Stat sheet can’t show Shire’s superiority

PIC, Gary Hutchison, 27th April 2013. STENHOUSEMUIR, Ochilview, East Stirlingshire v Rangers FC. John Coughlin.
PIC, Gary Hutchison, 27th April 2013. STENHOUSEMUIR, Ochilview, East Stirlingshire v Rangers FC. John Coughlin.

There was to be no fond farewell to East Stirlingshire’s season at Elgin City as John Coughlin’s men went down to a tenth straight league defeat.

But as horrific as that run of results seems on paper this match served as another example of how statistics don’t often translate into, or bear much relevance to, performances on the pitch.

Put simply, there was no real reason why Shire should not have beaten Elgin City. They created enough chances, played the better football and the game itself served only to make a mockery of form and league placings.

But the main reason for Shire’s plight this term, a habit of gifting teams goals through abysmal defending, was enough to hand the home team the three points.

The old cliché that football is a results business and that teams are judged solely on the number of wins, draws and defeats in the columns of a league table still stands true. However, it is a very harsh reflection on Shire’s season which did not have to end the way it did.

For the last two months of the season Coughlin was forced to field makeshift teams through a combination of injury and suspension. That said, Shire have never lacked spirit this season and that was demonstrated perfectly in their start to the game. They could have been 2-0 up inside the first five minutes against a set of opponents who needed a win just as urgently to try and make the end-of-season play-offs.

With three minutes on the clock Max Wright fired over. Another three minutes and Paul Quinn played Wright clean through on goal but with only keeper Joe Malin to beat he shot over again.

All of which rebounded on Shire when they fell behind after 14 minutes. Their frailty when it comes to defending corner kicks has been evident for a long while and was exposed once more when Elgin central defender Jamie Duff rose highest to head home.

That could have set the tone for the rest of the afternoon but Shire never allowed that to happen. Just 75 seconds after the home team hit the front the scores were level. A great pass from Quinn behind the Elgin defence sent Glasgow clear on goal and the young Shire man found the net with a classy finish under the body of Malin.

At that point Elgin seemed to understand the urgency of their situation and tried to step things up a gear. Steven Jackson had to make a goal line clearance to prevent Stuart Leslie giving the home team the lead, and Dennis Wyness sent a point-blank shot straight at Craig Gordon.

Eventually the pressure told on 39 minutes with a second goal when Leslie skipped past a poor challenge and shot in from close range.

But again Shire were not prepared to accept that. Just three minutes on, Jackson’s long free-kick found Quinn inside the box and his shot came crashing back off the crossbar but he tucked in the rebound.

After the break Shire had some chances to win. After 63 minutes Wright was round the keeper but his effort was hacked off the line. Graeme MacGregor hit a long-range shot that shaved the crossbar. But with two minutes left Shire should have wrapped up the three points when some great skill from Greenhill set up Scott Maxwell only for the full-back to blaze over.

Seconds later with the ball at the other end of the pitch and the Shire defence posted missing substitute Ceiran McLean stole the points for Elgin.