This season there has been a win apiece, a draw in the last game at Ochilview, and no team scoring more than a solitary goal in any of the games versus Stranraer, so everyone was expecting a tight affair at Stair Park on Saturday. Unfortunately the loss of Bryan Hodge in the warm up and the conceding of a ninth-minute goal meant the Warriors were on the back foot from the start.
David Rowson rescued a point for Stenny with a goal in the fourth minute of stoppage time and manager Scott Booth was happy with that as he knew it was going to be tough before the game, although he was hoping for more from it than the single point.
“They play the way that they do in a very organised fashion, they recognise what their strengths are, and I think their management team set them up really well to work on that,” said Booth, adding, “they capitalise really well on the opportunities they make, they put lots of pressure on, especially in the early parts of the game, and they have players that can hurt you.”
Stenny created chances in the first half, going close and hitting the post. After the break saw Stranraer reduced to ten men after 55 minutes and pressured for the remainder of the match but the Warriors were unable to break down a resolute and, at times, fearless defence.
“It was backs against the wall for them,” said Booth, who realised whatever advantage Stenny had from playing against ten men, the Blues used the setback to galvanise their defence. “They had something to hold on to and that was the more difficult part of it,” said the Warriors manager. He added: “When you have a team under so much pressure because they have ten men, they can be that much more difficult to score against when they already have the lead.”
Conceding an early lead was something Booth found hard, he said: “that was the one thing that was really disappointing, to lose a goal from a set piece and the way we did and, of course, that did allow Stranraer the chance to attempt to hold on to a lead.
“I think it is why, in one way, we were a little bit too frantic in trying to get the goal back and they were able to defend that by being brave and throwing bodies in the way. “But I would have liked us to have displayed a little bit more guile and quality, certainly in anticipating some of the balls that were dropping in the box. They rode their luck and the ball was hitting bodies and all sorts of things.”
Against Dunfermline, Booth's plan was to frustrate and it worked well but Stranraer managed to sneak a goal but the manager did not feel the Blues had been given any opportunity to boss the game and they played the way he expected. Unfortunately we failed to defend a set piece and that led to their goal.
“I don't think we allowed them to play, I think the way we were set up they had a little bit more of the width of the park and that is the way that they play, they try to hit Grehan quite early and they play off him and they are very good at it and the key thing is to try to stop them playing these balls up to the striker,” said Booth, who added: “the next thing you are being very protective of the runs in and around him, we were a bit concerned with that in the early part of the game but that is one of the strongest parts of the way they play, so that was natural.”
The Warriors did need another good save from Chris Smith but they stopped a lot of the Stranraer threats and also had some good play of their own, Booth said: “I thought we created our own chances in the first half and really should have done better with a few of those we did create, we just lacked a little bit of quality on the end of the move and if we had had that I would have hoped to be in at half-time level pegging and, of course, the whole game would have been different.”
Despite the disppoinment of conceding early, the Warriors also had the joy of scoring yet another last-gasp goal to grab a point and Booth is happy with their fighting quality. “The boys work really really hard and will do everything to get the result and they do keep going right to the end, that is a tribute to their fitness and to their hunger to stay in there.
“Of course, the other side of that is that it would be better for us not to concede in the first place and to be pushing at the end of the game for a win, rather than to try to rescue a point.
“We have scored a lot of late goals but I think the draws that we have had have been too many and it would be nice if we can start turning some of those draws into wins by not conceding first and then popping up late, or whenever, I don't mind when it is if we are popping up for the winner.”
If history does repeat, Stenny could be celebrating another late show, at the end of last season, Sean Dickson levelled on the hour before Mark Corcoran netted two minutes into stoppage time and although a simpler win would be better for the nerves, the gaffer would be happy with three points however, the come.
“I would accept that again [an injury time winner], he said, as he considered his first four games at the Warriors. “This run of four games we have been on have been really tough games, Dunfermline away, Brechin at home and then Stranraer and Ayr away, they are tough but they are the big games we need to try to take maximum points out of, we did not quite make that on Saturday but will be looking to do that against Ayr,” Booth added.
The loss of Hodge was a big factor on Saturday and as things stand he may not feature this week. His going off during the warm up Saturday, certainly impacted on the teams plans. “It was not just because Hodgey has been doing really well for us [that we missed him on Saturday], with the way that Stranraer play and the area Hodgey was going to be playing, it was key to the game for us and it was disappointing to lose him in the warm up,” said Booth, who admitted it was a factor but refused to use it as an excuse, stating there was excellent back up in Sean Lynch.
“That changes things you have worked on and on the game plan and it did change things slightly but that is why we have got good players on the bench,” said Booth, who added: “Lynchey came on, he was unlucky really not to be in the starting line-up as he has been doing really well, he works really hard and has influenced a game a number of times recently, so he was unlucky to be sitting on the bench to start with, but he came on and did a job for us.”
As for Hodge, it is a case of wait and see at the moment, Booth saying: “It is too early to say, we are just getting him looked at at the moment and we will see how he progresses over the next couple of days and we will look at him again on Thursday to see how he is shaping up. But we will not take any major risks with him, it is a back problem so we must make sure he is right before he returns."
While the final decision on Hodge and everything else is with Booth, he is very happy with the back up he has at the club, especially Brown Ferguson, who looked after things when the previous Manager left, and is now Booth's assistant and, hopefully, will remain in that position next season.
“At the moment things are really good, Bomber is doing a great job and it is likely he will continue next season, there has been no confirmation or decision made as yet but it is likely to continue as is,” said Booth, who is more than happy with the support he has had since joining Stenny. “I think he has done an excellent job, as has Robert Glenn. They have really helped, they have come in and we have maintained a continuity and there have not been any issues with getting the players to buy into the management team and we are really happy with the way things are,” said the gaffer.
Booth agreed that clubs need to change things at times but he is also happy to see continuity as well, saying: “Changes have to be made at times and it is right that changes are made but when you assess what happens when you come into a club, you have got to look at the whole scenario and on a longer term as well, it can't just be a short fix.
“I believe that coming in at the time I did it was very important, given the quality of the team and the people who were in place and also the fact the league was quite new to me, I make no bones about that, that the people who had my ear were very knowledgeable about the league, the players and the clubs we were up against and that has been really important to me.”