City have one eye on the cup

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BRECHIN City’s players could perhaps be forgiven for having one eye on their midweek Scottish Cup quarter-final at MacDiarmid Park.

But, despite being far from their best the Reds came away from Alloa Athletic with a share of the points in a two-each draw, which was the least they deserved.

The visitors were struck a blow when centre-half Gerry McLaughlan was injured in the warm up, tweaking his hamstring, and was left out as a precaution. Davie White stepped into Gerry’s place in the back four.

Gary Fusco was also back in the line-up in midfield and Mitch Megginson started wide on the left for Brechin in what was an attack-looking line-up.

Brechin started the game very well and very much on the front foot.

McAllister was fouled on the left hand side of the penalty and Neil Janczyj swept in a free-kick that found no takers inside the Alloa box. The same player had another opportunity to deliver a set piece after McKenna was upended by Walker, but Alloa goalkeeper Jamie Ewings came off his line to collect.

City continued to push for an opener and good work from McAllister in the wide areas won them another corner.

This time the ball broke to Craig Molloy on the edge of the box, but he fired just wide of the upright.

In the ninth minute, Paul McLean struck an excellent half volley that had the goalkeeper scrambling across his line, but it too was just wide.

The opening goal was only delayed a few seconds more, however.

Megginson got in a good cross from the left flank and, following a scramble in the Alloa goalmouth, David McKenna showed good awareness to tuck the ball home at the second attempt, having had his first effort blocked on the line.

City then allowed Alloa back into the game. It wasn’t until the 16th minute that Craig Nelson was forced into any sort of save, when he comfortably held Brian Prunty’s header.

However, six minutes later, Alloa were level. A high ball from the left flank perhaps should have seen Craig Nelson off his line to collect. However, it went out to the touchline, where Prunty was on hand to head it back across the face of goal to Scott Walker, who headed in from close range.

City fought there way back into the game and Molloy once again looked the most likely of the midfield players to get on the score-sheet.

He darted past a couple of challenges outside the box and his determination then took him just inside it, but he couldn’t keep his attempt on goal down.

Molloy was in the thick of it again when he almost latched on to Janczy’s threaded free-kick inside the box, only to be denied by a last-gasp challenge from Michael McGowan.

In the 33rd minute it looked like City might have been back in front when Alloa stopper Jamie Ewings dived full-length to block an effort from Molloy.

However, the City midfielder had strayed into an offside position.

Alloa showed they weren’t out of the contest when, following a corner, Lister rose above White, but headed over the crossbar.

The game continued to swing to and fro and Alloa were next to go close.

However, Craig Nelson managed to stop Michael McGowan’s free-kick at the second attempt.

Brechin had a couple of opportunities right on the half-time whistle.

First of all Neil Janczyk tried an audacious volley from just inside the box, which flew over the crossbar.

City were then unfortunate to be denied when only a tremendous one-handed save from Ewings in the Alloa goal prevented danger-man Molloy from restoring his side’s lead.

City had enjoyed the upper-hand for most of the first half, without being nearly at their best.

However, they were struck with the classic counter attack just three minutes into the restart.

Having won a corner, for some inexplicable reason Brechin appeared to have just one defender against one attacker in the shape of Alloa’s Jim Lister on the half-way line.

Lister was allowed to run almost half the length of the park, before rolling the ball around Nelson and into the net, despite Ewan Moyes’ effort to hook it off the line.

Good link up play from Rory McAllister saw him bring Molloy into the game once again. On this occasion however the City midfield maestro struck his effort straight at the goalkeeper.

Brechin continued their search for a leveller and, in the 56th minute, Mitch Megginson’s sweetly-struck volley sailed over the Alloa crossbar.

A raft of substitutions followed, with Nathan Taggart replacing ex-City man Darren Smith, Brown Ferguson being replaced by David McLune and City’s Jordan Kirkpatrick coming on for David McKenna.

A lovely sweeping move saw Janczyk have the ball in the net for City, but the skipper was flagged offside by the far side linesman.

Fraser Forest, who was undoubtedly the pick of the Alloa back four, and was playing as a Trialist, managed to get his head to Andy Scott’s free-kick, but directed his header over the bar.

In the 66th minute, Mitchel Megginson was replaced by Daniel McKay.

Good awareness by Rory McAllister almost brought Brechin level.

The striker had few unmarked options to pick out from an acute angle on the right side of the Wasps’ box, so he deftly chipped the Alloa goalkeeper, only for the ball to rebound off the top of the crossbar and away to safety.

City were finally level following a free-kick in the 68th minute. The ball broke to Ewan Moyes well inside the Alloa box and he managed to steer the ball home through a packed penalty area.

Alloa’s Ross Philip had to be stretchered off with around 20 minutes left after coming off second best in a 50-50 challenge with Jordan Kirkpatrick.

Kirkpatrick raced away with the ball and was upended by Scott Walker. However, the game was held up for a good five minutes until Phillip was attended to and that meant the home side, having used all three substitutes, were down to ten men.

There was little in the way of goal-mouth action though in the closing stages.

Jim Lister had his name taken for his umpteenth foul of the game nd Neil Janczyk was replaced by Mark Archdeacon with two minutes left.

Archdeacon almost won it for City at the death. Paul McLean burst down the right and was fouled by Stuart Noble. Archdeacon struck an excellent left-foot free-kick, which was very gratefully grasped by Jamie Ewings on the goal-line.

So City gained their point, but you couldn’t help but feel if they hadn’t been a few days from a Scottish Cup quarter final replay, perhaps it might have been all three.

They were more fluent than the home side, but never entirely convincing. City’s best were Fusco, Molloy and McAllister.

Alloa Athletic - Ewings, Philp, Forrest, Walker, Dunlop, McGowan, Ferguson (McClun), Scott, Smith (Taggart), Prunty (Noble) and Lister.

Brechin City - Nelson, McLean, White, Moyes, Cook, Molloy, McKenna (Kirkpatrick), Fusco, Janczyk (Archdeacon), McAllister and Megginson (McKay).