Shire start as they mean to continue and cruise to victory

East Stirlingshire v Whitehill Welfare;  Pic by Alan Murray
East Stirlingshire v Whitehill Welfare; Pic by Alan Murray

A word of warning to East Stirlingshire’s opponents – be on guard straight from kick-off.

Whitehill Welfare were almost caught out as Shire made a beeline for goal no sooner had referee Euan Anderson blown his first whistle, and only a poor final pass stopped David Grant getting a shot at goal.

Afterwards coach John Sludden confirmed the ploy to score with a set play straight from the off was pre-planned and came direct from the training ground.

“We knew Whitehill had only played two games in six weeks and we thought we could get an early goal,” he said. “We set up to try and score from the centre but Steven (Brisbane) picked the wrong pass and he held his hand up for that.”

A poor final ball was just about the only criticism of his team’s display on an afternoon where Shire, without three automatic starters due to suspension, had to make changes which might have de-stabilised them.

However, those fears, as well as those about a set of opponents who had been in very good form, failed to materialise.

Despite taking 38 minutes to find the back of the net, Shire were never in any danger after David Grant’s first half opener. And a red card barely a minute after the interval for Whitehill Welfare’s Connor McGregor made life more comfortable.

Further goals were bound to follow and they did – an own goal and a great strike from Kris Faulds.

“I’m delighted,” said the Shire coach, who spent most of the week leading up to the game carefully choosing his replacements for Connor Greene, Andy Rodgers and Paul Sludden, and then shaping his new-look team for the challenge.

“We have said all along it’s not just about eleven players, it’s a squad. From day one our objective has been to get a good squad of players and that showed.

“Guys who have been out the team have come in and have given everything and helped us get a victory,” said Sludden.

Steven Brisbane, Liam Allison and Jamie Glasgow filled in the blanks on the team sheet and Shire switched to just two, rather than the normal three, strikers.

It took time after their audacious start to find the momentum but once Shire got their stride they dominated to such an extent that only one outcome, a Shire win, looked likely.

Glasgow and skipper Derek Ure sent in early promising efforts which went wide, and when Shire’s aim was better they found Whitehill Welfare keeper Bryan Young in outstanding form.

Twice he made top-class saves in the first half from David Grant but he could do nothing seven minutes before the break when Grant first-timed a shot after Faulds found him on the six yard line with a pass.

McGregor’s red card for a poorly-timed challenge on Michael Oliver made life easier for Shire but they still had to get past Young, who made brilliant saves from David Grant and Faulds before, after 65 minutes, he was beaten for a second time, this time by one of his own team.

Charlie Denton got in the way of a great cross from the right-wing by Graeme MacGregor and the ball hit him with such pace there was nothing the keeper could do to stop it ending up in the back of the net.

David Grant beat Young a minute later but his shot hit the post before Shire completed the victory after 75 minutes, Faulds finishing off a flowing move by sweeping a pass from Brisbane into the net from just inside the penalty area.