There has been plenty of talk of a Lowland League arms race over the summer and here was the evidence for all to see.
Last season, East Stirlingshire were really the only team with any clout to challenge eventual champions East Kilbride – but now more clubs are eyeing the potential prize of an SPFL League 2 place, BSC Glasgow among them.
They came to Ochilview weaponised with a bunch of Scottish League veterans and some kids who had passed through the academies of Scotland’s top sides.
And their firepower was more than enough to blow Shire away in a first half blitz that saw the visitors establish a three goal interval lead. After the break they were happy simply to strangle the life out of the game and pocket the three points.
Shire, so often the Lowland League superpower last term, on this showing looked a diminished force and, with more clubs than BSC likely to mount a challenge, they will have to do something quickly to regain their advantage in the race to the top.
“We were bullied,” was Shire coach John Sludden’s frank assessment afterwards. “It was disappointing. We started very poorly and looked nervous, which is a concern for me, and there were four or five people who weren’t really taking part in the game.
“We were up against a very good and experienced team and we didn’t approach the game well and found ourselves 1-0 down early.”
Jack Smith’s overhead kick after 13 minutes gave BSC a lead they richly deserved and they could have been 2-0 in front just minutes later when Robbie Duncan crashed a shot off the underside of the bar.
But Shire were just starting to establish a foothold at least when they were done in by a double sucker punch. After half an hour they were caught shorthanded at the back by a quick BSC counter attack from deep in their own half. With goalscorer Smith racing into the box unchallenged and with a clear view of goal, Shire debutant Jamie McGregor brought him down and referee Grant Irvine pointed to the penalty spot.
Former Stenhousemuir man Martin Grehan sent Shire keeper Jamie Barclay the wrong way with the spot kick.
“I felt at the time just before they got their second goal we were on top,” said Sludden. “There was some argument about whether the foul was inside or outside the box but it was one of those ones that sometimes go for you and sometimes against and we found ourselves 2-0 down.”
The advice to his team at the point was simple – don’t make matters any worse. But just three minutes later Stevie Murray shelled a long-range free kick high into the Shire box, Jordan Tapping missed a clearing header completely, and Grehan was left with the simple task of nodding the ball into the net past the unprotected Barclay.
“The most important thing when you go 2-0 down is to re-group and give nothing else way,” said Sludden. “It was a bad goal to lose, just a long ball down the middle and a free header. After that it was a mountain to climb.”
But Shire never got out of base camp. The visitors put their experience to good use in the second half by adopting an ultra-cautions, safety-first approach which valued protecting their 3-0 lead before trying to add to it.
In fact, the visitors barely mounted a raid on Shire’s goal in the second half while Shire huffed and puffed but managed nothing more dangerous than a Paul Sludden shot midway through the period that visiting keeper Ryan Marshall fingertipped over the bar.
SHIRE : Barclay, McCormack, A.Grant, Greene, Tapping, Faulds, Rodgers, Ure, Brisbane(Allison 63), Sludden, Ramsay.