ALLOA will have to come from behind if they are to finish the season with promotion after they were beaten in their playoff semi-final first leg by Airdrie.
Andy Ryan’s header early in the second half was enough to separate the sides on a frustrating evening for Jim Goodwin’s side in North Lanarkshire.
The Alloa boss named a strong side for the match, the sides’ fifth meeting of the season with two wins apiece before kickoff.
Calum Waters almost gave the Wasps a perfect start inside three minutes, driving past Scott Stewart and nutmegging Sean McIntosh before forcing Rohan Ferguson into a very good save with his feet.
At the other end, Adam Brown fizzed a free kick just wide of Neil Parry’s post from the corner of the box.
Andy Ryan forced a good save from Parry, the striker letting fly from distance after capitalising on a mistake by Alloa skipper Graeme Holmes.
Waters was having a lot of joy down the left early on and his cross should have led to the opener, Dylan Mackin sending the ball wide with a free header.
The home side were the dominant force at this stage though, and they would have had their noses in front had it not been for Parry’s heroics. Brown fizzed a volley towards goal and it looked certain to fly into the corner, but the Alloa keeper produced a stunning save against his former club to keep the scores level.
Brown was the hosts’ main threat in the first half and he blazed another effort well over the bar when in a good position five minutes before the interval.
Airdrie had a strong claim for a penalty when Andy Ryan went to ground under the challenge of Scott Taggart, but the referee waved play on.
Kevin Cawley made sure the Diamonds knew Alloa were still a threat, the midfielder dragging a shot just a couple of inches wide of Ferguson’s post, before Jordan Kirkpatrick sliced an effort well over the crossbar.
But Airdrie’s pressure finally paid off just moments into the second half. Kieran MacDonald burst down the left and crossed for Ryan, who was all alone at the back post to head past the helpless Parry.
The Wasps had another scare when Steven Hetherington, just on as a substitute, almost turned the ball into his own net, but Parry recovered to deal with the situation well.
Airdrie were still piling on the pressure and Parry had to be alert again to push away a drive from Brown.
Alloa’s frustrations were beginning to show and Iain Flannigan went into the book for a heavy challenge on Stewart.
As the game entered the final ten minutes the Wasps were enjoying their best spell of the match. Greig Spence was a break of the ball away from going clean through after charging down a clearance, while Stefan McCluskey had a powerful drive blocked as they pushed for an equaliser.
Despite their late pressure the Wasps were unable to find a leveller, and Airdrie saw the game out to take a slender advantage into Saturday’s second leg in the Wee County.
Alloa Athletic: Parry, Taggart, Waters, McKeown, Graham, Holmes (Robertson), Cawley, Iain Flannigan, Spence, Kirkpatrick (McCluskey), Mackin (Hetherington). Not used: McDowall, Marr, Longworth, Martin.