PETER GRANT has made no secret of the fact he was treating the Betfred Cup as an unofficial pre-season for his side and his team selection on Saturday proved that to be the case.

A handful of young debutants alongside the likes of Stefan Scougall and Andy Graham – both aiming to get as many minutes as possible – started the last match of the group campaign and Alloa needed a win to have any hope of making it to the last 16.

Straightaway Stenhousemuir seemed to be targeting Lucas Williamson, the 17-year-old left-back making his debut. A couple of long diagonal balls tested him early on and he dealt with them well.

Stenhousemuir put the pressure on early and it seemed at times like this inexperienced defence might struggle. Also making his debut was Nicky Jamieson, playing in the middle alongside Andy Graham in only his second start since last December.

Slack passes and poor touches gave the visitors a number of chances to take the lead. Reece Willison's pass was intercepted by Greig Spence and he had an open goal to aim at, but somehow Willison got back and pushed it aside.

Despite Alloa seeming to get a foothold on the game, Stenhousemuir scored. Some great footwork by Callum Tapping on the edge of the box allowed him to play in Callum Yeats who cut it back for Cameron Graham. His first-time effort deflected off Adam Brown and went in.

Less than five minutes later and the lead was doubled. Willison came for a Stenhousemuir corner and managed to get something on it but failed to clear it. Alloa then gave away a penalty trying to clear it, which Greig Spence made no mistake in finishing, blasting it high into the net giving Willison no chance.

With less than 10 minutes to half-time, the most important thing was keeping the deficit at two. A real cagey first half for an inexperienced defence alongside a midfield struggling to get a hold of the game gave Alloa a real mountain to climb if they were to have any chance of progressing.

Despite Grant saying he was treating the Betfred as a pre-season, one thing about him is he always wants to win. He would have been furious with that first half and be expecting his team to go and right their wrongs in the second half.

The second half started much the same as the first with Jamieson playing another risky pass to his keeper who had to react to clear it out of danger. Stenhousemuir were still dominating the ball and Grant made his changes, bringing on Stevie Hetherington and Ray Grant for Innes Murray and Liam Evans.

Immediately the home side had the ball in the net, after Liam Buchanan collected Graham's long ball, played in Grant who squared it back for Buchanan to finish, but the referee blew for offside.

However, Alloa were now beginning to flex their muscles, and a deserved goal finally came. Buchanan found himself on his lonesome in the box and the ball bounced perfectly for him to header in and reduce the visitors' lead to one.

Alloa got themselves level five minutes later thanks to Buchanan's penalty after Williamson was fouled in the box and, with 20 minutes left, it seemed likely Alloa would go on to take the three points.

Cameron O'Donnell, making only his second start for the club, clipped a ball into the box and it was somehow bundled into the net by Buchanan. Any doubt who got the final touch was squashed by Buchanan who left the stadium with the match ball in his hand.

On the 89th minute, Hetherington showed his class and put the game to bed. Picking up the ball from Grant near the centre circle, he strode forward and unleashed a great strike which gave Paddy Martin no chance and the keeper watched it hit the back of the net.

A 4-2 scoreline probably flattered Alloa, especially after a first-half where Stenhousemuir could, and should, have punished more than a handful of mistakes by a young defence.

However, all-in-all, Grant will surely consider this a good day at the office: both Graham and Stefan Scougall got 90 minutes in their tank; two debuts for young defenders who will be required in this congested season, a first start for Liam Evans and a win and progression to the next round of the Betfred Cup.

ALLOA: Willison, Jamieson, Graham, Williamson, Malcolm, Murray (Hetherington 60), O'Donnell, Brown, Scougall, Evans (Grant 61), Buchanan. UNUSED SUBS: Taggart, Dick, Cawley, Trouten, Thomson, Lynch.