By Andrew Robson at The Graham Sports Centre Durham University
An inspired second-half comeback from the Men’s Football 1’s secured the BUCS Premier North League title away to Durham on Wednesday.
Stirling travelled to Durham knowing they only needed a point from their last two games to clinch top spot but found themselves trailing 3-1 at the break.
However, second-half goals from James Stokes and Euan McGill ensured that the title would be coming north of the border for the third successive season.
After the match, head coach Chris Geddes said: “At half time I gave them a bit of stick because we were being bullied, we were being outfought and outmuscled.
“There was a lot on the line today for us, we did have next week as well, but we wanted to do it today.
“But in the second half the boys were outstanding, they showed why they are the best team in the league”
The home side started well and looked dangerous on the counterattack and took the lead in minute 12 when Zach Alfalahi hit the back of the net after some strong hold-up play from Fin Gwillim.
The early setback prompted Stirling to play their game and were rewarded when a quickly taken free-kick resulted in a one-two between Marcus Lavery and Ciaran McAinish, with the defender flashing the ball across the face of goal for James Stokes to slide in.
However, the sides were not level for long. Stirling conceded an unfortunate own-goal, as Tomas Gilmour couldn’t help but clear into his net as the ball was drilled across the box.
Stirling would themselves further behind before the break. Gwillim raced through after hauling Gilmour to the ground and lifted the ball over the onrushing Ben Fry. Stirling protested as the Durham players hesitantly went over to celebrate in the corner.
The goal left Stirling with a mountain to climb in the second half with the home side having the momentum.
But the visitors took control of the second half right from the whistle, as they pushed for a way back into the game.
Their patience was rewarded with 20 minutes left to play when Stokes grabbed his second. Following several blocked shots, the ball fell to the winger who poked it past the keeper, as Stirling raced to get the ball from the net and restart as fast as possible – although an injury to Durham’s keeper resulted in a lengthy delay.
However, that did not halt the comeback.
With momentum now on their side Euan McGill, who so often this season has come up with crucial goals, first had an effort blocked before he turned and slotted his left-footed strike past the keeper.
Stirling would see out the final ten minutes with the celebrations ensuing on the final whistle.
A euphoric Geddes couldn’t hold back a smile after the game. He said: “For us to come back from 3-1 down away is amazing.
“That’s three BUCS Premier Norths in a row, Stirling Uni have never done that before.
“We know how hard it is to win, so to win it three times in a row is pretty impressive if I’m being honest.
“Credit to my players they deserve it, they were excellent – to a man they were brilliant.”