By John Turnbull at K-Park
The University of Stirling fell just short of reaching the Lowland League Cup final on Saturday, bowing out of the competition after a 3-2 defeat to East Kilbride.
It was the worst possible start and end to the first half as Daniel McManus and Dylan McDonald scored for EK, but Ben Maciver-Redwood’s goal in between halved that deficit.
Reece Maguire dealt Stirling a sucker punch against the run of play in the second half, and despite Abel Manomey’s late strike, Stirling couldn’t find an equaliser.
Head coach Chris Geddes said: “We made mistakes at key times, and they punished us. The goal on half-time is a shocker, but it happens.
“There was nothing in the game, we ended the first half better, but they started the best and to lose the goal on half-time, like I say, was shocking for us.
“Second half, we controlled the ball but we didn’t test their goalkeeper enough and the third goal was a killer – just a mistake, so disappointing.”
Fine margins at both ends were the story of Stirling’s afternoon, and the Uni was immediately fighting an uphill battle when McManus finished off a neat team move inside one minute.
Stirling persisted, though, and Maciver-Redwood was unlucky not to find an equaliser midway through the half with two good chances but got his reward soon after.
The Uni striker caused EK problems all afternoon and on 39 minutes, latched onto Berry’s pass in behind, and found the far corner.
It was a period where the students would arguably have been the happier of the two sides, but Kilby struck with the last kick of the half.
A long ball wasn’t dealt with by the Stirling defence, and McDonald got the rub of the green in a challenge with Ben Fry before tapping into an empty net.
There was more drama at kick-off again, this time after the restart, as the hosts were awarded a penalty as Matty Burrows was deemed to have fouled Neil McLaughlin.
The result, though, was double disappointment for Martin Fellowes’ side, as McLaughlin was shown red for an off-ball incident after being fouled, and Bob McHugh’s spot-kick was saved.
Another period of Uni possession followed, but lacking the final touch and East Kilbride hit against the run of play again as Maguire benefitted from a loose backless before finishing well.
With time running out, Stirling pulled one back, as Manomey did superbly well to dribble into the box and strike into the far corner, but it wasn’t to be enough.
Next weekend will mark the end of an exceptional season for Stirling, as Sauchie Juniors make up the East of Scotland Qualifying Cup final.
Geddes added: “These boys have been outstanding. To play 70 games in one season, people must think we have a massive squad, but we don’t.
“I think this is something like James Berry’s 61st start of the season, so to get to three finals, a semi, a quarter, win the Uni league and finish 4th in the Lowland League, it’s been excellent.
“Hopefully, next week we can finish on a high note, the boys will get picked back up, and we have got full focus on that one.”
East Kilbride: Currie, MacDonald, Coll, Lithgow, Miller, R. Hughes, McManus, B. Hughes, Connell, McHugh, McLaughlin
University of Stirling: Fry, Lavery, Service (Thompson 83), Burrows, Berry, Russell (McGill 53), McAninch (Manomey 72), Stokes (Robertson 83), Heal, McKinley, Maciver-Redwood