The Warriors continued their unbeaten run, now ten games, at Ayr but, more importantly, scored an away win they had to achieve to have any chance of making the play-offs. It was looking easy after 20 minutes but Ayr hit back and it took late goals from Sean Higgins to secure the three points.
The important thing though, was the win and the fact that, again, Stenny refused to give up and got their shape back after a dodgy spell. “We started the game quite well to be honest, we were OK and we made a couple of chances and then got the goal on 20 minutes,” said manager Scott Booth, although he admitted it did not go so well after that, adding: “ but that period after getting the goal we let things slip a little bit and we did not control the game as much as I would have wanted to.”
The Warriors cause was not helped when skipper Ross McMillan had to go off with a seemingly quite nasty injury after 13 minutes, although replacement Alan Lawson came on and put in a good performance.
“At that point we had the option of dropping Rowser [David Rowson] back to a centre half but I just felt that would be taking a midfielder out of position that I felt we needed to have him in, his experience is important in there, plus it worked well for the game,” said Booth, who was confident Lawson would do the job for him and said: “I had no hesitation to bring Alan on as replacement, I have watched him over the last three or four weeks and thought he deserved a chance at centre half on the left side, so it was ideal to go and put him in, although it was not ideal that we had to lose Ross but it was nice to have someone of Alan's ability at left centre half to come off the bench.”
As well as Lawson stepping in and producing the goods, Booth was also able to enjoy an impressive debut from Ben Greenhalgh, who is on loan from Inverness. “He is a very good player and he gave us a little bit different to what we have got and he is able to lift the game up quite well,” said the gaffer.
Booth added: “I felt he was on a similar wavelength to Higgey and it was interesting that Higgey set him up for his goal and then got himself a couple of goals off the back of Ben's work. It was nice for them that they got the goals and it really helps a player settle in when he scores on his debut.”
Stenny may have gone off the boil for a while but they took control again and showed more control in the centre of the park, something Booth and his team had been working on in training, especially keeping the ball on the deck.
“It is slowly but surely happening, we try as much as we can in training and there is never an issue with that in training, the ball is always on the deck and the passing movements are always excellent from the team on a training night,” said Booth, although he admitted it was a different thing to produce those skills in a match situation, adding: “sometimes on a match day you can allow yourself to be detracted away from what your own game is, which is sometimes a ploy from the opposition but sometimes we do not play as much football as I would like.
“Yes it is a conscious effort to try to get the ball down into play on the ground.”
Ayr provided a tough test, especially as they are trying to earn their play-off berth but Saturday's opponents Arbroath will also be tough, as they are battling to stave off relegation, although Booth is targeting another win, realising Stenny need to get as many points as possible from the remaining games.
Booth said: “Yes they are [all must win games] and it will be another tough match, they have given Rangers a bit of a scare and have played some good football this season and I know they will come here and try to make it really difficult for us.
“They are desperate for the points as well – as we are too, so it has the makings of a really good game but we will be looking to take the game to them and, hopefully, get the three points again.”
Who will be in the Stenny line-up is still uncertain as Booth has the injury situation to evaluate, as well as McMillan going off after a nasty looking injury on Saturday, there are still doubts over Bryan Hodge, Darren Smith and Eddie Malone but it is not all bad news.
“We are hoping Hodgey might be fit for Saturday but Ross we need to check over as he had a really heavy turn and needed to go to hospital and be checked up,” said Booth, adding “we also have Daz, he is being checked as well but we are hopeful he will be fit, Eddie is struggling, he was limping away on Saturday and that is disappointing as he gives us a lot of consistency in that position but we have got one or two options.”
Image: from Warriors TV – on-loan Ben Greenhalgh fires in the first goal for The Warriors on Saturday, on his debut for Stenhousemuir FC.