Whitehill Welfare 1-0 Stirling University Scottish Sun Lowland League Saturday 1 March 2014 Nine-man Stirling University came agonisingly close to salvaging a point at Ferguson Park as the Lowland League title race gathers pace, writes Tom Hardman.

Despite playing 60 minutes with ten men and the final ten minutes with just nine, Eddie May’s side gave an impressive account of themselves against Welfare, almost netting an unlikely equaliser.

The defeat leaves Stirling in second, trailing Spartans by six points, but with a game in hand on their Edinburgh counterparts and with the two teams scheduled to meet on the final fixture of the season.

As is often the case, the match against Welfare was a tight affair, the sides having drawn both their previous two encounters.

Injuries meant changes to the line-up, with Jason Atkins returning to the heart of the defence and starts handed to Blair McWhirter and Chris Geddes.

Creag Robertson was enjoying a more advanced role in midfield and he carved out Stirling’s best chance of the first half. His neat through ball found Ryan Millar, but the former Milton striker dragged his shot just wide.

Midway through the first half Welfare went in front, and in bizarre circumstances. Home striker Wayne McIntosh crossed from the left and it evaded everyone before trickling over the line, with Stirling keeper Ryan Marshall, Atkins and Welfare’s Danny Noon all left in a heap together having failed to cut it out.

Stirling’s day soon went from bad to worse as Tomos Jones saw red for a clumsy challenge.

Marshall then made a good save at his near post from Kerr Dodds in the final chance of the first half.

The second half did not bring many more chances on goal as both sides cancelled one another out, an impressive feat given Stirling were a man light.

It looked like game over for any hopes of a comeback when Callum Burns collected a second yellow card, leaving Stirling with just nine men.

Even with this disadvantage, it was the students who pushed forward and in the closing minutes game their best opportunity.

Good play again by Robertson saw him pass to Millar whose cross picked out Jack Nixon unmarked in the area, but the Stirling captain headed wide. This Saturday (8 March), the First XI have a home league fixture against Edinburgh City, kick-off 3pm at Forthbank. Tickets are priced £4 for adults and £2 for students, children and concessions.

In other results, the Third XI scored eight without reply to sink California in the Stirling & District Premier Division. This weekend, they are away to league leaders Carronshore Athletic, kick-off 2pm. The Second XI are at home to Edinburgh University in the East of Scotland League Cup qualifying, kick-off 2.30pm.

Stirling University FC: Marshall, Burns, Sutherland, Atkins, Nixon, Robertson, McWhirter (McKee), Jones, Williams-Mitchell (Donaghue-Kelly), Geddes (Sludden), Millar.