Coach John Sludden admitted the performance in Shire’s 4-1 Lowland League defeat against Spartans at Ochilview on Sunday was not good enough for a team with ambitions to clinch the league title.
A promising start, and an early lead from Jamie Glasgow’s 13th minute goal, was undone by what the coach described as “possibly our poorest defensive display of the season” as Spartans overcame the setback to lead 2-1 at the interval.
What upset John more than anything else was the fact that his team had been warned in the run-up to the game about the danger Spartans posed in exactly the situations that led to both first half goals.
“We spoke about it during the week,” he said. “The players were warned the Spartans liked to try things from quick free-kicks, that they had good delivery from wide areas and that their height from set-plays was a danger. And that’s how they got their goals, so from that point of view it was very disappointing.”
The loss of a goal on the stroke of half-time to give the visitors an interval lead was, according to the coach, a setback.
“Obviously it gave them a real lift,” he said. “We spoke to them about the need to get back into the game and we needed to create chances but instead we got sloppy, gave away a soft corner kick and they scored a third goal. It was a great delivery and header, to be fair, but from our point of view it could all have been avoided.”
Shire’s defensive line has recently been one of the real success stories but the coach was disappointed at the way the goals were lost. His view was very much that the defence simply had not performed.
“In our biggest game of the season so far it was probably the poorest we have played in terms of when we had the ball and defensively. Over the past couple of weeks we have been really solid but defensively, as a unit, we were really, really poor.”
Only a few minutes later Shire were reduced to ten men when Paul Sludden was sent-off. It was a decision which left the coach mystified.
“I didn’t think it was a challenge that warranted a booking never mind a red,” he said. “But it didn’t help us and towards the end they showed great experience in seeing the game out.”
With three defeats in three matches against the other two teams in the Lowland League, the coach concedes that Shire have faced, in East Kilbride and Spartans, two better teams.
“It shows we still have lots of work to do,” said John. “We have lots more hard work to do yet to reach their level. It’s something we want to strive to do, to beat Spartans and East Kilbride but that’s not happened.
“We would all like everything to happen overnight but that’s not how it works and we still have a lot of hard work to do and we will look at it and analyse it and see what we need to do to reach their level.”