IN THE five years or so since Alex McAnespie took charge, Stranraer
have evolved from the days when they consisted of a collection of
defenders and ball-winners who drew lots for the jersey numbers.
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Having missed promotion last summer only because Brechin scored a late
winner away to Clyde, Stranraer can be fairly regarded as the best of
the teams left in the second division.
McAnespie's side won away to Meadowbank last week, and as Cowdenbeath,
last season's other relegated team, have not won at home for more than a
year, Stranraer should have no-one to fear.
They should be bankers for one of the six promotion places at the end
of the season, and that would be a first for Stranraer, who have always
been in the football basement. But it is the championship that McAnespie
seeks, thereby securing a place in what will be the second of the four
new tiers after reconstruction.
''It is really important for me to go for that top place, which would
let us jump two divisions,'' he said. Some of the clubs higher up may
not relish the prospect of travelling south to Stranraer, but it is no
worse a fate than that awaiting the eight remaining cellar-dwellers who
will face four trips to the Highlands each season in the new 10-club
Stranraer are beginning to look less and less like a second division
club. Most of the squad have played at a higher level, and there is a
growing travelling support of 500 or so. ''It is a tremendous support
for the second division,'' McAnespie said, ''and we intend to supply the
goods for them.''
As well as having a reliable strike force at last, McAnespie has a
number of players who are flexible, thus giving him a number of options
in terms of playing patterns. ''I can use my pool to try to exploit the
weaknesses of the opposition,'' added the manager, whose team selections
could be the most important aspect of his job every week.
Stranraer should have no difficulty in disposing of Albion Rovers this
afternoon, and another banker ought to be Montrose against Queen's Park
For a different reason -- a long unbeaten sequence against their
opponents -- table-topping East Fife can be expected to beat Alloa at
Methil, and Arbroath may well bounce back from having conceded nine
goals to Celtic in midweek and collect both points at Berwick.
The games between Stenhousemuir and Cowdenbeath are always fiercely
fought, and there is the possibility of a few goals at Forfar, where
Queen of the South are the visitors. In the remaining fixture,
Meadowbank may have the edge over East Stirlingshire at Firs Park.