There was much debate heading into this Ladbrokes League 2 campaign over who could edge the title in a high-quality field. Peterhead? Stenhousemuir? Clyde?
One side who hardly entered the debate were Stirling Albion, who finished last season in sixth place, suffering a series of hefty defeats in the process.
But after two games of this League 2 campaign, they’re top of the table, and also boast League Cup wins over two higher-division sides. So, is this just a flash in the pan – or could the Binos be real contenders?
They’ve certainly deserved their top placing so far. While it’s very early days, a 4-0 defeat of Berwick Rangers – the visitors’ heaviest defeat in 23 games – and a dogged comeback win away at Stenny have both been eye-catching displays.
Up front, they also have a striker enjoying the best form of his career, Darren Lee Smith.
The 29-year-old already has five goals to his name in all competitions, and it’s only mid-August. Having reached double figures in the league last season, en route to his best ever tally, he’s continuing to go from strength to strength.
With exciting young talents like Liam Caddis and teenager Callumn Morrison also adding quality coming forward, they’re certainly tough to keep quiet in attacking areas.
Boss Dave Mackay has also excelled since arriving last November. Had he been in charge during the dismal opening months of 2016-17, as opposed to Stuart McLaren, a promotion push certainly wouldn’t have been out of the question.
However, the Binos’ defensive frailties could well come back to haunt them.
While they did win at Station Park in the League Cup, Mackay’s side conceded directly from a corner. During Tuesday night’s 3-1 Challenge Cup defeat to Montrose, defender Cameron Ballantyne caused them untold problems.
Even at Stenhousemuir, Albion forced themselves to do things the hard way, conceding twice in the opening period.
Without defensive reinforcements, Stirling Albion’s early-season momentum will likely falter before long, with the league’s more fancied sides – like Peterhead – already looking strong.
However, if they can add a few more experienced, cool competitors to a youthful and rather fragile backline, a title tilt certainly isn’t beyond the question.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing