FOR almost a century, the boldly painted Main Stand and near-abandoned terrace that glances from the opposite side of Clinftonhill’s rugged, uneven playing surface has been the gallery from which spectators have watched the drama unfold.

During that time, the audience has been served up many suspenseful afternoons and many jubilant evenings. These include the days where casts of star-studded league winners delivered timeless performances to secure titles in 1934, 1989 and, more recently, the League Two gong just four years ago.

Most of the current season has had the makings of a tragedy, with Albion Rovers’ status as an SPFL side under threat and, until a consortium last month vowed to rescue the club, it’s very existence. Recent events, however, have facilitated a fairytale redemption arc which at times would have the average cinema-goer feeling cheated. It is an outlandish plot which no screenwriter worth their salt would dare to pen.

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The scene was set by the reign of John Brogan – brought to the club after two decades in the juniors. He exited stage left after an embarrassing cup defeat to Highland League side Formartine United in October. At the time, Rovers sat bottom of League Two with just one win and one draw from their opening nine league fixtures.

After starting the season with 11 consecutive defeats – the first six failing to provide even a goal to cheer – and uninspiring long-ball tactics with a squad comprised mostly of players promoted from development squads and the lower reaches of junior football, the board was left with little choice.

Rovers have had a few success stories in the junior market before – Josh Mullen and Ross Stewart, who are both about to collect Championship winners medals with Ross County – but this season proved they had too many inexperienced players at this level at once. Budgetary constraints no doubt played their part, but Brogan’s side failed to compete at all, struggling to create, never mind convert opportunities.

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When our protagonist eventually did score their first league goal, they added another two in the same game, but despite being ahead twice that day, their opponents in Berwick – an adversary which features prominently in this tale – successfully breached Rovers’ goal on five occasions.

Though lacking in managerial experience, if anyone was hardened enough to face this challenge head on it was Kevin Harper. The former Hibernian winger was appointed replace Brogan, becoming the latest in just a handful of black managers of Scottish football clubs in the history of the sport. Toughened by his upbringing in Glasgow’s Possilpark, and by his experiences of “institutional racism”, both as a player and as an aspiring manager, Harper claims to have been snubbed for management positions “30 to 40 times”.

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The 43-year-old saw a continuation of Brogan’s form initially, failing to win any of his first 11, picking up just three points. But Rovers were now “made of different stuff”, according to their manager.

A home tie against Berwick at the start of March appeared to be among the final nails in Rovers’ coffin. They led with three minutes remaining, but a late Calum Adamson goal rescued a point, maintaining their seven-point lead over Rovers.

With matches running out, it seemed the very survival of this iconic club was at risk. Then came the main plot twist in an extenuating turn of events via an administration error from Clyde. After it was determined that Danny Lennon’s men had fielded Declan Fitzpatrick as an ineligible player against Rovers, Clyde’s win was reversed, the gap at the bottom of the league reduced to a more scalable four points.

It jolted Harper’s side into life, setting them off on a run, starting that day, of three consecutive victories – more wins than they had mustered in their previous 43.

The Wee Rovers were then hit by actual tragedy when their goalkeeping coach Michael Duke suddenly died at the age of 38.

In a fitting tribute, PJ Morrison – whose performances between the posts have elevated him to a starring role – kept shutouts in his next three.

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Then, just when it seemed their most recent match would go down as a bit of filler, up stepped Smart Osadolor – brought in on loan from Queen’s Park at the end of February – to apply the winning finish to their fightback victory over Edinburgh City.

That along with the same player’s last-gasp equaliser against league leaders Peterhead the week before means that the tables have well and truly turned, with Rovers now boasting a five-point cushion over Berwick now facing the prospect of a two-legged tie to ensure they start next season as an SPFL club.

That is unless the season contains one last vicious twist in the final act, a peripeteia starting with a Berwick victory this Saturday.

Even without that final curveball, seeing Albion Rovers complete their great escape will be as outlandish a plot as any witnessed at Cliftonhill over the last 100 years.