By John Turnbull at Forthbank
A 4-0 win over Hearts B brought the University of Stirling’s home league season to a perfect end on Saturday.
The Uni captain James Berry volleyed in a goal-of-the-season contender within minutes of kick-off before Calum Rae netted a double to seal a dominant first half.
The rout was completed in the second half when Jake Service poked in a fourth, as Stirling put four past the young Jambo’s again, to secure a top-four finish.
Head coach Chris Geddes said: “The boys were excellent today against a fast, energetic side. You can see how they’ve scored so many goals and conceded as well, but full credit to my players, they were outstanding.
“We won a cup on Wednesday, so to come out here today and put in a really good performance, I’m delighted with them.
“We have eight players in double figures [for goals], and James’ [Berry] goal at the start today was outstanding, I never even reacted because it was so good, the keeper had no chance.
“Then Calum [Rae] popped up with two, it’s a shame he missed so much of the season with injury, he had eight Lowland League goals in his first nine games.
“But I also need to give a mention to Cammy [McKinley], who worked really hard today, and to Jake [Service], Matty [Burrows], and Marcus [Lavery] dealing with a really good young striker, and James [Russell] and Euan [McGill] who were excellent as well.”
There was no hangover from Wednesday’s Queen’s Park Shield heroics, and celebrations, as Saturday’s performance wrapped up a successful season in Lowland League action at Forthbank.
Geddes had done his homework on the colt’s side, but it was a moment of brilliance that handed the Uni the lead after 3 minutes.
Hearts could only clear the ball as far as the Uni captain, who watched it drop from the sky before looping a full volley into the far top corner to bring in his 19th goal of the season.
The opening goal only spurred Stirling on further and could feel unlucky not to be two ahead shortly after, as Burrows had a header tipped onto the crossbar before Rae had a shot cleared off the line.
But two goals in quick succession on 37 and 44 minutes all but finished Hearts off as Stirling were well on the way to a 14th home win this season.
After his cup winner midweek, McGill was back in the action as his long throw was flicked on by McKinley, with Rae waiting in the box to tuck away his first of the afternoon.
James Russell was the creator of his second right before the break, as the midfielder slid a pass into the box for Rae who curled in at the near post.
There was little change to the balance of the game once the teams reappeared for the second half, and Stirling added a final goal on 65 minutes.
Ciaran McAninch was desperately unlucky to watch his free kick rebound back into play off the post, but Service wasn’t complaining as the ball fell at his feet just a couple of yards from goal.
Hearts should’ve nicked a consolation ten minutes later, as Bobby McLuckie found MaKenzie Kirk unmarked in the Stirling box, but the number 10 headed over from close range, and Stirling kept a clean sheet to see out a sixth consecutive home league win.
The win means the Uni finish within the top four and with a second-place finish upon the removal of the Old Firm B teams from the league standings.
Geddes added: “For the quality of the league and the amount of money and resources some teams have, it’s unbelievable and a great achievement for a university team.
“Massive credit to my team, considering the quality of opposition in this league, for these boys to be up there consistently winning games, that’s 22 wins this season, it’s just an outstanding achievement, and I’m really proud of them and my staff – it’s been a real group effort.”
University of Stirling: Fry, Burrows, Service, Lavery, Stokes (Mirzasalimov 81), Russell (Heal 62), Berry, McAninch (Bainbridge 81), Rae (Thompson 73), McKinley, McGill (Munro 62)
Hearts B: McFarlane, Neilson, Tait, Pollock, Sandilands, Kirk, Dall, Gordon, Forrester, Rathie, McLuckie