Albion Rovers 2-1 East Stirlingshire

Goalscorer Scott Maxwell was a bright spot for Shire
Goalscorer Scott Maxwell was a bright spot for Shire

Shire’s fifth defeat in six games means hopes of making the end-of-season promotion play-offs are rapidly disappearing.

There wasn’t a great deal in this latest reverse; a couple of defensive mistakes led to the goals which won the game and a late Shire fightback, led by substitute Max Wright, almost brought its reward.

It was in many ways typical of games at this level this season in which the margins between success and failure are very fine and not always obvious from simply looking at the score line.

The anticipation was that this would be a tight game and that the advantage would fall to the team who scored first. Rovers won that battle within 40 seconds of the kick-off.

They needlessly conceded possession from the referee’s first whistle and before most of the visiting players had a chance to touch the ball it was crossed into their box from the right.

The low centre should have been hit out of the danger area by Ricki Lamie but he missed his kick completely, the ball rolled to Ryan Donnelly and he simply could not miss from less than six yards out.

The early advantage certainly gave Albion Rovers the encouragement to get forward although their forays upfield seldom carried much in the way of a threat.

In fact, Shire should have levelled the scores not long after when a corner kick dropped invitingly for Jordan Tapping at the far post. But the young defender failed to get enough power on his shot and the home defence managed to clear off the goal line to safety.

After that and until the break the game ebbed towards the Coatbridge team. Mick Dunlop sent a free header over the bar when he ought to have at least forced Grant Hay into making a save and then a great run by Barry Russell ended with a shot which just cleared the crossbar.

Shire started the second period in a more positive mood. Scott Maxwell, whose first half performance had been a bright spot, found Rhys Devlin in enough space for a shot but his effort failed to get anywhere near the target.

But just as Shire appeared to be getting a foothold back in the game they lost a second, and totally avoidable, goal after 57 minutes. Hay came to take a harmless looking pass into the box but let it slip from his grasp.

Pat Walker then took possession and slid a pass across the face of the unguarded goal where Donnelly had the easiest of tasks in slamming the ball high into the roof of the net from almost point-blank range.

Three minutes later the introduction of Wright from the substitutes bench sparked a Shire revival. Within a minute of coming on he might have pulled a goal back but his curling shot went narrowly wide of the far post.

The winger then turned creator, setting up a shot for fellow sub Jamie Glasgow but he never got enough power or direction to trouble Neil Parry in the Albion Rovers’ goal.

But Parry was required to make a great save just a few minutes later to deny the livewire Wright. An excellent exchange of passes on the edge of the box put Wright clean through but Parry raced off his line and managed to block the shot with a combination of his arms and chest.

But with ten minutes to go Shire did get the goal that gave them some hope. Wright was set free down the left touchline and played Maxwell in with a great pass. The Shire full-back looked up and picked his spot with a delightful curling shot high into the far corner of the net.

There was a fleeting chance of a very late equaliser. Maxwell hit a long-range free-kick just wide of the base of Parry’s post while in the closing seconds Wright found himself clean through on goal but could only hit his shot weakly and straight at Parry.