COMPETITION for places. It's what every manager wants and it's vital to ensure a squad is thriving and pushing each other in the right direction.

For Brian Rice to make nine changes to his side for Friday night's SPFL Trust Trophy tie with Airdrie and see no drop in intensity shows the levels his squad is currently operating at.

There were changes in every position. Willie Muir came in for his start after suffering an injury in pre-season, replacing Jay Hogarth who was representing Scotland at U21 level.

Paul McLaren, Andy Graham and Daniel Church came in to join Scott Taggart, one of two who kept their place in the team, in defence. Steven Buchanan also started as a right wing-back but switched in the first half.

In midfield Stefan Scougall partnered Murray Miller with Adam King playing just in front of them, with Bradley Rodden and Luke Donnelly the forwards.

The first real chance fell to the hosts and, going on recent form, it couldn't have fallen to a better option. Buchanan's excellent through ball found Rodden's run but his left footed effort went wide of the post.

Airdrie were next to have a chance but Muir excelled. Calum Gallagher attempted to take the ball around the keeper but Muir stood his ground, stood tall and then got down to make the save when it mattered.

Aaron Taylor-Sinclair then went for a spectacular effort and this time Muir was beaten but the crossbar kept the sides level.

With Airdrie piling on the pressure, Rice made a change to the set-up. McLaren, playing on the left of a back three, moved to right back as the back five became a back four, allowing Buchanan to push further up the pitch.

The move almost paid off immediately. Pressure by King forced Airdrie into giving away possession and the ball fell kindly to Buchanan. With Alex Henderson off his line the youngster took the shot on first time but his effort went over the bar.

Alloa's pressing was causing Airdrie real problems as they insisted on playing out from the back.

Another slack pass by Henderson gifted possession to Rodden and he drove towards goal. Despite Donnelly being free next to him, Rodden took the shot himself. Given his current form nobody would grudge him the effort but it was a comfortable save for Henderson.

Donnelly showed some encouraging link-up play with his fellow attackers, first slipping in Rodden who was offside. He then found Buchanan's run and he attempted a low cross for the back post arrival of Rodden but Henderson made a smart save.

Undoubtedly the best chance of the half fell Donnelly's way. A long ball by Graham found Rodden and he cut back onto his left foot before delivering a brilliant cross. Donnelly was somehow able to ghost into the box and had a free header. He made a great connection with the cross but Henderson saved well.

After the interval Airdrie continue to attempt to play out from the back with near calamitous results.

Henderson's pass once again went straight to Buchanan and he seemed caught in two minds whether to try and go for goal or slip Rodden in. He eventually chose the latter option but Rodden's effort was saved by Henderson.

Ross MacIver would be introduced around the hour mark and had a few efforts on goal. His best attempt was a long distance effort which smashed the post and the ball fell to Conor Sammon, also fresh on the pitch, but – from five yards out – he could only side foot his attempt well over the bar.

Finally, the hosts would receive their reward. With 10 minutes left, and the unnerving feeling that it was going to be one of those nights growing ever concerning, Sammon found the back of the net.

A good counter attack saw another attempt blocked for a corner. The delivery wasn't dealt with by Airdrie and the ball bounced off Graham and Sammon reacted fastest to volley the ball past Henderson.

In the end, despite both teams having excellent chances, the game would be decided by a single goal.

Alloa progressed to the next round but there are so many positives for Rice to take.

His team's momentum – four wins in a row – continues. Players who maybe haven't gotten as much game time as they would like, such as Muir, Miller, King and Graham, all came in and showed their worth.

Buchanan, Donnelly and Rodden all showed a desire and willingness to work hard, create chances and never give the defenders a minute of peace.

Furthermore Scougall, such an important cog in the team, completed a full 90 minutes despite being forced off with cramp six days earlier.

Attention now turns back to league duty and Rice has some big decisions to make when he decides who will be in the starting XI.

ALLOA: Muir, Taggart, McLaren (Stanger), Buchanan (MacIver), Scougall, Miller, Donnelly (Sammon), Church, King (Cawley), Rodden, Graham. UNUSED: Burt, Howie, Robertson, Rankin