Fear held the key to the outcome of Tuesday night’s encounter between East Stirlingshire and Arbroath at Gayfield.
A strangely passionless affair left fans with the distinct impression that both teams’ priority was to avoid defeat rather than display the necessary enterprise to claim all three points.
Shire coach Craig Tully would have been forgiven, such is his team’s position at the bottom of the table, for considering a draw a good result. In any case, from the moment he announced his team the impression was that Shire had come to keep things tight with two strikers, Andy Russell and David McKenna, relegated to the bench to make way for defensive midfielders Aron Lynas and Michael McMullin introduced.
For all that, though, McMullin was given a surprise attacking role on the left wing and he even created the game’s first scoring opportunity with a looping
head from inside the box that went just over the bar after nine minutes.
The home team tried to take the initiative with the influential Bobby Linn at the heart of their attempts to break down the Shire defence. He set up Kane Hester after 13 minutes but the final shot was dragged wide. Linn tried himself a couple of times but Shire keeper Richie Barnard was not troubled by shots from outside the box which brought straightforward saves from the visiting skipper.
Shire won a free-kick in a dangerous position outside the box with eight minutes of the half to go but striker Thomas Orr couldn’t add to his tally of four goals since joining on loan from Morton in January, instead hitting his effort
straight into the arms of the keeper.
Arbroath started the second period with a bit more purpose and, after 48 minutes, Jamie Reid had a clear sight of goal and cracked in a shot which flew across Barnard’s goalmouth and out of play at the far post.
On the hour mark Shire won another free-kick outside the box but this time McMullin failed to test the keeper properly with an effort he curled round the defensive wall.
Too much of Shire’s attacking endeavour was wasted; Scott Ferries made a number of good breaks down the right flank but too often his ball into the box failed to pick out anyone from his own team.
At the other end Shire’s solid defence put the shackles on any real danger from Linn and the home team had to settle for trying to pepper the visitors’ goal from long-range but that didn’t bring any joy.
In the closing ten minutes Arbroath did try to turn the screw and twice Barnard had to look smart first to save from Josh Skelly then he came off his line to smother a Linn effort at the striker’s feet. Arbroath might have clinched the three points in the third minute of time added on at the end when Lin was given time and space inside the box for perhaps the only time in the match, but fortunately for Shire, his effort went across the face of goal and wide.