackburn United.
A goal in each half – from Matthew Burrows in the first and Calum Heath in the second –was enough to send the students through against their West Lothian opponents.
Stirling manager Chris Geddes said: “It was a difficult, physical game. Blackburn are a good team, strong and with some really good players – but we deserved the win as we were the better team.
“Bonnyrigg is going to be a really difficult game as they are the top Lowland League side at the moment. We have an exciting couple of months ahead.”
Stirling made six changes to the team that drew 4-4 with Cumbernauld Colts in the Lowland League last Saturday (August 10). The first-half was a scrappy affair, with few clear-cut chances created and – several set piece opportunities squandered – by both sides in the opening half hour.
But on 30 minutes, Stirling’s Calum Heath opened up play in the centre of the pitch and his pass was flicked on by Euan Baird into the path of defender Matthew Burrows – given a rare run out up front – who finished with a well-controlled lob over the helpless goalkeeper.
Stirling went into half-time a goal up and Blackburn responded by bringing on striker Andrew McQuillan for Callum Robertson.
On 47 minutes, good link-up play between Baird and Burrows led to a dangerous cross being powered into the box, with Louis Kennedy unable to meet the ball to double Stirling’s lead.
Ten minutes later, substitute McQuillan levelled for Blackburn after getting onto the end of a through ball and sending it low past Stirling’s goalkeeper John Allan.
Both teams made substitutions as they chased the winner.
On 71 minutes, Allan saved another low driven effort from a McQuillan half-volley before denying substitute Take Hirooka’s close-range header. But it was Stirling that snatched the winner with 81 minutes on the clock, with Calum Heath getting on the end of a long ball from Jason Jarvis and managing to toe it past the goalkeeper.
A member of Blackburn’s coaching team was shown the red card for his reaction to the Stirling goal and just minutes later their midfielder Calum McDowall was sent off for violent conduct.
Reflecting on the goals, Geddes said: “We were sloppy in the first half but we got a really good goal. Matty Burrows is a defender but we decided to try him up front – and he managed to get on the end of a flick from Euan before lobbying the goalkeeper with a great finish. If he produces goals like that, we may have to play him up front again!
“We came out again in the second half and – although Blackburn managed to equalise – we kept going and thoroughly deserved the winner. It was a great diagonal ball from Jason Jarvis and Calum Heath has taken a great touch and managed to toe it past their goalkeeper.”
The Football Nation Qualifying Cup is contested by teams that are members of the East of Scotland Football Association but are not in the Scottish Professional Football League. It is played in a knockout format with the winner qualifying to play Edinburgh City in the East of Scotland City Cup Final.
Stirling return to action next Saturday (August 24) as they take on Caledonian Braves in their fourth match of the Lowland League. The match will be played at Alliance Park, Bellshill.
University of Stirling: Allan, Mailer, Quigley (Webb, 57’), Downie, Doan, Bremner (Jarvis, 74’), Kennedy (Brown, 54’), Heath, Baird, Burrows, McGale.
Unused subs: Berry, Peden, Penker, Adamson
Goals: Burrows (30’), Heath (81’)
Bookings: Doan (43’), Bremner (45’), Quigley (45’), Mailer (’67), Downie (80’)
Blackburn United: Clements, Bonnar (L. Devine, 82’), S. Devine, Mildren, Drummond, Kane (Hirooka, 57’), Howe, Young, Robertson (McQuillan, 45’), Campbell, McDowall.
Unused subs: Mitchell, Lawrie, Mackay, Welsh
Goals: McQuillan (56’)
Bookings: Drummond (90’)
Red card: McDowall (88’)