University of Stirling 1 – 1 Bonnyrigg Rose
Forthbank Stadium, 7.45pm, 28/10/20
By Charlie Harris at Forthbank Stadium
University of Stirling earned an impressive draw against Bonnyrigg Rose on Wednesday night – extending their unbeaten run in the Lowland League to four games.
The students drew first blood in the match through a drilled effort from Callum Downie, following a neat one-two with on-form Jamie Penker.
Their lead was short-lived, however, as a period of pressure from Rose led to an equaliser from striker George Hunter before the break, after a rare defensive error from Conor Doan.
The second half saw chances for both teams – with substitutes Callum Heath and Kieran Hall coming close for the Uni – but neither side was able to grab a winner to secure all three points.
University of Stirling Head Coach Chris Geddes said: “That’s a really good draw and a great point. The Bonnyrigg players were giving us stick at the end of the game for celebrating a draw, but of course we are celebrating, they’re one of the title contenders and we’re not.
“Bonnyrigg are a really good team with players who could get in any side in the league, they play a certain way and do it well. Their strikers caused us problems all game, but I think our defenders gave as good as they got.
“I thought we started the match really well – the best we’ve started in the last few weeks. I said to Callum Downie before the game that he has to shoot more – and thankfully he did – because it was an excellent strike right into the bottom corner.”
The students came into the game on the back of three consecutive wins – making just one change from the weekend’s thumping victory against Vale of Leithen, with captain Craig Brown returning to the side.
However, it was Rose that threatened most from the first whistle. After just three minutes Hunter fired over the bar from eight yards out, with experienced forward Keiran McGachie lobbing an effort wide of the post just a minute later.
The Uni weathered the storm of the early Bonnyrigg pressure and took the lead on 20 minutes with an excellent team goal. Downie fired home a thunderbolt of a strike from 20 yards after a team move involving more than 10 passes – showcasing the Uni’s expansive style of play.
Stirling were dealt a blow on 33 minutes however, as dependable fullback Matthew Burrows limped off with an injury, to be replaced by Callum Heath. This move saw Robbie McGale fill in at right back.
Rose really ramped up the pressure following this substitution, with both George Hunter and Lee Currie squandering guilt-edged chances, before finally equalising on 39 minutes through Hunter. The striker made no mistake this time after pickpocketing Doan, rounding the exposed Ben Fry in goal, and finishing into an empty net.
Following half-time, Rose remained in control, with Dean Brett hitting the bar on 50 minutes, only to see the ball cleared from danger by Ben Quigley.
Rose saw further chances from Hunter and substitute Ross Gray met with impressive saves from Fry, who more than atoned for his error last time out with a string of acrobatic shot-stopping.
The students eventually regained their composure and began to move the ball well again, with substitutes Louis Kennedy, Heath and Hall looking dangerous on the break.
Kennedy and Hall nearly combined on 81 minutes to snatch victory for the home side, but the latter had strayed into an offside position, denying the team what would have been an excellent goal on the break.
The game eventually ended in a stalemate, but the students will be proud of their efforts – earning their first ever point against Bonnyrigg and forcing their opponents into conceding their first goal of the season in the process.
Looking ahead to a challenging away match against Civil Service Strollers at the weekend, Chris Geddes said: “It will be a tough game. They have good players and coaches, so we will need to be on it, and respectful of the opposition.
“But we are confident – the boys are playing well and we are scoring goals – so we will fancy our chances.”
University of Stirling: Fry, Burrows (Heath, 33’), Quigley, Doan, Lavery (Kennedy, 66’), Downie, Brown, Berry, Penker (Hall, 66’), Jarvis, McGale
Scorer: Downie (20’)
Bonnyrigg Rose: Weir, Brett, Young, Wilson, Martyniuk, Mair, Stewart (Docherty, 76’), Currie, Gray, Hunter (Smith, 83’), McGachie (R. Gray, 54’)
Scorer: Hunter (39’)
All photographs by George Vekic.