Uni fightback twice to share spoils in East Kilbride

By John Turnbull at K-Park

The University of Stirling had to come back from behind twice on Saturday but were rewarded with a point following a 2-2 draw with East Kilbride.

Neil McLaughlin’s penalty separated the sides going into the break, but Ben Heal drew the Uni level shortly after the restart.

Two headed goals followed from Reece McGuire and Cameron McKinley before Ben Fry saved McLaughlin’s second penalty at the death to win the Uni a valuable point on the road.

Head coach Chris Geddes said: “For us, the point was probably fair on chances and possession. 

“We were a bit disappointed to go in 1-0 down at half-time through a penalty, which we thought was pretty soft. 

“We gave them a quiet talking down at half-time because we weren’t doing the basics very well. We didn’t get as many chances second half, but we definitely played a lot better.

“We’ll take a point and move on, but I’ve told the boys, it shows where we’ve come as a squad that we are disappointed to come to East Kilbride and only get a point.”

Seven consecutive wins before travelling to K-Park would give Stirling enough belief to think a win in East Kilbride was a live possibility.

The Uni showed signs of early intent, but the hosts should’ve opened the scoring earlier than they did.

Kyle Connell seemed to have pulled Marcus Lavery back, but play was waved on, and Fry made his first key save from the former Kilmarnock striker.

The opener was eventually hit on 37 minutes, as McLaughlin placed his first penalty of the afternoon into the corner.

Geddes got a response from the Uni though, and on 54 minutes the game was level. After positive wing play from Ciaran McAninch, the ball found Heal, who curled into the far corner.

It proved a game of the sides hitting back at each other, however, as East Kilbride again took the lead, this time on 68 minutes.

A well-worked move, started by captain Ronan Hughes, was headed in at the back post by McGuire.

A rare league defeat for Stirling would’ve felt harsh given the balance of the game, and McKinley fired back.

The Uni had several attempts blocked in the box, but it popped up for McKinley to head in a second goal in as many games – and a tenth in the Lowland League this season.

James Berry celebrates McKinley’s equaliser (Credit: Gary Peacock)

With one minute of the ninety left, East Kilbride had the chance to steal all three points, but an in-form Fry dived low to his right and tipped McLaughlin’s spot-kick around the post.

Geddes praised his shot-stopper after the game: “He’s done that all season, we’ve got two good goalkeepers. He came up trumps for us there, and in the first half – it was a quality penalty save.”

It’s a quick turnaround for Stirling, with Edinburgh Napier the quarter-final opponents in Monday’s Queen’s Park Shield tie before going to Clydebank in the South Challenge Cup next weekend.

East Kilbride: Currie, MacDonald, Peacock, Morgan, Lithgow, Thomson (McGuire 61), R. Hughes (McDonald 89), McLaughlin, Connell (McHugh 89), B. Hughes (Miller 77), Docherty (Allasan 61)

University of Stirling: Fry, Lavery, Service, Burrows, Berry, Russell (Rae 74), Jarvis, Stokes (McAninch 45), Heal, McKinley (Thompson 85), Maciver-Redwood

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