All ifs, buts and maybe for Shire’s cup dream

03-11-2013. Picture Michael Gillen. STENHOUSEMUIR. Ochilview. William Hill Scottish Cup third round. East Stirlingshire v Raith Rovers. John Coughlin.
03-11-2013. Picture Michael Gillen. STENHOUSEMUIR. Ochilview. William Hill Scottish Cup third round. East Stirlingshire v Raith Rovers. John Coughlin.

Sometimes the difference between winning and losing a football match can be the tiniest thing.

A shot that hits the underside of the crossbar and bounces out into play rather than over the goal line. An effort from outside the box that is clearly handled inside by a defender but the referee dismisses the penalty claims. A speculative cross that hits an off-balance defender and rolls past his own keeper into the net.

These were just three of the small things that meant that East Stirlingshire’s brilliant attempt at bridging a 19-place gap in the league ladder between themselves and Raith Rovers was not enough to book a place in the next round of the Scottish Cup.

There were other ‘if only’ moments during the game that might have produced an upset. And if they had happened, and Shire had caused the shock of the round, there could have been no complaint because they would have deserved it.

But instead Raith Rovers’ Gordon Smith eased any concerns of a coupon-buster by swinging a casual boot at a pass from just outside the area two minutes after the break with enough power to carry it past Grant Hay in the Shire goal.

The advantage was a slight one and might not have lasted had Shire’s valiant attempt to force an equaliser not been thwarted by bad luck.

As it was, their poor fortune at the other end was summed up by an aimless cross from the left wing that bounced awkwardly in front of Michael McGowan, hit the Shire defender on the knee and trundled into the net past a stranded Hay.

To be fair, Shire had their scares in front of goal. Hay was forced into a great save after 20 minutes, tipping a McCann shot onto the post at full stretch after the defence had failed to clear a corner properly.

And in the second half the Shire keeper produced another top quality save from a Booth effort, somehow managing to get a touch to a shot that appeared destined for the top left-hand corner of the net. Late on Callum Elliott hit the post with Hay beaten but if that had gone in it really would have flattered Shire’s Championship opponents.

Of much more concern to the Shire faithful were events at the other end which could have swung the game their way. Not long after Hay’s fingertip save onto the post, Michael Herd was clean through with only the keeper to beat but managed to shoot straight at him.

With seven minutes remaining before the break came the moment that might, had things worked out different, set Shire on the road to victory.

Skipper Kevin Turner engineered the space for a shot from the 18 yard line that looked a goal all the way until it hit the underside of the bar and bounced down.

While some Shire players sought to convince the officials the ball had crossed the line, Herd raced in and headed the rebound into the net. The midfielder thought he had scored, but the stand side linesman’s offside flag stopped the celebrations.

That was probably the correct decision but the issue of whether Turner’s shot had crossed the line was more debatable, especially as a Raith defender afterwards admitted a goal should have been given.

Even after Raith Rovers had taken the lead Shire should have been level in another moment of extreme controversy. Herd’s 56th minute shot from 20 yards was clearly handled by a Raith defender inside the box only for referee Don Robertson to waved away Shire’s penalty appeals.

Much later David Greenhill was bundled over inside the box and again Shire sought a penalty but again the referee showed no interest.