East Kilbride 1 East Stirlingshire 0: Disappointment, but no worries for Shire

John Sludden
John Sludden

It was billed as the Lowland League’s big showdown but John Sludden’s East Stirlingshire side never really showed up.

Shire conceded a goal within three minutes and spent the next 87 trying to play catch-up. But as hard as they tried the team that had scored seven goals in half an hour just a week earlier found their touch in front of goal had deserted them.

They will be kicking themselves; league leaders East Kilbride had started the season in stunning fashion winning their opening six games by huge margins, but they turned out less Supermen and more just a bunch of Clark Kents who couldn’t rip their shirts open. For Shire it was a missed opportunity.

Ironically for two teams who had been in free-scoring form it was defences that decided the outcome. The home team proved resilient in the face of Shire pressure while the visitors’ makeshift back line was the one to buckle.

For Sludden that point was crucial. He has been beset by defensive problems all season with the departure of Ross Fisher and injury to Scott Buist. And the biggest test of the season so far had to be faced without key centre-half Andy Grant, with a trialist at left-back while skipper Derek Ure was left to fill Grant’s position.

“Andy Grant has been fantastic for us in there,” said the Shire boss afterwards. “Maybe that upset us because it meant we were missing a key defender and we didn’t have Derek Ure driving from the middle of the park. But I wouldn’t say not having Buist or Fisher was a factor in what happened.”

The impact of the changes was felt almost immediately. Less than three minutes were on the clock when Shire weren’t alive to a short corner routine. That allowed Gibbons to cross unchallenged from the left and Sean Winter to head home from less than six yards out. There could have been further bother for Shire not long after when a cross from Joao Vitoria caused trouble in the box and Darren Dolan had to make a vital save from Adam Strachan’s shot.

It took Shire a while to recover from the setback of losing the early goal but they did get back into their stride. However, they just could not turn pressure into goals.

“It was in the final third that we had all our problems,” said Sludden. “Our decision making was poor, we were rushing things too much, our execution was poor and we lacked any kind of composure.”

After the break Shire might have slipped further behind when Winter got clear after 49 minutes but he shot across the face of goal and wide. The game should have changed midway through the half when some nice link-up play involving David Grant sent Glasgow clear on the left edge of the box. But instead of bursting the net he fired just over the bar.