Vale of Leithen 1

Stirling University 0

David Knox

at Victoria Park

VETERAN goalkeeper Ross Gilpin was understandably presented with the man-of-the-match award after two spectacular penalty saves.

But he was closely followed by each of his Vale team-mates who yet again defied the odds to surge up the Lowland League table.

With several key players, including top scorer Sean Stewart and captain James Elliot, watching from the sidelines due to injury and illness, Victoria Park boss Chris Anderson yet again had to field a makeshift starting team.

And yet again they came up trumps to record a third win from four during 2019.

Anderson, who played 70 minutes of the match, told us: “It was another great team effort.

“Credit to Ross for saving two penalties and the defence did particularly well today as well.

“There’s a feel-good factor within the team just now and that shows.

“We have a few big players missing but everyone else is rallying round and I don’t think we had a poor player on the park today.”

The narrow victory takes Vale up to tenth with a handful of games in hand over the teams immediately above them.

But during the opening 20 minutes or so of this clash it looked as though it would be the students from Stirling who would be making an upward move in the table.

Rory McEwan hit the bar and both Aiden Ferris and Craig Brown drilled shots inches wide of the target.

It took Vale 26 minutes to mount their first proper attack, and they scored from it.

Liam Ireland charged from inside his own half to thread a through ball for Marc Berry, and the former American college player’s angled shot was deflected into his own net by Uni defender Angus Mailer.

Vale almost doubled their advantage just six minutes later as Mailer hacked down Brad Rixon inside the area, but Ireland’s penalty was tipped round the post by Kevin Walker.

Another perfectly-timed through ball from Ireland in the 44th minute saw Liall Smith win the race with Walker but his poke rolled agonisingly round the wrong side of the post.

Stirling should have levelled during the early exchanges of the second half as Gilpin saved Brown’s initial shot and Ferris ballooned the rebound over the bar from 10 yards out.

The Students continued to press for an equaliser and they were awarded a penalty in the 75th minute as Craig McBride mistimed his tackle on Blair Lyons.

Gilpin saved Brown’s tame spot kick to keep Vale in front.

And the home team almost secured the points just a minute later as Rixon held off a challenge to force Walker into a spectacular stop.

There was still time for some late drama as referee Calum Doyle controversially awarded the visitors a second penalty in the third minute of stoppage time as an attempted cross hit the arm of Callum O’Neil from almost point-blank range.

Furious manager Anderson was red-carded for his touchline protest.

But Gilpin kept his cool to throw himself across the goal and brilliantly push McEwan’s spot kick to safety.

Vale of Leithen. R Gilpin, C O’Neill, A Imlah, C McBride, J Blaikie, G Rossi, L Smith, M Berry (J Smith 83), C Anderson (M Underhill 72), B Rixon & L Ireland.