Albion Rovers v East Stirling on a cold Tuesday night is hardly the most appealing of fixtures but nonetheless was another page in the closing chapter of the Groundhopping journey. It was a short drive down the M8 to Coatbridge; a town of high-rise flats, run down shops and of course, Cliftonhill Stadium. Albion Rovers have played at the ground since Christmas day of 1919 and in truth it looks like it still has the original décor. The small main stand, despite being rather archaic, has an impressive set-up with a mixture of seating and terracing. On the opposite side is a disused bank of terracing and that’s about it in terms of the ground, behind one goal is high fencing and the other a field rolling down to a housing estate.
After the regulatory pie and Bovril (cheap and tasteless) we took our place among the smallest crowd of the season but certainly one of the more vocal. East Stirling had been enjoying one of their better seasons in recent times and their 50 or so supporters who braved the cold were certainly in good spirits. The Albion Rovers fans took some time to get going but when they did the banter exchanged between both sets was an amusing highlight of an enjoyable encounter. The match, despite some often wayward passing and panicky clearances, was played in a good spirit by both teams and some questionable refereeing added to the occasion.
After some early sparring from either side Rovers keeper Jamie Ewings produced the first meaningful save of the evening with a parry from Simon Lynch. The goalie was to go on to have a massive say in the night’s proceedings, his next moment coming just ten minutes later with a wonderful diving save from the brilliantly named Michael Bolochoweckyj. Then, 5 minutes from half time, the away side’s David Dunn cracked a shot off the post which rolled along the line and somehow safely back into Ewings’ grateful arms.
The keeper was to be undone just five minutes after the restart when an expertly placed looping header from Jamie Stevenson gave East Stirling the advantage. It lasted all of five minutes when Albion won a hotly disputed penalty to level matters. It was all too much for one East Stirling fan whose continuous barracking of the ref saw him being led out the ground by two stewards. Then Ewings once again proved his worth with a great tip around the post and this was followed by another slice of luck when East Stirling again hit the post.
However it was Albion who grabbed the second when substitute Pat Walker turned expertly in the box and rifled home with little over ten minutes left. East Stirling piled on the pressure but when Stevenson’s superbly placed free-kick smacked the bar in the dying moments it was clear the home side’s luck would see them through. A thoroughly entertaining evening all round and topped off when we were recognised outside the ground after the game – seems our fame is spreading as the season draws to a close.
Journey - 5
Pie - 3
Bovril - 6
Ground - 5
Game – 6