After 43 games (41 of which were played), Stranraer’s season is over.
The Blues were involved in four competitions – Cinch League 2, the SPFL Trophy, The Premier Sports Cup and the Scottish Cup – and a total of 30 players appeared in matchday squads for the club.
Through the week, we will take a look at each of those players who was involved with the first team.
Club captain Grant Gallagher scored his first Stranraer goal in more than 2,300 days when he found the net in the opening game of the league campaign against Elgin City. That was enough to earn a 1-1 draw and he then scored the goal that gave Jamie Hamill his first league win as a manager with a late strike at Cowdenbeath. Injured away to Annan in early November but bounced back to return against the same opposition at the beginning of 2022. Also provided the assist for Matty Yates to score the first goal of the Hamill era. Always willing to take the ball and has now clocked up more than 260 appearances for the club.
A key component of last season’s squad that reached the play-offs, Kieran Millar’s Stranraer 2021/22 campaign amounted to just five games. Started each of those games – against Clyde, East Kilbride, Kilmarnock, Elgin City and Annan Athletic. Was subbed after the Galabankies went 2-0 up at Stair Park and left the club soon afterwards. Rejoined East Fife, where he played in 2017/18. Thirty-three appearances for Stranraer and looks set to feature for the Fifers in League Two this coming campaign.
Twenty-year-old Josh Walker featured in 34 of Stranraer’s games – behind only Scott Robertson, Sean Burns, Craig Ross, Paul Woods and Matty Yates. Started the season promisingly by blasting in an impressive equaliser at the Rugby Park home of his former club, Kilmarnock. Teed up Tommy Muir’s opener against Forfar at the end of October before finding the net himself with a dipping free-kick from range. That came after a frustrating habit of pinpoint accuracy in finding the woodwork with dead balls. Also found the net with a shot from outside the box at Station Park and provided the assist for the opening goal in the 5-0 win at Albion Rovers.
Former Dumbarton midfielder Ruaridh Langan made the move down the A77 and stepped off the bench to make his debut against East Kilbride. A regular among the substitutes, 10 of his 12 appearances for the club came off the bench. Played the full 90 minutes in the 3-0 home defeat to Stirling Albion, with his other start coming away to Edinburgh City. Final appearance came off the bench in the 1-1 draw with former club Annan Athletic on January 2. Went on to join Benburb and will be seeking his football away from Stair Park for the coming campaign.
Pacey winger Joe Moore made the move from Cliftonhill to Stair Park in the summer. He had been part of the Albion Rovers team that defeated Stranraer in the lengthy penalty shoot-out in October 2020. Made a total of 14 appearances for Stranraer before the end of 2021. The most memorable was away to Cowdenbeath where he used his pace to burst down the wing and cross for Josh Rennie to score an equaliser. Final appearance came in the Boxing Day defeat to former club Albion Rovers. Made the move to Cowdenbeath early in the new year and has made six appearances, including in the 3-0 defeat at Stair Park in March.
Three years after leaving Stair Park for East Kilbride, Paul Woods returned to the Blues. Thirty-eight appearances in his first spell, the 34-year-old, now 35, impressed in pre-season and carried that form into the competitive games. Proved a real nuisance in front of goal, particularly against Albion Rovers. Three of his five goals came against the Coatbridge team, including a memorable finish from a tight angle in the 1-0 win at the beginning of October. Also found the net against Annan Athletic and Cowdenbeath. Versatility proved key on occasions in an impressive ‘second debut’ campaign.
Another in his second spell with Stranraer was Dean Hawkshaw. Originally signed on loan from Kilmarnock in early 2018, the midfielder was one of a number of loan signings – alongside Angus Beith, Dylan Dykes, Cameron MacPherson and Ross Lyon. Returned to the club after a spell with Glenafton Athletic. Proved a useful weapon, particularly from set pieces as he set up four goals. That included the last goal of the campaign when Sam Ellis turned home his free-kick against Elgin City. Also scored his first goal for Stranraer when he found the net at Galabank.
A dozen appearances for former Queen of the South midfielder Ross Irving. The 20-year-old was one of a number of promising youngsters who impressed during pre-season. Made his debut after stepping off the bench against Clyde in the opening game of the campaign. Was handed a first start for the club in the 1-1 draw at Forfar Athletic as the Blues battled to a vital point. Final appearance came at the beginning of December when he was a late substitute against Stenhousemuir. The Blues won 4-1 and Irving was inches away from his first goal for the club but the ball spun agonisingly wide of David Wilson’s post. Spent the second half of the season on loan at Dalbeattie Star and joined Tommy Muir on his charity run.
Musselburgh-based Broque Watson swapped one end of the country for the other when he moved from Cove Rangers at the end of August. He had already made five appearances for the Aberdeen side and came straight into the team for the trip to Forfar. Set up Grant Gallagher’s winner at Cowdenbeath at the end of August and found the net against Stenhousemuir in a game where Stranraer missed two penalties. Teed up two more goals over the course of the season and found the net against his former side Annan Athletic. Released at the end of the campaign.
An unused substitute for Kilmarnock when they defeated Stranraer at the beginning of the season, Ross Smith soon made the loan move to Stair Park. Made his debut against Forfar and provided the corner which eventually led to Darryl Duffy scoring the equalising goal. Started 13 games during his loan spell and came off the bench in another 10 encounters. Also scored his first senior goal when he opened the scoring in a 2-2 draw with Annan Athletic at Galabank in November. Played the final 16 minutes in the last game of the season against Elgin City and returned to Rugby Park.
Another who appeared in an opposition shirt before turning out for Stranraer this season was Anton Brady. He was part of the East Kilbride side that lost to a Matty Yates goal in August before making the move to Stair Park the following month. Made his debut in the 1-0 defeat to Edinburgh City and would go on to be a key part of Jamie Hamill’s team. Scored his first goal for the club when he beat David Wilson from distance at Stenhousemuir and also set up Craig Ross for a goal against Cowdenbeath at Stair Park. Increasingly important to the team and already signed for a second season with the Blues.
Fans’ favourite James Hilton returned to the club in January after spending the first half of the season with Edinburgh City. During his time with the capital club, the 24-year-old scored four goals – the last of which was against Stranraer. Appeared as a trialist against Cowdenbeath and then scored in his first game as a signed player when he found the net at Kelty Hearts. Scored twice against Stenhousemuir in the penultimate game of the campaign and came within whisker of a hat-trick when his late free-kick beat midfielder/goalkeeper Ross Forbes and hit the post. Was getting back to his best as season wrapped up.