By Scott Binnie:
East Stirlingshire finally got their first league win of the campaign on Saturday with a 3-1 win over Stirling Albion at Ochilview Park.
The hosts scored three times in the last 20 minutes to come from behind against Albion, who went 1-0 up early in the second half despite playing with 10 men from the 27th minute, when Scott Davidson saw red for violent conduct after a kick on Kevin Turner.
Both managers were positive afterwards about their teams’ respective performances but each felt that their players are capable of much more.
East Stirlingshire boss John Coughlin said: “I don’t really know where the first-half performance came from but we were absolutely dire. We were really poor, especially against 10 men. Thankfully, things got better after the interval and our quality players came up trumps with individual pieces of skill that turned the game.
“You could see a fluency return to the team after the equaliser and we went on to win comfortably in the end but we will still have to show considerable improvement if we want to get ourselves out of the position we find ourselves in.”
Albion started well and carved out some decent chances in the opening stages on the unfamiliar artificial surface. Player-assistant coach Marc McCulloch had a good effort with a free kick from about 25 yards that sailed just wide before skipper Brian Allison headed over the Shire bar following Mark Ferry’s corner.
Graham Weir then had a couple of excellent chances, first having a shot blocked after a good pass from Davidson, then drawing a smart save from Grant Hay at the near post following Ferry’s terrific headed flick-on.
Before the half hour mark it looked like Stirling’s good start was to be undone when Davidson aimed a kick at Turner as he sat on the turf with the ball out of play, following a tussle with the Shire player. There was no question of the punishment due and rightly, Davidson was sent down the tunnel.
Despite the numerical disadvantage though the Binos were able to maintain the pressure they had shown in the early stages of the game right up to half time. The biggest threat was from corners and Ferry and Josh Flood provided some cracking deliveries that resulted in a number of solid headers from Allison and Gary Thom, but Hay was a match for their efforts.
Shire had a decent couple of chances on the break around the 40 minute mark, Michael Hunter shooting over from distance before Mark Peat had to get down to his right to tip a drilled Turner shot out for a corner.
McCulloch put in a delightful free kick that Thom headed goalwards, only for Hay to pull off a phenomenal save at the back post to deny a certain goal.
It was goalless at the break despite Albion’s heavy pressure and Shire boss John Coughlin opted to make a change, bringing on Nathan Shepherd for Ricky Miller. Shepherd went to left back with Sean Kelly moving inside to partner Michael Dunlop in central defence, and it was the added width brought about by Shepherd’s arrival that saw the Shire start to get a foothold in the game.
Stirling started sitting deep to soak up the Shire pressure and tried to break through Ferry and Weir, and it was the constant pressing from these two that saw Albion go in front after 55 minutes. Weir dispossessed Steven Jackson on the halfway line and played Ferry in, who raced forward and shot past the post from the edge of the box.
The cries from the home fans combined with going behind galvanised the hosts and they finally exerted their numerical advantage as they set up camp on the edge of Stirling’s penalty area.
Kelly unleashed a blistering strike from outside the box that had Peat fully stretched, though the effort was just wide of the post. Peat then had to make saves from Scott Maxwell and Hunter to keep his team in front, though it felt that this couldn’t last for much longer.
Peat’s goal was finally breached after 70 minutes when a corner dropped at his back post. Maxwell controlled well and rifled a shot past the keeper to get Shire back on level terms.
Maxwell had a great game up front for East Stirling and he was desperately unlucky not to put his side in front minutes after getting the equaliser, his shot bouncing off the post when Peat looked to be beaten.
Steven Weir soon replaced his brother up front for Albion and his 25 yard free kick went well over the bar as Stirling tried to catch Shire on the break.
With only 10 minutes left, Shepherd sent a cross sailing into the box that saw Peat rush off of his line to clear it, but the ex-Shire man was nowhere near the ball and Greenhill headed over the keeper into the net to make it 2-1.
Weir then saw a shot go wide when he had plenty of time to get an effort away, but that was Stirling’s only real chance to get back into the game in the latter stages and Shire soon killed the game off.
Deep into injury time Maxwell launched a beautiful crossfield pass out to Shepherd on the left wing who raced into the box and shot past Peat at his near post to make it 3-1 and earn his side the full share of the spoils.
This was the first time East Stirling had beaten Stirling since February 2002 and it also put an end to Albion’s seven-game winning streak in the fixture.
Shire’s first league win of the season wasn’t enough to lift them off the foot of the Third Division table but they are now equal on points with Stirling Albion on three, only Shire’s dismal goal difference separating the two sides.
Stirling Albion manager Greig McDonald said afterwards: “I can’t quite believe we have walked off there with nothing. Even with 10 men I felt we were the better team and John (Coughlin) said to me after the game it was a travesty we hadn’t got anything. I don’t think anyone who was here could dispute we were value for at least a point.
“I can’t fault the guys’ commitment, especially after going down to 10 men so early on. I thought we handled that well, caused them problems and deservedly took the lead. At 1-1, unfortunately Mark Peat made a mistake and that is our Achilles heel at the moment – individual players making errors.
“Scott Davidson has hurt us with a moment of madness. He has let his team-mates down and the supporters down. He has to live with that but we will discipline him for his actions. It was a sending off – there are no two ways about that.”
Next weekend Shire host Clyde, who lost 1-0 away to Queen’s Park on Saturday, whilst Stirling will travel to Berwick, who were beaten 3-1 at Montrose, and will be looking to end their losing streak which now stands at four games. Both sides will be hoping to get their second wins of the season under their belts as the teams above them have already proven to be very competitive.
Stirling Albion: Peat, McGeachie, Allison, Thom, Ashe, McSorley, McCulloch (McCunnie 69), Flood (Day 60), Davidson, Ferry, G Weir (S Weir 75). Subs not used: Filler, Clark.
East Stirlingshire: Hay, Jackson, Kelly, Miller (Shepherd 46), Dunlop, Hunter, Herd (Begg 79), Devlin (Hume 86), Turner, Greenhill, Maxwell. Subs not used: Gordon, Glasgow.