Irn Bru Second Division Play Off Final First Leg
Cowdenbeath 0 Stenhousemuir 0
All the matches between these teams this season have been close affairs and although Stenhousemuir have won three of the four encounters before this match the stastics do not show the full story of how evenly matched the teams have been throughout the season.
Both sides went into the first leg of the final knowing that it was a chance to redeem the season after leading the table by a fair margin at one point or other in the season and for Cowdenbeath the pain of failing to get automatic promotion and the championship will be fresh in the minds as they had one hand on the trophy until it slipped from their grasp at the very end of the season.
Stenhousemuir made only one change to the team that drew with Queens Park on Sunday with Iain Diack replacing Robert Love whilst Cowdenbeath made two changes from their encounter with East Stirlingshire on the Saturday with Paul McQuade and John Dempster who have both been struggling with injury in recent times starting for the Fifers.
The match with so much at stake was always to be a cagey and fraught affair with few clear cut chances as neither side would want to hand an advantage to the opposition for the second leg encounter at Ochilview. Despite this the game started with promise for both sides and the Warriors had their first effort in the first minute of the game when a long range Kevin Motion shot was comfortably saved by David Hay. This was swiftly followed by a John Gemmell effort that Scott Bennett pushed out for a corner. This bright start from both teams was to continue though and it was a while before either keeper was called into action. In the 5th minute Chris McLeod was booked for a trip on Paul McQuade and there was always going to be pressure on the defender after such an early booking and so it proved later in the game. The closest that either team came to scoring in the first period was through Diack who had two efforts saved the first after a swivel and shot in the 24th minute and the second in the 31st minute with a header though in truth neither troubled Hay. Cowdenbeath were struggling to create openings apart from at set pieces but they did have a good chance in the 36th minute breaking quickly after Stenhousemuir lost the ball cheaply in the Cowden half but with Gemmell prowling in the danger area the cross by McQuade was totally misdirected and went out for a throw.
The second half saw the Warriors have more possession in the last third of the pitch and Scott Dalziel and Diack combined on the hour to create a real opening when Diack flicked a header behind the Cowdenbeath defence that Scott Dalziel pounced on but his shot was smothered by Hay. The pair almost linked up again five minutes later with Diack once again the provider but this time Dalziel was to be denied by a first class interception from John Armstrong. In the 75th minute the Warriors could have had a penalty when Dalziel appeared to be brought down in the box but no award was forthcoming. Cowdenbeath had their first effort of the second half in the 78th minute when Gemmell fired over from outside the box that was never going to trouble Bennett. Reid responded at the other end with a shot that whistled just over. In the 81st minute McLeod was involved in a foul on Mark Ramsay just over the halfway line and received his second caution and left the Stenhousemuir ranks depleted for the rest of the night. They were almost doubly punished as from the resulting free kick Gemmell almost headed the home team into the lead but to the relief of all Stenhousemuir personnel the ball drifted just wide of the target..
With two minutes to go Darren McGregor was sent off for a lunge on Iain Thomson after the Cowden player had lost control of the ball and in his endeavours to get it back caught the Warrior. Referee Alan Muir had no hesitation in showing a straight red though it appeared to be more anxiousness than malice that brought about the tackle that did though look pretty bad and thus two players were sent off in a competitive game that was never dirty though.
With honours even after this game it sets up an interesting finale at Ochilview with both teams knowing there is still all to play for.
Cowdenbeath – Hay, Baxter, Linton, McGregor [so 88], Armstrong, Shields, Ramsay, McQuade [Robertson 73], Gemmell, Dempster and Stein [Ferguson 67]. Subs not used – Tomana, Mbu and Jackson
Stenhousemuir – Bennett, Lyle, Reid, Thom, Smith, McLeod [b5][so 81], Brazil [Tyrrell 88], Molloy [b48][Thomson 70], Dalziel, Diack [Brand 82] and Motion. Subs not used – Love and Renton
Referee – Alan Muir
Assistants – Willie Conquer and Alan Hogg
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