Saturday 20 May 2017, 17.15, Indodrill Stadium

The Scottish Championship play-off final second leg between Alloa Athletic and Brechin City.

Alloa Athletic began life as Clackmannan County in 1878.  They changed their name to Alloa a year later, then added Athletic in 1883.

After a few short term stays, they have been at their current Recreation Park home since 1895 (currently named something different due to sponsorship).

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They won the Central League in 1907, but were not elected to the football league until 1921.  They won the second division title in their first season, but came straight back down again.

Promotion was attained again in 1938-39, but the season was halted due to the Second World War.  Once the war was over, like so many other teams, they were placed back in the second tier.

Alloa didn’t have much success in the decades after the war.  They finally gained promotion from the new Second Division in 1977.  This began a bit of yo-yo period in the club’s history.  Relegation the following year was followed by promotions in 1981-82, 1984-85 and 1988-89.  All seeing demotion come along quickly.

Further league reconstruction saw them in a new Third Division in 1995.  They won the league in 1998 and the following season, won the Scottish Challenge Cup (a tournament for teams outside the top division) and also gained promotion to the First Division.

A return of the ups and downs came next with relegation at the first attempt, before promotion in 2001-02 followed by relegation.  They stayed in the Second Division from 2003 to 2011 before they were relegated through the play-offs, just one season after missing out on promotion on goal difference.

There followed back to back promotions.  Winning the Third Division title, then beating Dunfermline Athletic in a play-off in 2013.

The following season was a tough one, and they escaped a relegation play-off by the skin of their teeth.  The following year, 2014-15, saw the Championship contain Hearts, Hibs and Rangers, and Alloa found themselves in the relegation play-off at the end of the season.  A dramatic comeback win over Forfar Athletic preserved their Championship status for another year.

They fell again into the third tier in 2015-16 and have now reached the play-off final to try and return again.

Alloa finished the season in second place, nineteen points behind champions Livingston, but twelve ahead of fourth placed Brechin City.

They defeated third placed Airdrieonians on penalties in the semi-final.

Brechin City were born in 1906, after the amalgamation of Junior sides Brechin Harp and Brechin Hearts.  They moved to their current home of Glebe Park in 1919.

They were admitted to the Scottish league in 1923, into the original Third Division.  They disappeared from the Scottish League at the end of the 1925-26 season when the league was disbanded.

They returned to the league for the 1929-30 season, but struggled to get away from the bottom end of the league.

After the war, they were in the C Division, with a mix of first teams and reserve sides. They eventually got back into the league proper in 1954, but were lucky to survive relegation when they finished bottom.  Towards the end of that decade, Brechin started to appear more regularly in the top half of the table and even reached the semi-final of the League Cup in 1957-58.

The upturn in fortunes was brief though, with six finishes rock bottom of the league between 1961 and 1974.  Reconstruction in 1975 placed them in the new Second Division (third tier).

Season 1982-83 saw their first ever title win and promotion.  They stayed in the First Division until relegation in 1987, then similar to their opponents, they had a yo-yo period.  They won the title again in 1989-90, but went straight back down. Promotion again in 1993 was followed by consecutive relegations, so they had reached the new Third Division (fourth tier).

Brechin achieved immediate promotion out of the bottom division in 1996, but found themselves there again for the 1998-99 season.

The new millennium failed to halt the quick changes in league with the Third Division won in 2001-02, then another promotion the next year.  And on it went.  Relegation in 2003-04, a Second Division title win in 2004-05, relegation in 2005-06.

Play-off defeats in 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011 meant a lengthier spell in the third tier and this saw them return to the play-off final with a poor record in the past.

They had though already knocked out Championship side Raith Rovers on penalties in the semi-final.  Raith had finished second bottom.

The first leg of the final had seen Brechin beat Alloa 1-0.

It was a bit of a surprise that Alloa were charging £16 to get in.  Traditionally the play-offs have cheaper admission.  Alloa stuck with their usual price.  Brechin charged £10 for the first leg and Falkirk v Dundee United had been £15.

We missed the opening minutes after the Cowdenbeath v East Kilbride game went to extra time and penalties (and we went the wrong way on the journey over).

There were 1,204 in the ground.

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The first real incident we saw came in 17 minutes, when Cawley burst into the Brechin box, but only managed to hit the side netting.

Alloa’s Waters was shown the yellow card in 20 minutes for bringing down Caldwell.

A loose ball in the Brechin box in 21 minutes was played by Taggart into the feet of Flannigan, but the defence blocked his shot.

Up the other end a minute later and a quick Brechin free kick caught out the home defence with Jackson through on goal.  He maybe should have done better, but Parry did well to save with his legs.

With 30 minutes gone, Taggart crossed into the Brechin box but it was headed away.  The ball came to Robertson who rattled a shot off the post.

Ford passed the ball inside to Dale in 34 minutes as Brechin came forward.  Dale took the ball to about 20 yards from the Alloa goal then curled a fantastic shot past Parry and into the top corner to give Brechin the lead.

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Although away goals don’t count double in the play-offs, that put City two goals in front in the tie.

Just over a minute later, the ball came to Mackin in the Brechin box and his powerful shot saw McLean thrown himself at the ball and stop it with his hand.  Penalty.  Although the incident had happened quickly, the referee was in no doubt, and looked correct, although nobody in the stands or on the pitch really seemed to have claimed for it.  It certainly wasn’t expected, as he was only just inside his box and nowhere near the line.  Spence tucked the penalty away and brought the aggregate score back to one goal of a difference.

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In 39 minutes, Alloa put together a fine passing move which ended with Kirkpatrick playing the ball right to Taggart who crossed into the Brechin box, where Spence headed home to put Alloa in front and level on aggregate.

The teams were still tied on aggregate at half time, but it looked like the home side had the initiative now after the opening goal had put Brechin in the box seat.

With the second half nine minutes old, Dyer crossed into the Alloa box from a corner and McLean’s front post header flew high into the net to give Brechin the aggregate lead once again.

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Brechin won a free kick in 59 minutes after a foul by Taggart around 22 yards from the Alloa goal.  Watt lined up a shot, but put it over the bar.

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Brechin’s McLean required treatment in 66 minutes but was able to carry on.

With 69 minutes gone, Waters crossed deep into the Brechin box and found McCluskey at the back post, but he got underneath the ball and put it over the bar.

Dyer had a strike at the Alloa goal from outside the box in 72 minutes, but it went wide of the post.

McKeown put a high ball into the Brechin area in 74 minutes and Mackin headed the ball up in the air.  When it came down, Spence’s overhead kick beat the despairing dive of Smith and ended up in the corner of the net.  An amazing finish for him to complete his hat-trick.  3-2 to Alloa and 3-3 on aggregate.

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The crowd were getting up to fever pitch and there was a feeling that the next goal was likely to win the tie.

A great passing move by Brechin in 78 minutes ended with Trouten playing the ball behind the Alloa defence to Watt, deep inside the box.  Parry rushed out of his goal, but Watt expertly chipped the ball over him and into the net to make it 4-3 to Brechin on aggregate.

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With just twelve minutes left, Brechin had got their noses in front again in the topsy-turvy game.

As the Brechin fans celebrated, Taggart burst down the right and crossed into the City box in 79 minutes and Mackin powerfully headed the ball home for Alloa to level the scores once again.

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An incredible game.

With three minutes left of the regulation 90, an Alloa free kick into the Brechin box was headed at goal by McKeown, but it was straight into the arms of Smith.

A minute later and Love got some space in the Alloa box but blasted wide of goal.

The full time whistle blew on a hugely entertaining game and you had to wonder if the teams, who had given everything, would have the stamina for another 30 minutes.  Despite the bouts of torrential rain at the Cowdenbeath game earlier in the day, it had been sunny throughout in Alloa, and couldn’t have helped the players with their stamina.

The home side looked to put the pressure on in the opening minutes of the first period of extra time with Kirkpatrick and Spence both having efforts from outside the box, but neither troubled Smith.

Kirkpatrick got another shot away in 96 minutes, but Smith saved comfortably.

Brechin’s Lynas was shown the yellow card just before the interval for a foul on Martin.

Dale’s shot at the Brechin goal was the last action of the extra time first half, but his effort was too high.

A Brechin corner in 111 minutes saw a chance for Love, but his shot was blocked.  It fell to Trouten, but he fired over the bar.

Trouten was involved again in 117 minutes when he was booked for a late tackle on Flannigan.

With a minute left, Brechin’s Watt attempted a shot from a difficult angle, but didn’t get it on target.

For the second time on the day, we would see a play-off final determined by penalties.

Alloa went first and Taggart scored.  Lynas levelled for Brechin.  Hat-trick hero Spence was up next and saw his penalty saved by Smith.

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Hill scored for Brechin to put them in front.  Kirkpatrick scored for Alloa. Jackson was next for Brechin and Parry saved it.  Level once again.  Graham and Waters scored for Alloa and Trouten and Love for Brechin.  After five penalties each it was 4-4.  Sudden death.

Flannigan stepped up to take Alloa’s next and saw his shot come back off the post.

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That gave Dale the chance to win it for Brechin and he duly converted.

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The Brechin supporters raced onto the pitch to celebrate.

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It was hard not to feel sorry for Alloa who had put so much into the game and indeed the season.

Huge credit to Brechin whose league season saw them draw five, win 15 and lose 16, becoming the first ever Scottish team to gain promotion having lost more league games than they won.

A fantastic game to watch in which Spence was excellent for Alloa and must have been particularly gutted to end up on the losing side after scoring three.  For Brechin, Dale stood out in particular.

Full Time: Alloa Athletic 4 Brechin City 3 (After Extra Time) 4-4 on aggregate.  Brechin win 5-4 on penalties.

Admission: £16

Alloa Athletic : 1 Neil Parry, 2 Scott Taggart, 4 Frank McKeown, 5 Andy Graham, 3 Calum Waters, 7 Kevin Cawley (McCluskey 65), 6 Jon Robertson (Holmes 71), 10 Jordan Kirkpatrick, 8 Iain Flannigan, 9 Greig Spence, 11 Dylan Mackin (Martin 95).  Subs: 12 Jason Marr, 14 Steven Hetherington, 15 Jamie Longworth, 16 Stefan McCluskey, 17 Graeme Holmes, 18 Adam Martin, 21 Craig McDowall.

Brechin City: 1 Graeme Smith, 5 Aaron Lynas, 2 Paul McLean, 4 Gary Fusco, 3 Willie Dyer, 11 Liam Watt, 8 Finn Graham (Love 80), 6 James Dale, 7 Elliot Ford (Trouten 45), 9 Andy Jackson, 10 Ross Caldwell (Hill 45).  Subs: 12 Alan Trouten, 14 Ally Love, 15 Chris O’Neil, 16 Dougie Hill, 17 Darren Dods, 18 Scott Costello, 21 Patrick O’Neil.

Referee: Nick Walsh

Programme: £2

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