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Ross McAloone: A Tale of Redemption

Started on 12 February 2021 by ScottT
Latest Reply on 8 May 2021 by TheLFCFan
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ScottT's avatar Group ScottT
7 monthsEdited

February 2021


Edinburgh City 2-3 Annan Athletic | Ladbrokes League Two | De Vita (3), Henderson (72), Yates (26, 52), Struthers (73)
Annan Athletic 2-0 Stirling Albion | Ladbrokes League Two | Yates (25), Struthers (27)
Queen's Park 2-0 Annan Athletic | Ladbrokes League Two | Murray (28), Booth (42)
Annan Athletic 2-1 Brechin City | Ladbrokes League Two | Yates (31, 50), Makovora (3)

In a rather topsy-turvy affair, we claimed an important three points against Edinburgh City in a 3-2 victory at Ainslie Park. This was followed-up with another victory, this time against Stirling Albion with Matt Yates and Shaun Struthers getting on the scoresheet, before we clashed with Queens Park in arguably our biggest game of the season to date.

It proved to be a dismal afternoon as we came out second-best against our nearest challengers. Simon Murray put the hosts ahead before an unlikely goalscorer in full-back Callum Booth doubled their advantage just before the break.

An adept response was required against Brechin City and I was fearing the worst when Leeroy Makovora put the away side in-front just three minutes into the game. Not for the first-time this season, I displayed my frustration on the touchline and the players took notice. Matt Yates continued his fine form to equalise before he captured a second early-on in the second-half. Once again, it wasn't pretty.... but the job was done come full-time.

March 2021


Annan Athletic 1-0 Stenhousemuir | Ladbrokes League Two | Struthers (72)
Elgin City 0-3 Annan Athletic | Ladbrokes League Two | Yates (7, 86), Smith (65)
Annan Athletic 4-1 Albion Rovers | Ladbrokes League Two | Struthers (25, 43), Smith (33), Hunter (pen, 60), Ross (57)
Stirling Albion 1-2 Annan Athletic | Ladbrokes League Two | Mackin (86), Yates (6), Struthers (61)

The theme of winning ugly continued into March as we edged past Stenhousemuir who had certainly fallen off-the-pace. Ryan Blair appeared to have given his side the lead early into the second-half but the officials adjudged the former Swansea City man to have been in an offside position that led to furious protests from the Stenhousemuir players and management. I turned my back away from the chaos, recognising they had every right to be frustrated - Blair was onside.

Nevertheless, we sought to find the opener and Shaun Struthers found it eighteen minutes from time. A terrific header met a superb cross from Matt Yates to give us, admittedly, an undeserved lead. There would be further drama when Yates himself got onto the end of a cross to divert the ball home but the flag was raised for the second-time that afternoon to deny him.

There was significantly less drama at Borough Briggs as we returned to our usual best and coasted to a 3-0 victory. This was followed with another convincing win against basement side Albion Rovers.

The month concluded with a trip to Stirling Albion where Dylan Mackin's late goal certainly had our nerves jangling but we managed to see-out the game and record a ninth win in ten games thanks to earlier goals from the explosive duo of Yates and Struthers. Their tallies for the season now stand at fifteen and eighteen goals, respectively.



Our victory against Stirling Albion resulted in a seven point lead over Queen's Park at the top of the Ladbrokes League Two table. We had also confirmed a play-off spot in the process but it has to be said with the advantage we have over our nearest challengers, we have to be looking to get the job done via winning the division.

The Spiders have dropped a few silly points in recent weeks with a 0-0 draw against Cowdenbeath at the start of February and a 5-3 defeat to Edinburgh City at the end of it. A 1-1 draw to Stirling Albion has only compounded their disappointment as they have failed to capitalise on their victory against us.

It is now very much a two-horse race with Stenhousemuir seventeen points behind. Stranraer are clinging onto the final play-off position ahead of Edinburgh City.

Albion Rovers are now ten points behind Cowdenbeath who will be confident that they will be avoiding the relegation play-off this year. Scott Williamson has been installed as caretaker manager until the end of the season after Brian Reed was sacked with just three wins under his belt after twenty-seven games in charge.

Comments

Seb: I agree entirely. The dream of promotion to League One is becoming more and more of a reality and McAloone and Struthers in particular have played a vital role in that.

James: They're showing no signs of faltering. Let's hope that continues to be the theme between now and the end of the season!

Jack: A new deal had to be on the horizon given how the team have performed this season. It's a youthful squad on the whole but they are proving that age is merely a number with the maturity of their performances.
An OUTSTANDING couple of month, probably the most important two months of the season for Ross as it will likely win him the title eventually.
Great form in the month of March. Looking forward to reading more about Ross McAloone
Ummmmmm, you're on fire! It's a nice little buffer that Ross has made for himself at the top of the table, and there's got to be an air of confidence in the dressing room that an unlikely promotion is within sight. Yates and Struthers are simply unstoppable, but your defenders deserve a lot of credit for the lack of goals your conceding. It's not often that you concede 2 or more a game, and that's a major positive.
ScottT's avatar Group ScottT
7 monthsEdited

We moved into April with confidence at an all-time high. We were rampant. Nine wins from our previous ten games had given us a seven point lead over Queen's Park with six games left to play. It seemed surreal that we had given ourselves such a fantastic platform and cushion to work with but the position we were in was as real as it came.

Our first game of our six game sprint was a trip to Cowdenbeath that screamed a comfortable three points on paper. We were keen to avenge our disappointing defeat at Galabank when we clashed in mid-January and with the momentum we had sustained, we were confident that we could claim all three points. That was indeed the case as we closed out a 2-0 victory at Central Park with a first goal of the season for central-defender Aidan Quinn and another goal to add to the collection for Shaun Struthers.

We transitioned seamlessly into our second game against Edinburgh City with our confidence of claiming promotion growing ever-more. Edinburgh were no push-overs though, our previous two games against City had been entertaining affairs ending 4-3 and 3-2, respectively. They knew how to push us all the way over ninety minutes and I expected nothing less in this game.

The visitors had aspirations of their own with a place in the play-offs a very real possibility. Both sides were desperate for a win.

The pressure was on for either side but it was City who thrived in the opening exchanges. Blair Henderson latched onto a ball forward and found the net with an excellent finish to give the visitors the lead just two minutes into the game. We couldn't have gotten off to a worse start in such a crucial game.

Our heads refused to drop however. We probed for an equaliser and found the answer just over ten minutes later with Matt Yates providing the finishing touch. The former Hibernian star continued his excellent run this year with yet another crucial goal. He was becoming a man for the big occasion.

In that position you hope to use the momentum to begin to control the game but Edinburgh were having none of it. They were playing some excellent football and fought doggedly for every ball. It was that fight and spark that helped them to finding the third goal of the afternoon. Gabby McGill tucked the ball home and Edinburgh worked tirelessly to defend their lead for the remainder of the half.

In the second period, we just couldn't get anything going against a side that clearly had us well-scouted. McGill grabbed a second with just over twenty-five minutes to play and we had no response. We were beaten. The run was over and our confidence quickly slipped just as quickly as it appeared with every single win.

Defeats against Stranraer (1-3) and Stenhousemuir (0-2) followed with the latter of the two coming just three days after our loss to Stranraer. Queen's Park were taking full advantage of our demise in form as they beat Stenhousemuir and Elgin City to complete a set of four wins from four. They would close out the month with a fifth victory over Edinburgh City.

Suddenly, we had been knocked-off our pedestal. Queen's Park led the way in spite of our much-needed 2-1 victory against Brechin City. Aidan Smith and Matt Yates first-half goals enabled us to see-off the struggling side and ensure we kept touch with The Spiders heading into the final-day.

It was surreal that we had succumbed to the pressure as we did. For as surreal as it was to be in the position we found ourselves in at the beginning of April, it was even more astonishing that we had stumbled at the worst time possible. We only had ourselves to blame and the situation was black-and-white. We had to win the final game of the season.

Our opposition you ask? Queen's Park.... It couldn't have been set-up any better.


The challenge for us is simple: go there and win.

Comments

Jack: It was a great run to witness but it makes the fall that bit harder to swallow, I have to say.

LeGaffer: Glad to have you on-board!

James: We were. That buffer was quickly wiped out in the blink of an eye. It's concerning in all honesty but at least the boys have an opportunity to rectify their mistakes by beating Queen's Park. The entire squad will have to ready for arguably the biggest game in the club's history since promotion to League Two back in '08!
Ooof, this is a choke of Conor McDonald proportions at this rate! It's disappointing, but it'll be a good test of your players character in the penultimate game of the season too. It's very simple: you need to win. I think that Ross can get the players up for the game, but it's going to be tough when you consider that Queens Park will be buoyant at the moment, having been a bit s*** all season and somehow [possibly] managing to snatch promotion out of it all.

Good luck in the final game, I'm predicting 2-1 to Annan.
2021-03-16 01:35#282658 J_ames : Ooof, this is a choke of Conor McDonald proportions at this rate!
Now now, we don't talk about bygones ;)
But yes, a devastating collapse. I'm not sure how Ross intends to get his players amped for the occasion ahead but he really needs to do it. However, regardless of results, it's been a great first year at the helm for a new manager like McAloone, he just needs to get the bottling gene out of his system :P
ScottT's avatar Group ScottT
7 monthsEdited

There has been an air of professionalism brought to a semi-professional outfit in light of Ross McAloone's management. His methods have delivered success on-and-off the pitch with players singing his praises in every single interview with either the local press or piece for the club's website.

Therefore it came as no surprise that with arguably the biggest game of the club's history since its formation in 1932, he was keen to ensure that his players arrive at Galabank an hour earlier than the standard practice of arriving on premises for 1pm. He was clear in his instruction - he expected everyone to be there on the dot for twelve.

Upon arrival, McAloone stood at the main reception to greet the small groups of players that arrived together one-by-one. Punctuality was a must; he was one for organisation yet in spite of his structured ways, McAloone is an excellent man-manager. He is, of course, not far removed from the days of being a player himself in the dressing-room.

However, he was noticeably accompanied by a much smaller man. An elderly gentleman who the players recognised and greeted as they noticed his presence. Malcolm McDaid, a gentleman who was Annan Athletic through-and-through. A supporter who had been on the terraces for as long as he could ever remember. A true club legend.

Ross had cleverly asked for Malcolm to deliver a speech. It was a pre pre-match team-talk so to speak and the players were left leaving the room looking motivated by an impassioned run-through of just how important a victory would be. An opportunity to write their names into the history book of Annan Athletic Football Club. After all, since election into what is now known as the SPFL in 2008, entry into League One has eluded them in spite of two previous efforts in the play-offs.

The Queen's Park players arrived approximately an hour and a half become kick-off which was standard procedure for the visitors ahead of warm-ups at 2pm. McAloone kept his tight-knit squad together and took them into the dressing-room to give a final delivery of the team ahead of the afternoon's all-important clash.

"Josh [Bradley Hurst] in goal with a back-four - from right to left - of Fulton, Quinn, Swinglehurst and Clark. Azza [Aaron Splaine], Hunter, Miller and Smithy [Aidan Smith] as the midfield four with Yates and Struths [Shaun Struthers] leading the line," he instructed. The gaffer proceeded with the substitutes bench for the afternoon before instructing the players to head out for warm-ups.

The warm-up, at least in Ross' mind was more about ensuring the players weren't over-analysing what was ahead of them than anything else. The players needed to be prepared both physically and mentally for the challenge ahead.

"I want you to keep things as simple as possible today," he said once his players had gathered back inside. "We know they have the ability to punish us; on paper, they are the better side. If we keep things as simple as possible, we have a better opportunity to get the result we need. The opening exchanges will be the most important. Get your confidence up and running by keeping the ball; get a few passes going to shake off any nerves and go from there. Understood?" The players nodded in response. "Now go out there and impress," he bellowed. He was greeted by an equally euphoric roar from the players. It was time.

It was clear the players had taken on-board exactly what McAloone had told them. Annan won the toss and elected to kick-off and immediately set-about maintaining possession with the players getting a feel for the occasion. Queen's Park were kept off the ball for the opening ten minutes as much as possible. The pace was being set. It was excellent game-management from the off which had the gaffer applauding his side.

About fifteen minutes had gone when the hosts won a throw-in which was taken quickly by Ryan Fulton who - like many times this season - used Shaun Struthers as an out-ball to hold up the play. He returned the ball into Fulton who delivered a ball forward. Yates controlled the ball excellently and looked to find a team-mate behind him.

The ball was cushioned down to Struthers who had managed to move back into a more familiar position about twenty-five yards from goal. He looked up and struck it. The ball flew at an incredible speed, beating the keeper and finding the net. One-nil.

There were muted celebrations on the pitch but that feeling was certainly not imitated in the stands. Annan had an early lead.

The lack of celebrations were soon for good reason as the visitors immediately struck-back from the resulting kick-off. A simple direct-ball forward eventually found its way into Simon Murray who scored an equally sweet long-range effort to equalise.

If McAloone and his team needed a reminder that today was far from a cake-walk, that was it. It was back to managing the game as they were in the opening ten minutes or so.

Queen's Park had a good opportunity to take the lead but hit an effort straight at Bradley-Hurst before Aidan Smith tested the reflexes of Willie Muir. Those two efforts took the teams in at half-time, one apiece.

"I'm largely pleased with what I've seen so far. I thought we were unfortunate to be pegged-back immediately but we have to be switched on in those situations. Let's not dwell though, eh. We're in control of the game, we're managing it as we would like. Keep that in mind - be positive," McAloone told his players at the break.

The game restarted after everybody had emerged from the tunnel with Annan earning a very early corner. Aaron Splaine went over to deliver the ball in and swung a ball deep into the back-post searching for Yates. The young forward went to attack the ball but was forcefully tugged by the Queen's Park defender prompting him to be brought down. Penalty. Jubilation flooded Galabank once again. And then once again as Lewis Hunter slammed the ball home from twelve-yards.

McAloone called over his captain following his goal as the celebrations began to settle down once again. "Get the boys focused. If we manage the storm for the next ten or so minutes, we can look to spring them on the counter. They will deviate from their plan once they get frustrated." McAloone also turned to his bench to introduce Nicky Buchan in place of Murray Miller. He made a case of appreciating his on-loan midfielder's efforts once he trudged off. "Cheers boss," he smiled in response.

The foul-count was soon racking up for the visitors as the frustration began to mount. They conceded a dangerous free-kick on the edge of the area for Splaine to stand-over. As soon as the free-kick was awarded, he took the ball and placed it down. There was no doubt in his mind that he was taking this. The winger anticipated the whistle and took a deep breath before approaching the ball and bending it past the wall and crucially past the goalkeeper. The net bulged. Unbelievable scenes ensued.

With twenty minutes to play, the dream was starting to become somewhat visible for the players and coaching staff. Even Ross McAloone was celebrating now, running up-and-down the touchline to greet his players.

The clock continued to tick-down and soon enough, the fourth-official raised his board to announce an additional four minutes of added-time. Mark Docherty had already made his entrance onto the pitch in place of Cammy Clark to add some experience to the side in the dying embers of such an important clash. The supporters were in fine voice. League One football was on the horizon.

And if anybody had any doubt whatsoever... it was soon put to bed. Matt Yates found the net to add a fourth and seal an incredible victory. Ross McAloone and his players soon heard the full-time whistle prompting wild scenes involving themselves and the supporters. On the final day, Annan Athletic had clinched promotion. Ross McAloone and his players were into the history books. Annan Athletic would be in League One next season.

McAloone and club-captain Lewis Hunter gathered in-front of the crowd behind them to hold the trophy aloft as champagne began to be sprayed in all directions. The celebrations had truly begun. The supporters soon followed, led by Malcolm McDaid of course, who entered the scene with tears in his eyes. He approached Ross and smiled before embracing him. "Thank you," he said. "Thank you ever so much."

Comments

James: Ouch. Below the belt that one to poor McDonald.

Queen's Park were dreadful. I'm not quite sure what happened but nevertheless, the job is done for Ross and his team. I doubt 4-1 would have ever crossed your mind with regards to a score prediction. ;)

Jack: That's how. What an incredible way to clinch promotion! No bottling here at Annan... at least in the end! A brilliant first season in management has been capped-off in perfect fashion.
Scott, this is an amazingly well-written story. your writeup of the final match added just the right color and narrative to craft a compelling retelling of the digital match. I'm really enjoying this story.
Get in! What a way to seal promotion, final day heroics and all! Reading the recap of the match was quite awesome, so it must've been even better when you were playing the game too. There's a big off-season ahead for Ross and his lads, but for now: it's time to celebrate!
Very nice, your club as it goes and your writing! Looks like Yates is your topper, how his contract situation?

"Thank you for joining us tonight, ladies and gentlemen," announced Fraser Bell. Fraser has perhaps one of the most distinguishable voices amongst footballing circles in Annan having presided over the PA system at Galabank for almost a decade. He was the go-to man to host events like tonight's in what was to be a fantastic celebration put on in the clubhouse for supporters and players to enjoy after the events of the weekend before.

"Tonight is an opportunity to celebrate, although I'm sure there has plenty of that already over the past week," he laughed prompting the crowd of supporters in attendance to join him. "It has been a season unlike no other and as of now we are now exploring unchartered territory thanks to the efforts of everybody associated with the club but nonetheless to the playing-staff and management at the club," he said, smiling.

"Let's raise a glass to them." He turned to greet a glass of red that he had placed beside him before holding it aloft. Those in attendance followed and let out a loud cheer whilst doing so.

Ross, who was hidden-away as much as possible in the corner of the room despite being told to take centre-stage by Fraser prior to opening the doors of the clubhouse, blushed in his seat. He wasn't one for too much attention off the pitch - a complete shadow of the man who would usually be heard barking instructions and obscenities on the touchline every matchday.

A quick glance around the clubhouse and it was clear there had been a lot of effort into the night's celebrations. Local catering businesses had kindly donated their time and services to put on a magnificent buffet with other businesses helping in whatever way they could with alcohol, banners and the like. The local community had certainly been brought together by the achievements of the town's football club just as hoped.

Phillip Jones, club chairman, shared his immense pride and joy for what his club had achieved and echoed the sentiment of thanks to Ross and his players before Fraser dragged Ross himself into sharing his thoughts with the supporters.

"I'm not one for these occasions strangely enough," Ross began, "but firstly thank you for coming tonight. Thank you for getting behind us this season. Your support hasn't gone unnoticed and we, as a football club, are incredibly thankful for all the long journeys and sacrifices made by each and every one of you." The players all raised their glasses in agreement with their manager's words as he spoke.

"When I spoke with Mr Jones with regards to taking the job, I have to admit that I was slightly nervous. I had no reservations about wanting to go into management but the opportunity reared its head very suddenly which caught me off-guard at the time. I accepted because I knew that, in the long-run, I could make this work.

Honestly, did I expect to be champions at the end of the year when I took the job? No. Perhaps I underestimated our ability but I am incredibly grateful to this group of lads who worked their socks off all season. They played like champions and ultimately got their reward."
The room erupted in applause and cheers once again.

"Tonight, the pints are on me boys - let's celebrate like champions, eh?"

Players and supporters alike took notice in Ross' words as they sunk pint after pint for the remainder of the night, mingling together and laughing.

The next few weeks were set to be much more difficult for Ross with numerous contracts still on the table to be negotiated ahead of next season meaning difficult conversation would have to take place and preparations for pre-season were also to be arranged.

For the present moment, Ross only cared about tonight's celebrations with little regard for tomorrow morning - let alone the next few weeks.

Comments

jahendricksi: Glad to hear it mate. Appreciate it greatly - I do my best to bring some realism to the story and it's always pleasing to know I did a good job!

James: I agree. It was a fantastic way to seal promotion after initially fearing that the title would be lost and it would be a case of having to settle for the lottery of the play-offs. The match was great to watch - I couldn't believe what I was seeing. It could have been very different if Queen's Park took their chance to go 2-1 up.

A massive pre-season awaits, you're quite right. There's plenty to be done...

Mauve: Much appreciated man! Yates signed a two-year-deal when he signed in the summer so he's contacted until May 2022 at the moment. I know Ross will be very keen to extend that deal if he performs as he did this season.
Good luck in the new season, the only way is up and having your best players staying is sometimes more important than signing new ones.
Sounds like an expensive night for Ross, he might need to ask the club for a loan or a pay-rise to clear his tab! I'm looking forward to seeing the moves you make in the off-season, and I hope that Struthers and Yates get a chance to showcase their ability at a higher level.
ScottT's avatar Group ScottT
6 monthsEdited

Annan Athletic Announce Retained List


Annan Athletic have revealed their retained list as the club begin to prepare for Ladbrokes League One football next season following their promotion from League Two.

Over the past couple of weeks there has been extensive discussion between numerous parties primarily including players and first-team manager Ross McAloone over plans for next season.

Consequently, this has resulted in a number of players parting-ways with the club at the end of the 2020/21 season and we would like to thank them for their contributions in what has been an incredible twelve months for everybody associated with Annan Athletic Football Club.

Peter Watson is likely to be the most high-profile departure after thirteen years of service. Following his release, the 35-year-old has decided to hang-up his boots and is now looking to pursue a career in management.

Making over 200 appearances for the club, Watson has established himself as a true Annan legend and we were thrilled to honour his service in a testimonial game against Albion Rovers at the start of the 2020/21 season as part of our pre-season preparations.

Commenting on Watson's departure, Ross McAloone said: "There were no easy decisions when it came to discussing each player's future. However, Peter's case was by far the most difficult. I was lucky enough to play alongside him as a player and then go on to coach him. He is a model-professional and somebody that the club were incredibly fortunate to attain the services of for so many years. He will be a big miss."

Another surprising departure was that of club-captain Lewis Hunter who departs after making twenty-eight appearances over the course of the campaign, scoring five times. The 24-year-old signed from East Fife in the summer and established himself as a key-man in McAloone's 4-4-2 system.

"I am gutted to see Lewis leave but unfortunately I just don't think he has the ability we will need to impress in League One next year. He has been an integral figure in our success but I would rather allow him to flourish with another club than potentially sabotage a feel-good story and allow him to remain at the club and struggle if I am being brutally honest. Lewis understands my decision and has been nothing but brilliant. I wish him the very best."

Mark Docherty has also left Galabank alongside Nathan Flanagan and Jack Purdue who made a number of first-team appearances last season.

Elsewhere, Owen Moxon, Jordan Pettigrew, Greg Pascazio, Matty Douglas, Iain Anderson, Alex Mitchell and Russell Currie have also been released.

Players Returning To Their Parent Club
Murray Miller (Rangers)

Players Under Contract:
Joshua Bradley-Hurst (GK)
Tyler Fulton (DR)
Ryan Hall (DR)
Steven Swinglehurst (DC)
Aidan Quinn (DC)
Cammy Clark (DL)
Aaron Splaine (MR)
Dominic Lavelle (CM)
Nicky Buchan (CM)
Aidan Smith (ML)
Shaun Struthers (ST)
Matt Yates (ST)
Sam Ackroyd (ST)

Players Released:
Peter Watson
Lewis Hunter
Mark Docherty
Nathan Flanagan
Jack Purdue
Owen Moxon
Jordan Pettigrew
Greg Pascazio
Matty Douglas
Iain Anderson
Alex Mitchell
Russell Currie

Comments

Mauve: Thanks man. I definitely agree with your sentiments and having players like Smith and Swinglehurst sign-on for another year is a massive boost.

James: It must have been! Thankfully he's on a decent amount of £725 p/w ;) The summer ahead will be one to look forward to but given the efforts of Yates and Struthers, I'm sure they will given an opportunity to shine at a higher-level.

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