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  • Post published:5 January 2024

Consistency will be key if Stranraer are to close the gap on the play-off pack above them, according to new signing Chris Johnston.

The Blues go into the final game in the first half of the season trailing fourth placed Spartans by 10 points and with plenty of work to do if they are to replace them in the play-offs.

However, Johnston, who enjoyed promotion from League Two with Annan Athletic, was confident that gap could be overcome, starting against Elgin City tomorrow (Saturday).

He said: “I want to try to help the team and see where we can finish.

“I know this league and have played in this league for the last four or five years now.

“I know if you get a good wee run of wins together it builds confidence and you can go and finish anywhere – there are no limits.

Johnston has been watching on from the stands in recent weeks

“We have got 18 or 19 games left and that is a long way to go.

“There are going to be dips in form as well and it is about who can go and put a run together.

“If you put three or four results together and beat the teams round about you, then you will be surprised how much it can change in our league.

“If you don’t put wins together, you can get dragged the other way.

“I know how quickly it can turn.”

The midfielder left Annan Athletic in the middle of November.

Since then, Johnston has been training with Stranraer but was unable to play for the club until the opening of the transfer window at the beginning of month.

The 29-year-old said: “It just felt like it was the right time for me.

“I just needed something different or fresh.

“Obviously, I loved my time at Annan and over the two spells I was there we seemed to do really well.

“If I was looking back, I was quite honest with the gaffer, I probably should have gone in the summer on a bit of a high after promotion.

The midfielder played four seasons in the top flight at Kilmarnock

“I just felt within myself that I knew it was the right time to go and try something else.”

The first game of his time with Stranraer takes him on the long trip north to Borough Briggs.

The hosts are also on the lookout for points as they look to edge away from the bottom of the table.

Johnston, who began his career at Kilmarnock, stressed the cliché about there being no easy games was correct.

He said: “Every game in this league, I don’t think there is going to be a gimme.

“From the teams sitting top to those at the bottom, there are not going to be any easy games.

“To give ourselves the best chance, we have got to turn up.

“We have got to turn up and play our A game.

“If we do that, like we have done in the last few games, like Bonnyrigg, we were very good.

“The gaffer is drilling into us that we need to be more consistent.”

Last meeting

A push on Sean McIntosh gave Stranraer an early penalty in the last meeting between the two sides in November.

Dylan Forrest confidently stepped up to fire beyond Kyle King.

James Dolan saw a shot tipped on to the crossbar by the goalkeeper before Stranraer doubled their advantage. Matty Grant somehow squeezed through a crowd of defenders before sliding the ball in from a tight angle.

The third goal was always going to be crucial and Dolan blasted home less than a minute into the second half.

Elgin managed to pull one back through substitute – and former Stranraer man – Robert Jones with a fine header but it proved not enough.

Stranraer: Budinauckas, Robertson, Williamson, Girvan, Ross, McIntosh, Dolan (Lang 77), Hawkshaw (Walker 73), Forrest (Strachan 61), Grant (McDonald 61), Armour (Orr 77).
Not used: Sneddon and Downie.

Elgin City: King, Dolzanski, Cairns, Mackenzie (Jones 49), Ewan, MacEwan, Cameron, Harvey (MacInnes 69), Taylor (Barron 86), MacLeman, Draper (Cruickshank 69).
Not used: Cooper, Cooney and McHale.

Last five meetings

  • Stranraer 3 Elgin City 1 (Forrest (Pen), Grant and Dolan; Jones) at Stair Park on November 4, 2023
  • Elgin City 0 Stranraer 1 (Dolan) at Borough Briggs on August 5, 2023
  • Stranraer 3 Elgin City 1 (Forrest, Grant and Walker; Reid) at Stair Park on April 22, 2023
  • Elgin City 0 Stranraer 1 (Robertson) at Borough Briggs on February 18, 2023
  • Stranraer 2 Elgin City 3 (Woods (Pen) and Hawkshaw; Hester, Dingwall (Pen) and McHardy) at Stair Park on October 8, 2022

Last five games

Centre back Craig Ross has been on the scoresheet twice in recent weeks


  • LOSS v The Spartans (A): 3-0
  • WIN v Bonnyrigg Rose (H): 3-1 (Own goal, Grant and Ross)
  • DRAW v Clyde (A): 2-2 (Ross and Dolan)
  • DRAW v Forfar Athletic (A): 1-1 (McDonald)
  • LOSS v Airdrieonians (H): 0-1

Elgin City

  • WIN v Peterhead (H): 2-1 (MacLeman and Shanks)
  • LOSS v Stenhousemuir (A): 2-0
  • LOSS v The Spartans (H): 0-4
  • LOSS v East Fife (A): 4-0
  • WIN v Forfar Athletic (H): 1-0 (MacLeman)

Last time out

Kyle Girvan was forced off with an injury just after half time in our defeat to Spartans


Lineup v The Spartans: Budinauckas, Robertson, Williamson, Girvan (Orr 46), Ross, Dolan, Hawkshaw, Forrest, Fleming, Grant, Lang (McDonald 76).
Not used: Walker, Strachan and Downie.

Elgin City

Lineup v Peterhead: McHale, Cooper, Dolzanski, Mackenzie, Ewan, MacEwan (Harvey 79), Dingwall, Jamieson (Barron 89), MacLeman, Draper, Jones (Wright 89).
Not used: Cairns, Taylor, MacInnes and King.

Five facts

Happy birthday to former Blues midfield maestro Stephen Stirling

1. Elgin City’s last seven wins over 90 minutes – stretching back to April last year – have all been at Borough Briggs.

2. Of Elgin City’s 15 points this season, 14 have come at their home ground.

2. The third meeting of the season between Stranraer and Elgin City will see a third different manager in charge of the Borough Briggs side. Ross Draper was at the helm when the Blues visited on the opening day of the campaign and Barry Smith was in the away dugout at Stair Park in November. Allan Hale will be in charge of the hosts this time around.

4. Former Stranraer midfielder Stephen Stirling celebrates his 34th birthday this Friday. Beginning his career at Rangers, Stirling moved to Stair Park in the autumn of 2011. Fittingly, he made his debut against Elgin City at Stair Park with the Blues winning 1-0. Nathan Shepherd scored the only goal of the game, firing beyond current Hearts goalkeeper Zander Clark. The home team that day was: David Mitchell, Kane, Noble, Taggart, McKeown, Shepherd (Moore 63), Aitken, Gallagher, Danny Mitchell (Stirling 58), McColm (Grehan 83), Malcolm. Not used: Winter and Marshall.

5. There has only been one goalless game between the two sides at Borough Briggs and that came back in April 2004.

Photos: Bill McCandlish, MadMac Photography, Duncan Kerr