Shire 1 Annan Athletic 2: Shire gutted at cup exit

Shire boss John Sludden
Shire boss John Sludden

“Gutted” was Shire defender Liam Allison’s simple response to how he felt about his team’s last-gasp Scottish Cup defeat at the hands of Annan Athletic at Ochilview. But that wasn’t the half of it.

Long after the final whistle furious Shire players and officials continued to argue referee Alan Newlands had ignored a blatant foul on Andy Rodgers in the run up to visiting substitute Adam Ashgar firing in what turned out to be the winner in the sixth minute of time added on.

They wondered out loud where the official had got so much injury-time from and they queried his decision not to award Shire what appeared to be two straightforward penalty decisions in the second half.

By the time Allison spoke the dust was just starting to settle but even with time for reflection he was not prepared to back down. “It was a foul,” he said of Raffi Krissian’s challenge on Rodgers as they jumped for a corner. The Shire man ended on the ground and the ball landed at Asghar’s feet and he drove it through a forest of legs into the net for the winner.

“There are hands all over Andy Rodgers and the ball has bumped to the back post and the shot hit off my shin and Connor (Greene) on the line and went in. These things happen in football sometimes.”

Win or lose, the talk after the game should have been about a brave Shire performance in this replay. They dominated the attacking play and, as in the first game, Annan keeper Blair Currie saved his team with some brilliant stops.

Allison says it was a pity that the referee’s display was the talk of the town rather than another impressive outing from his team mates. “In a different part of the game he gave a foul on the half-way line against Andy Grant for exactly the same thing but inside the penalty box at our end it’s not gone that way. It’s a sore one to take.

“Decisions which should have went our way didn’t and it (the referee’s performance) put a dampener on what was a great game of football.”

Those decisions included a handball inside the box by Annan’s Paul Watson and a penalty area push on Andy Rodgers. Appeals for penalties were waved away by the official.

The former Camelon Juniors man, starting only his third game for Shire, certainly feels his team did enough to be in the third round but a failure to take chances played its part.

“We have been punished for not taking our chances,” said Allison. “That’s what happens. That’s football. To be fair, their keeper made some great saves in both games and he kept them in both matches at times.”

No better example of that came in the first minute of added time at Ochilview when Rodgers engineered for himself enough space and time for a powerful shot which looked as though it would win the tie for Shire only for Currie to pull off an unbelievable save.

From the resulting corner kick he came to Annan’s rescue, clearing Allison’s net-bound header with an outstretched leg.

At the start of the second half he made another great save from Rodgers’ near-post effort and clutched a Paul Sludden shot from a tight angle.

But Shire’s lack of accuracy in front of goal was a factor too. After 27 minutes Derek Ure put Kris Faulds clean through on goal but he chose to shoot from distance rather than take the ball round the advancing keeper and the effort went narrowly wide. Sludden had two great opportunities in the second period but he just couldn’t hit the target although he did come mightily close.

Before the half time break David Grant’s cross found Faulds but he missed his kick from six yards with the goal gaping, Derek Ure’s free-kick hit the crossbar and Rodgers forced the keeper into two sprawling saves.

After 31 minutes Rodgers’ pass played in Sludden down the right. The Shire man rode a challenge, strode into the box and finished expertly into the far bottom corner of the net to open the scoring.

But four minutes later Andy Grant fresh-aired an attempted clearance on the edge of his own box and David McKenna struck the equaliser off the inside of the post.

Despite Shire’s best efforts the game then appeared set for extra-time until Asghar’s injury-time winner.

SHIRE: Barclay, MacGregor (Murray 90), Allison, A Grant, Greene, White (Glasgow 61), Rodgers, Ure, D Grant, Sludden, Faulds.