By John Turnbull at The Rock
A defeat in Dumbarton against Rangers B leaves the University of Stirling unable to win the Lowland League, but the disappointment on the day was how Stirling left with nothing.
Jason Jarvis brought the Uni level after Rangers’ Charlie Lindsay gave the B team an early lead.
Fellow midfielder James Berry struck a second Stirling equalizer to open the second half after an own goal put Rangers ahead going into the break.
Despite Jack Harkness’ dismissal for a foul leading to the Stirling penalty, substitute James Graham scored a third Rangers goal to secure three points.
A deflated Chris Geddes said: “I said to the boys in there, mark that under as one that got away.
“Rangers were down to 10 men, but we still deserved to win that game, but they showed class at both ends… it’s disappointing for us because we let that one get away.
“The boys said the pitch was really soft underneath, so it took the legs out of them a bit, and considering how many games we’ve played, I thought we matched them at times.
“Listen, to even be talking about having 68 points with three games to go is unbelievable, so all credit to my guys.
“We have a cup final [on Wednesday], we want to try and finish the Lowland League as high as possible, and we’re still in the East of Scotland Cup and Lowland League Cup, so loads to play for.”
After an inspiring win to end Tranent Juniors‘ hopes of promotion midweek, Stirling still had the chance to earn the sole play-off spot, and despite defeat, showed why on Saturday.
However, Stirling had to get a result the hard way after falling behind early. Charlie Lindsay took the ball into the Uni box and went around Ben Fry before adding the final touch.
The quick start was no demoralizer for Stirling, though, as the Uni hit back shortly after. James Stokes stole the ball on 18 minutes and found Jarvis, who struck cleanly into the far bottom corner.
There was little to split the sides until it was a goal that would do so, as Rangers retook the lead after 41 minutes. Matthew Burrows attempted to clear a low Harkness cross, but the ball struck Ben Fry and rebounded back into the Uni goal.
But Geddes’ half-time team talk was received well, as it took Stirling only a minute of the second half to equalize again. James Stokes was brought down by Harkness as he swept into the box and Berry could be relied upon as always to convert from 12 yards.
In a period of sustained away pressure, Ben Maciver-Redwood, Berry, and Jarvis had chances to put Stirling in front, but Rangers threw a sucker punch on 68 minutes.
Robbie Ure flicked on a long clearance in behind the Uni defence, and on his third attempt, after some fortune in the box, Graham fired the ball into the roof of the net.
Rangers goalkeeper Lewis Budinauckas capped a disappointing day out for Stirling with an excellent save to deny Calum Rae late on, as the forward’s low effort was somehow tipped wide.
The Uni can take consolation in still being guaranteed to finish in the top four once the Old Firm B teams are displaced from the standings.
There are still chances for silverware, though, and first up is Heriott-Watt University on Wednesday, in the final of the Queen’s Park Shield.
Rangers B: Budinauckas, Harkness, Fraser, Allan, MacKinnon, Strachan, Ishaka, Lindsay, Ure, Lyall, McCausland
University of Stirling: Fry, Burrows, Service, Lavery, Berry, Russell (McAninch 73), Jarvis, Stokes (Munro 85), Maciver-Redwood, McKinley (Rae 73), Heal (McGill 79)