ALLOA gave their hopes of finishing as the best of the rest in League One a massive boost with a resounding victory over fellow promotion-chasers Brechin at the Indodrill Stadium on Saturday.
The Wasps fell behind midway through the first half to an Andy Jackson strike, but Stefan McCluskey levelled the scores from the restart before Greig Spence put his side into the lead.
Jason Marr netted in the first minute of the second half to extend Alloa’s lead and Spence added his second of the afternoon from the penalty spot after Brechin goalkeeper Graeme Smith had been sent off.
Iain Flannigan added his side’s fifth of the afternoon with a superb free kick from just outside the box and then added a stunning sixth from even further out as the Wasps produced one of their best displays of the season.
Jim Goodwin made two changes to the side who lost out to Livingston in last week’s title decider. Jordan Kirkpatrick, who went off injured in the first half of that defeat, and Steven Hetherington were replaced by McCluskey and Iain Flannigan, himself returning from injury.
The Wasps started on the front foot and Dylan Mackin saw a shot blocked away by James Dale, while Spence found himself in possession on the edge of the box but saw the chance snuffed out by former Alloa skipper Dougie Hill.
At the other end, Finn Graham tried his luck from distance but the sting was taken out of the shot by a deflection and Neil Parry gathered it easily.
Flannigan picked out Kevin Cawley with a lovely ball over the top and the Wasps’ number seven looked like he was in, but the ball dropped unkindly and he could only manage to scuff his effort into the arms of Smith.
Smith had to show quick reactions again when Spence raced onto a bouncing ball, the ex-Rangers keeper coming off his line to make a good stop.
The opening goal arrived midway through the first half, and it was the visitors who got it. Jackson picked the ball up wide on the right and ran inside, getting a lucky break as the ball rebounded into his path off the legs of the unfortunate Andy Graham, and the striker was left with the easiest of tasks to slide the ball beyond the helpless Parry.
But just seconds later, the hosts were level. Scott Taggart had a dig from 25 yards, and Smith produced a wonderful save to tip the ball onto the crossbar, but McCluskey reacted before anyone else to head the rebound into the unguarded net.
Alloa’s tails were up following their leveller and Cawley went close with a powerful drive which had Smith worried, but the ball sailed just the wrong side of the post, before another Taggart shot from distance was deflected behind for a corner.
The home side were stringing together some lovely passages of play in the final third and McCluskey should have done better when he fired over the bar after linking up well with Cawley.
But the turnaround was complete just after the half-hour mark. Calum Waters evaded the attentions of a number of Brechin defenders on the left flank, and picked out the unmarked Spence at the back post, the striker beating Smith with a lovely finish to claim his first goal since the victory over Stenhousemuir in March.
There was a further blow for the visitors when Chris O’Neil was forced off through injury, Darren McCormack coming on in his place.
The Wasps came flying out of the traps in the second half and immediately added to their advantage. Waters swung in a free kick which caused carnage in the Brechin box, Graham directed the ball towards goal and Marr poked it home for his second strike of the season.
And the home side could have had another moments later when Spence headed over the crossbar from point-blank range.
Brechin could have fallen further behind when a moment of madness from Smith let in Spence, but the striker elected to play in McCluskey, who was offside, rather than have a go himself.
The game’s main talking point arrived just after the hour mark. Smith took Spence out off the ball, and after a moment’s discussion, the referee gave a penalty, showing the Brechin number one a red card in the process. After a delay to allow the visitors to bring on substitute goalkeeper Patrick O’Neil, Spence stepped up and smashed the penalty high into the net to put the result beyond all doubt.
The Wasps were enjoying themselves by this point and added to their tally with twenty minutes to go. Spence was fouled on the edge of the box, and Flannigan stepped up, curling the free kick beyond O’Neil for Alloa’s fifth.
And if that strike was special, it was not a patch on the midfielder’s second. He received the ball 25 yards from goal, shifted onto his right foot and lashed a stunning shot into the top corner, giving O’Neil no chance.
That was the icing on the cake on what was a terrific afternoon for the Wasps, and one which saw them clinch second spot in the League One table.
Alloa Athletic: Parry, Taggart, Waters, Marr, Graham, Holmes (Robertson), Cawley, McCluskey (Martin), Spence, Flannigan, Mackin (Longworth). Not used: Hetherington, Hoggan, McDonald, McDowall.