Caledonian Braves fell to a 4-0 defeat in the seventh and final friendly match of pre-season. An impressive University of Stirling side scored twice before half time through Jamie Penker and Jason Jarvis, before Lewis Kennedy and Robbie McGale found the scoresheet in the closing stages to seal a comfortable win for the visitors.
This evening’s encounter was originally meant to see Braves take on Cumbernauld United. However, injury problems forced the postponement of that match and University of Stirling arrived in their place. After playing teams from above and below themselves in the pyramid, this game saw Braves face a fellow Lowland League team for the first time since last season concluded in March. The sides have met on six occasions to date, with three draws, two Stirling victories and one Braves win. That solitary victory was the most recent encounter, with a convincing 3-0 win for the home side at Alliance Park the outcome the last time the teams met.
The match began at a good tempo, with both sides trading blows. Jack Smith sprung the offside trap but could only sting the palms of Ben Fry in the Stirling goal. At the other end, McGale came close to breaking the deadlock.
With 22 minutes on the clock the opening goal did arrive. A Matthew Burrows cross to the back post was volleyed back across goal by McGale and Jamie Penker was on hand to apply the finish. A well worked goal for the visitors.
A little over ten minutes later, the lead was doubled. Again it was McGale at the heart of it as he cut the ball back. There were no takers inside the 6-yard box, however Jason Jarvis raced onto the ball at the back post and fired a left footed shot on target. Alex Marshall got something on it but wasn’t able to keep it out.
A half to forget for Braves went from bad to worse, as Jamie Walker had to leave the field of play with an injury. Blair Docherty came on to replace him.
The second half kicked off with Braves showing signs of coming back into the match, but little in the way of clear-cut chances. With the hour mark approaching, the best chance of the match came for the home side. A free-kick was awarded on the edge of the box, which resulted in David Sinclair’s effort being deflected wide of the target. From the resulting corner, Smith thought he had pulled a goal back, only to see his close-range effort cleared off the line by James Berry.
Ricky Waddell freshened things up by bringing on a new strike pairing of David Winters and Jamie Watson, alongside Alan Reid. However, it was Stirling who were looking more likely at this point and with 75 minutes on the clock they scored a third. McGale was creator once again, laying the ball on a plate for Lewis Kennedy, who did the rest.
As Braves pushed bodies forward to try and salvage something from the match, they were caught on the counter-attack. Having had a hand in the other three goals, McGale got his name on the scoresheet, racing through and clipping a measured shot beyond Marshall.
As the final whistle blew, Braves were left licking their wounds. A disappointing defeat at the end of such a promising pre-season, with perhaps the schedule of four games inside eight days catching up with some of the players. A week now remains until the league opener against Bonnyrigg Rose.