By John Turnbull at Forthbank
A second-half comeback, inspired by a handful of super subs, lifted the University of Stirling to a 2-1 win over Gala Fairydean Rovers on Saturday.
After rueing chances in the opening ten minutes, Stirling fell behind as Aidan Cassidy’s free-kick skipped through the box and into the far corner.
But, Jason Jarvis turned the game around within 15 minutes of coming on at the hour mark.
The Uni midfielder’s free-kick on 67 minutes caused an own goal before a deflected strike from another set-piece proved the winner.
Head coach Chris Geddes: “on the second half performance, we deserved it, for me. We played really well in the first 25 minutes and were letting Gala off the hook.
“They [Gala] changed the way they were playing, going direct, and they were causing us problems with some really good combinations and passing.
“We lacked that quality around the box, just the final pass or shot. We had the opportunities but just weren’t putting them away, but second half was much improved.
“We’ve set such high standards for ourselves this season, and when we drop below them it’s very visible. The fresh legs came on and made a difference.
“The three goals weren’t great, a bit scrappy, but we are glad to have got two of them.”
Euan McGill and Calum Rae had chances to finish what would’ve been a well-worked opener early on, but the breakthrough was quite the opposite.
On 14 minutes, Cassidy delivered his free-kick from the top of the 18-yard box, and the ball went unchallenged before finding the net.
Gala looked dangerous going forward, but more Stirling chances followed, with the end product still missing.
Three changes for the Uni at the break before another couple shortly after, ensured Stirling took clear control of the game in the second half.
The equaliser came from a similar position to the opener. This time Jarvis’ cross wasn’t dealt with by Ruairidh Adams, and the ball was scrambled over the line.
Despite being on top, it took a bit of good fortune to pick up all three points. But, Stirling had created their own luck, and Jarvis saw his free-kick effort deflect past Adams.
With a break in Lowland League action for the Uni, first is the chance to be crowned BUCS National champions on Wednesday.
For the first time since 2016, Stirling will compete in the final of the championships in Nottingham, with fellow Premier North opponents Durham University making up the tie.
Geddes added: “the boys are really looking forward to it, they just wanted to get this one out of the way. It’s a great occasion for the players.
“It’s a culmination of some boys winning the BUCS league three years in a row, so for the fourth years it will be a really good experience.
“It’s going to be a tough game, we know what Durham are like, but for the whole University it’s a really good occasion, and getting the win today gives them confidence for next week.”
University of Stirling: Fry, Thompson, Service, Lavery, Munro (Maciver-Redwood 45), Heal, Russell (Jarvis 60), Bainbridge (McAninch 45), Rae (Docherty 72), McKinley, McGill (Berry 45)
Gala Fairydean Rovers: Adams, C. Hall, Mitchell, Cassidy, Greene, Dougal, Wilkie, Watt, Nicol, Ocholi, Mahady