Jan 18 2012 Dumfries Standard Wednesday
ALLOA Athletic lifted the spoils on Saturday in a top of the table clash which puts the Wasps in the driving seat going into the second half of the season.
It was a closely contested match with Annan winning the battle territorially but it was Alloa who had the cutting edge up front to score the only goal of the game in the 29th minute when on loan St Johnstone striker Steven May scored with a 25-yard free kick.
Annan started the match with trialist David Winter, recently released by Dumbarton, leading the attack at the expense of flu victim Ian Harty and Carlisle United on loan starlet Ben McKenna taking his seat on the bench before making his debut in the second half.
Annan started the game brightly and with only two minutes on the clock David Cox was presented with an opportunity from a dangerous cross to the back post.
Annan continued to press forward with purpose and when David Winter connected with Michael McGowan’s eighth minute cross, keeper Scott Bain was relieved to see the header nestle on the top of the net.
It was a promising start and in the 14th minute Cox threaded the ball into the path of Winter whose shot was blocked ending with a Chris Jardine shot which went past the upright.
Alloa forced their first corner of the match in the 19th minute which was cleared by the Annan defence but it signalled the start of a good period by the home team.
Alex Mitchell intercepted a penetrating Ryan McCord through ball in the 23rd minute as the home team tried in vain to unlock the Annan defence.
What proved to be the defining moment in the match arrived in the 29th minute when Peter Watson conceded a free kick 25 yards out. McCord rolled the ball two yards to the right and May connected with a low shot which appeared to accelerate after the ball bounced in front of Mitchell to deceive the Annan keeper.
It was a goal out of nothing but a goal which could prove decisive at the end of the season.
Annan picked themselves up from the setback and the remainder of the half was played with both teams conceding very little defensively with neither keeper being really tested.
Annan pushed hard towards the interval forcing a couple of corners with Aaron Muirhead heading narrowly over in the 44th minute.
Annan once again made the running at the start of the second half and the pattern of play was established with Annan prodding for the opening to cancel out May’s first half goal with Alloa content on attacking on the break. This ploy which almost paid dividends in the 67th minute when Mitchell pulled off a superb save to deny May who connected with a Kevin Cawley cross.
Mitchell was Annan’s saviour again two minutes later when he denied Mark Docherty who connected with May’s cross. They were two important saves which ensured Annan still remained in contention.
Mitchell was then yellow carded in the 72nd minute for a lunging tackle on May who had made a great run to get on to the through ball.
With time running out O’Connor volleyed wide as Annan pressed forward in hope of grabbing an equaliser but Alloa defended resolutely to secure an important victory.
Annan boss Harry Cairney was disappointed to lose the match but not disappointed in how his team performed.
He said: “We came here not to defend and we pressed Alloa for large parts of the game but could not find that little bit of quality or space in the final third that would get us a goal.
“Alloa counter-attacked in the second half and could have put the game beyond our reach but our keeper had a couple of good saves to keep us in the game
“The lads battled hard till the end. We have been having a difficult time of late but in the last couple of weeks our performances have definitely picked up and we are starting to press teams which gives me optimism that we can kick on.
“In this league if you can hit a run of results you can be back up there at the top of the league.
Wasps boss Paul Hartley said: “It was a tough game for us. We always knew with Annan it would difficult and I’m delighted with the result and it gets the monkey off our back as it is the first time we have defeated Annan.
“The victory creates a gap between us and the chasing pack. On chances, we created the better chances particularly in the second half.
“Steven May was outstanding today his movement and work rate for the team was excellent. We have him on loan until next week , I don’t want to see him leave but it is out of my hands and all hinges on player movements at St Johnstone. Hopefully we can keep him till the end of the season.
“He is enjoying it here scoring goals and playing with a smile on his face.”
Alloa Athletic: S Bain, M McCullagh, K McHattie, J Doyle, R Harding, D Young, M Docherty, R McCord, S May, G Holmes, K Cawley. Substitutes Not Used - A One, S Masterton, R Winters, C Campbell, Craig McDowall
Annan: A Mitchell, A Muirhead, M McGowan, S Gibson, P Watson, D Mitchell, S Sloan( J Steele 87 min) , C Jardine ( B McKenna 66 min), D Winter ( B Gilfillan 90 min), S O’Connor, D Cox. Substitutes not used J McKechnie, C Summersgill
Referee: Greg Aitken.