East Stirlingshire 3 Tynecastle 2: Shire through to semis

East Stirlingshire edged past Tynecastle at the Falkirk Stadium
East Stirlingshire edged past Tynecastle at the Falkirk Stadium

Maybe it’s something to do with being a teacher but Shire matchwinner Paul Sludden reckons victory over Tynecastle at the Falkirk Stadium on Saturday was all about learning lessons.

Just as they had in their previous game against Cumbernauld Colts, Shire fought back from 2-1 down to go 3-2 up.

But unlike the Broadwood encounter there was no late equaliser from the East of Scotland team to rain on Shire’s parade.

Which meant that Sludden’s 84th minute goal was enough to send Shire through to the semi-finals of the SFA South Region Challenge Cup on 8th April.

And the striker says knowing what they did wrong last Friday at Cumbernauld helped the team make sure there was no repeat.

“When you look at last Friday night losing a goal in the last minute was obviously disappointing,” he said. “Especially having brought it back from 2-1 down.

“I think you could see from the determination after we scored the third there was a real work ethic to make sure we saw the game out.”

His case was well-made and the contrast between the final five minutes on Saturday and the closing moments at Broadwood were night and day. Sludden himself might have scored a fourth goal late on but was denied by a great save by Tynecastle keeper Ryan McCallum.

But the Tynecastle number one was by that stage used to it. He had a busy afternoon and made a few good stops but Shire were themselves wasteful in front of goal. Otherwise it might have been a more comfortable afternoon.

“We had a few chances,” Sludden admitted. “It would have been interesting to see what might have happened if we had gone two or three goals up.

“But it’s just about getting through. Yes, we missed some chances but it doesn’t really matter just like it doesn’t matter who scores. As long as we get the win then we’re all happy.”

That said, it might have been a more straightforward win than it turned out to be. After 11 minutes David Grant pounced on a slack penalty box clearance from the visitors to shoot Shire in front and it seemed they would kick on from there.

But then Grant was clean through on goal only to be denied by a great save from MCallum with his legs. The striker then fed Andy Rodgers but he shot wide with only the keeper to beat and Grant also tried to roll one in from a tight angle only for the ball to hit the far post.

All of which left Shire exposed to a counter attack and after 27 minutes the visitors Ryan Mayer was left alone inside the box to shoot home.

Grant then tried to lob the keeper but McCallum reached up high to save and there were other close things. But at half-time it was still 1-1.

Shire picked up from where they left off after the interval. Sludden hit one just narrowly wide before Grant set up Andy Rodgers who somehow managed to shoot wide of an empty net.

Then Rodgers returned the compliment but Grant’s 25 yarder struck the underside of the bar and bounced out before Sludden’s swerving shot just missed the top corner.

Shire were struck with a sucker punch when the visitors took the lead with a shot from inside the box from Dean Crabbe after 62 minutes. But they equalised just a minute later when Grant played Rodgers in and he dinked the keeper to roll the ball into the net.

With time running out Sludden got on the end of a huge clearance from keeper Jamie Barclay to fire home from 18 yards and Shire were able this time to see things safely to the conclusion.