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 basement.
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 at Hampden.
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.