East Stirlingshire 0 Gala 0: another struggle for Shire

Shire were held by Gala Fairydean at Ochilview
Shire were held by Gala Fairydean at Ochilview

East Stirlingshire's second Lowland League campaign continuesd to be a struggle after they were held goalless by Gala Fairydean Rovers.

Shire fans are taking time adjusting – a year ago they would have rolled up to Ochilview wondering how many John Sludden’s men were going to take off a team like Rovers.

Now they are having to learn that it’s not the size of the win they need to discuss but the chances of their team delivering three points at all.

While the faithful take time to digest all of this the coaches and players are at least refreshing in their honesty in admitting there could be more of the same in the season ahead.

“We said from the outset that it was not going to be like last season,” said the Shire coach. “We were playing against a well-organised team and that’s the way it’s going to be all season.

“Maybe they looked at it last season and saw the way we played and you have to give credit to the other teams who are looking better organised.

“But there were positives from the game – we created a lot of good chances and we kept a clean sheet,” he said.

The main negative, apart from failing to find the target themselves, was a red card for striker Kevin Kelbie for speaking out of turn to the referee.

Perhaps the sense of frustration the fans are feeling right now simply got the better of the summer signing but the coach says it wasn’t what he required from one of the more experienced players in his squad.

“It did not help,” said Sludden. “We reached a point where we were looking to change the formation a bit but it meant we couldn’t do that and we just had to go with one up front and keep ourselves compact.

“But to be fair we created chances even with the ten men and you can’t fault the players for their commitment and effort.”

It was one of those days which every football club has from time to time. The kind of afternoon where nothing seems to go for you despite your best efforts.

Shire made a positive start ; a dipping half-volley from Paul Sludden less than three minutes in forced visiting keeper Lewis Muir into his first save of many and only a minute later a spectacular Andy Rodgers effort flew across the face of goal and wide.

After 22 minutes Kelbie’s free-kick deflected off the defensive wall into Sludden’s path but he blazed the ball over the bar from six yards out and four minutes later Kelbie drilled in a low shot from the 18 yard line which the keeper saved.

On 29 minutes Kelbie beat the keeper to a corner but the Shire striker’s goal bound header was cleared off the line.

Jamie Barclay had had little to do until the 32nd minute when he pulled off a great save to keep out Scott Main’s header with Jamie Gullan blasting the rebound wide.

Two minutes after the break Sludden should have given Shire the lead with a thunderbolt shot from distance which beat the keeper but came back off the crossbar.

After 50 minutes Muir produced a stunning, gravity-defying fingertip save to prevent Kelbie’s point-black header from an Andy Rodgers cross hitting the back of the net and, at that point, the home fans must have wondered if it was going to be their day.

They had more cause to wonder when Rodgers sent a free-kick from the edge of the box just wide while at the other end they had cause to be thankful that Adam Watson couldn’t turn Sean Paliczka’s cross into a Gala goal.

The Shire chances continued – Rodgers shot over from six yards and Sludden, unmarked at the back post, sent a shot from a corner into the side net.

Kelbie’s 72nd minute red card for verbally abusing the ref didn’t change the flow of the game but Rodgers’ injury-time shot which brought another great save from Muir was the closest they came.