The Stirlingshire Cup is a beautiful piece of silverware and in the belated final of the 2014-15 final at Ochilview last night it was Brown Ferguson’s side that eventually lifted the dazzling prize.
This was a precursor for the first round of the Petrofac Cup on Saturday week between the sides at a ground both share and it has to be recognised that the outcome of that contest is still in the balance following ‘Muirs’ 4 – 3 victory in a penalty shoot-out.
Their tenants signalled that advancement to that competition’s next round is far from a formality despite Stenny’s position a league above the Shire.
This was close and ‘Muir manager Brown Ferguson was delighted his team were victorious.
“The Stirlingshire Cup is a quite beautiful trophy,” he told Heraldsport. “It’s the first I have won as a manager and hopefully it’s the first of many.
“After the Family Day on Sunday, winning it was the conclusion of an excellent few days for the club.”
Ferguson has been integral to the re-engagement of the community at Ochilview and he continued, “Seeing so many volunteers on Sunday was inspiring and while we are still in the process of preparing for the game that starts the season against the Shire next week, we wanted to win this to show our appreciation to everybody that supported the event.”
The Ochilview boss has, rightly, fostered a lot of goodwill, but knows it will be results that matter when the season starts.
“It was a strange game in the sense that we wanted to win and at the same time avoid injuries before the Petrofac game,” he said.
“To that end I was reasonably happy with the first half, but not so pleased with stages of the second.
“What was pleasing though, was that despite the Shire taking the lead when they enjoyed a good spell, our lads kept going to the end and were rewarded.
“We play a close door bounce match on Friday, meet Dumbarton here next Tuesday and I think that after using these games to shape up and familiarise the new personnel with each other we will be a better team by the time the new term begins.”
The Warriors really ought to have taken the lead in the 9th minute when Colin McMenamin was left unmarked 10 yards out.
The normally reliable striker – last season’s top scorer by far – somehow headed Mark Gilhaney’s peach of a cross over, however.
Shire also found it difficult to create anything meaningful and a David McKenna drive from distance that went wide was the best they could offer up to the half hour mark.
Neither side was particularly impressive in the creativity department, if truth be told, and although the Warriors dominated possession, Richie Barnard was also having an easy time of it in the Shire goal.
Shire began the second period rejuvenated. They won all the midfield battles for possession and started zipping the ball around with a pace that their opponents were unable to cope with.
Hardly a surprise then when they took the lead just inside the hour mark. Lloyd Kinnaird made a terrific run down the right flank to the byline and when he cut back Andrew Kay was on hand to rattle high into the net from 12 yards.
Craig Tully’s men thoroughly deserved their lead and with Stenny unable to win the ball they might have gone further ahead in the 70th minute when, after another sharp passing sequence, Nathan Shepherd had a go from the left side of the box only to watch as it bend narrowly wide of the far post.
‘Muir’s reaction was less than immediate and when Kieran Millar blasted well over from point blank range in the 80th minute after McMenamin set him up, the writing looked on the wall.
Three minutes later though, the Division 1, team did level. Ross Meechan cut back from the left byeline and this time Alan Smith made no mistake with a powerful header from close range that took the game to penalties.
Smith, McMenamin, Stuart Malcolm and Stephen Stirling all scored from the spot for the Warriors and although McKenna, Connor Greene and keeper Ritchie Barnard were successful for the Shire a couple of great saves from Jamie Barclay from Reece Donaldson and Max wright ensured it was Brown Ferguson team who took the trophy 4 – 3 from the spot.
Shire boss Craig Tully was entitled to feel his charges were just a wee bit unlucky to lose the final, “We would have loved to win the game and the trophy,” he said.
“If we had managed to get a second goal when we took the lead it would have been deserved and killed off the game.
“Stenny are a division above us though, and without making excuses we were missing a few players tonight for several reasons and the lads still acquitted themselves well.
“I would hope to add a player or two with a bit more quality which is difficult before the Petrofac tie, but before that we will continue to build confidence within the squad as has happened against Forfar last week and the previous game against Partick.
“I think we showed tonight, however, that we can face that match with nothing to fear and really have a go.”