SIX years ago Stenhousemuir began their ascent into the third tier of Scottish football with a victory over Queen’s Park in the play-off semi-finals. That triumph relegated the amateur club and propelled the Warriors into the final where they inflicted a stunning upset on Cowdenbeath to gain promotion. Stenhousemuir have remained at that level ever since and earned a seventh consecutive season in the third tier with this play-off final aggregate victory against the same opponents.
In 2009 it was assumed they’d swiftly return from whence they came since many saw their promotion run as little more than a fluke. Now mainstays of League One, everyone will look for a marked improvement next season by a team many expected to thrive, but instead could only avoid relegation by the thinnest of margins.
“It’s massive for the club,” said manager Brown Ferguson. “It’s been a difficult season for a variety of reasons. We can now use this to build a strong and competitive team for next season. All credit to Queen’s Park. They dictated a lot of the game. But I also credit my own team for being able to deal with that pressure and see out the game.”
Leading 1-0 after a midweek victory at Hampden, the hosts got off to the best start when Colin McMenamin, pictured, scored inside three minutes. The striker could even have scored two minutes earlier when he headed wide from a Cairan Summers cross at the conclusion of Stenhousemuir’s first attack.
The hosts’ positive attitude soon paid off when McMenamin made a darting front-post run to glance a Paul McMullan corner into the back of the net. The goal shook Queen’s Park into life, but even though they enjoyed a lot of possession in the home half, they never created a clear cut opportunity in the opening 45.
The home side brightened up a little in the second half’s opening exchanges and could have put the tie beyond Queen’s Park when McMullan found Kris Faulds on the edge of the area. The midfielder’s shot was blocked and from there the visitors launched the attack that would culminate in the equaliser on the day. Pat Slattery’s high, looping cross looked innocuous enough until Shaun Fraser went up with goalkeeper Greg Fleming. The ball bounced off the pair before landing behind Fleming and crossing the line.
Five minutes later they should have levelled the tie. Tony Quinn, pushed up from the back to be an unorthodox forward, played a perfectly weighted through ball for substitute Shaun Rooney but he sliced the ball high and wide with only the goalkeeper to beat.
Queen’s Park’s pressure increased as the minutes ticked away, with Fleming put under constant aerial pressure. With a couple of minutes of the contest remaining Woods drove a rising effort toward the top corner but Fleming was equal to the effort.
It was the last clean strike the visitors would have on goal as Stenhousemuir successfully held on to the 2-1 aggregate victory – fittingly, it was the same scoreline they’d beaten Queen’s Park by in 2009.