Backs Against the Wall Victory for Stags
By Dominic Ward
Stags squeak win in highly competitive local derby
After a weeks break for the cup tie the Stags were back in league action last Saturday as they travelled back across the Clacks Bridge to take on Alloa. Once again Grangemouth were forced into a host of changes. Up front there were starts for Hugh, Scott and Harvey with McNiff switching to wing forward. In the backs there were wholesale changes with positional changes for Forsyth and Allan and a new back three of Whitelaw, Christie and Chisholm. The pitch was soft and a heavy shower just before kick off made conditions tricky for both sides. This was reflected in several handling errors by both sides in the opening exchanges. However Alloa looked sharper and it was no surprise when they opened the scoring after 5 minutes. From a set scrum the ball was moved to the home centre who burst through the Stags defence to score under the posts. The conversion was on target. Grangemouth slowly worked their way into the game and tied the scores after 15 minutes. The ball was moved out to Allan in the centre and his angled run cut the defensive line before he outpaced the fullback to run in for a fine individual score. Skelton was on target with the conversion. Both sides continued to make handling errors and there were frequent penalties which limited attacking play. On 25 minutes Grangemouth took the lead with a well worked try. Once again Allan made the initial run to open up the defence. The ball was moved wide to Whitelaw who was tackled just short of the line. The ball was recycled and transferred back to the centre where Allan was on hand to collect the scoring pass and run in close to the posts. Skelton added the extras. Soon after the Stags looked to have a chance to extend their lead with a penalty but the award was reversed due to foul play. Grangemouth continued to give away numerous penalties and this allowed Alloa to pin the visitors in their 22. After several drives by the forwards the ball was finally moved wide to the winger to slide in at the corner. The conversion attempt was wide. HT Alloa 12 Stags 14
Grangemouth upped the tempo at te start of the second half and dominated territory and possession. On 45 minutes the Stags were awarded a free kick for a squint feed at a scrum. Forsyth took a quick tap to scamper 15 metres before passing to McNab and the substitute galloped in from the 22 for the score. Skelton was again on target with the conversion. A few minutes later Alloa narrowed the gap after their scrum half took a quick tap penalty 5 metres from the line to dive over for an unconverted score. As the game entered the final quarter Alloa were back on the attack and from a 5 metre scrum pick up the home number 8 passed to his winger who squeezed in at the corner. Again the conversion was wide. Grangemouth responded and Skelton was unable to land a difficult long range penalty attempt. However the Stags did retake the lead with just 7 minutes remaining. Forsyth picked up from a midfield scrum and darted upfield. He passed to McNiff who carried on into the 22. The ball was quickly recycled and Skelton skipped past his man to run in under the posts. The stand off converted his own score. The closing 5 minutes saw Alloa lay siege to the Stags line. Somehow the defence held firm and a final secure scrum from the Stags saw the ball kicked out of play and the relief of the final whistle. FT Alloa 22 Stags 28.
Another week, another hard fought rearguard action to secure a victory. This was a very patchy performance from the Stags. There were only glimpses of continuity and high intensity play. Far too often there were basic handling errors and the all too familiar silly penalties. The scrum was on top while the lineout remains a problem. In the backs Allan was a constant threat with ball in hand. This week the Stags are back at home for their last league fixture of the year when they welcome Ellon to Glensburgh for a 2pm KO