Alloa Athletic…1


(Agg: 1-1 – Alloa won 4-3 on penalties)

ALLOA sealed their place in the Championship final after a nervy penalty shootout victory over Airdrieonians on Saturday.

With the Wasps a goal down after the first leg, Jon Robertson’s stunner levelled the tie but neither side was able to find the crucial winning goal, either in 90 minutes or after extra time.

But in the shootout, Neil Parry produced two stunning saves before Calum Waters netted the winning spot-kick.

There was one change for the Wasps, with club captain Graeme Holmes dropping out altogether and Robertson coming into the side.

Having weathered an early period of pressure, the Wasps found their feet and had a great chance to take the lead, Waters’ floated free kick just evading a number of black and gold shirts in the box.

Airdrie knew a goal would all but kill the tie off and Wednesday’s hero Andy Ryan was almost let in after Frank McKeown misjudged the flight of the ball, but the big defender recovered well to force the striker wide.

Kevin Cawley slipped a neat ball through to Greig Spence on the edge of the box, but he couldn’t get the desired contact on the shot and Rohan Ferguson gathered easily.

The visitors thought they had doubled their lead in the tie when Ryan tapped home from Scott Stewart’s cross, but the Diamonds’ top scorer was denied by the linesman’s flag, to the ire of the Airdrie bench.

Dylan Mackin was sent racing through on goal by Iain Flannigan, but Ferguson was out sharply to snuff out the danger, Mackin clattering the Airdrie stopper in the process.

The big striker would be denied twice in the space of a minute by Ferguson, the keeper first tipping Mackin’s header over the crossbar before making a terrific save with his feet to keep out a close-range effort.

Alloa were living dangerously and were lucky not to fall behind when Iain Russell worked his way into the box, only for his shot to be deflected into the arms of Parry.

The game was flowing from end to end and Spence was unlucky not to get his name on the scoresheet ten minutes before the break, the striker stretching but just failing to get enough on Robertson’s lovely floated ball.

The second half started in the same vein as the first and Parry denied Russell again, producing a wonderful save to tip the Airdrie captain’s curling shot over the crossbar.

Mackin just failed to get on the end of a Jordan Kirkpatrick cross, before Spence tried his luck from distance, only to see his effort comfortably kept out by Ferguson.

But seconds later, the opener did arrive, and it was worth the wait. A loose ball bounced on the edge of the box, and Robertson lashed it on the half volley into the bottom corner, giving Ferguson no chance.

Alloa should have got their noses in front just moments later when Kirkpatrick nicked the ball off the toes of Ferguson and squared for Spence. The Wasps’ top scorer will not have had many easier chances but somehow managed to hit the crossbar from four yards out with an unguarded net.

Kevin Cawley forced a fantastic stop from Ferguson, who was a busy man in the second half, the keeper getting down to get a strong hand to the Alloa midfielder’s low shot which looked to be sneaking in at the near post.

And the stopper had to be alert again, reacting well to parry away Mackin’s shot which had taken a wicked deflection on its way to goal.

Alloa were turning the screw as the second half wore on and Scott Taggart fizzed an effort just over the bar as they pushed for the goal which would edge them in front in the tie.

Andy Graham flicked a heard into the arms of Ferguson, while Jack Leitch saw an effort kept out by a terrific stop from Parry.

As the clock ticked into stoppage time Alloa were in the ascendency, Stefan McCluskey producing a driving run from deep only to scuff his shot harmlessly into Ferguson’s grasp.

That was the final action of normal time, with neither side able to find the extra gear which would have seen them clinch the tie, and the game entered extra time.

Robertson almost repeated his earlier heroics in the opening moments of the first period, fizzing a shot towards goal, but this time the goalkeeper was equal to it.

Russell was agonisingly close to restoring his side’s advantage, making space and shooting from just outside the box, but seeing his effort skip just wide.

Mackin had been denied by Ferguson on several occasions and the Motherwell loanee was kept out again, the keeper making another tremendous stop to parry his header away.

The game became more stretched in the second period as the players continued to tire, Jordan Kirkpatrick striking the base of the post with a free kick which had Ferguson beaten.

But despite a lot of huffing and puffing, the teams could not be separated and the game went to penalties.

And it would be the Wasps that prevailed, Parry producing two crucial saves from Russell and Kieran MacDonald before Waters stepped up to calmly send his side into the final.

Alloa Athletic: Parry, Taggart, Waters, McKeown, Graham, Robertson, Cawley (Martin), Flannigan (McCluskey), Spence (Hetherington), Kirkpatrick, Mackin. Not used: Marr, Longworth, Hynd, McDowall.