It was a struggle to achieve but Shire’s 3-0 Lowland League victory over Gala Fairydean Rovers at Ochilview proved a point to coach John Sludden.
The point it proved was just how exceptional his team’s performance had been in beating the same opponents 10-1 at Netherdale in December. He never bought the line that Shire’s biggest victory since 1950 had been achieved against poor opponents but was, instead, a tribute to how well his team had played that day.
Now, after having played Gala Fairydean Rovers for a second time, the Shire head coach says it was there for everyone to see as the visitors from Galashiels this time gave his team an uncomfortable afternoon.
“They showed they were a good football team and they tried to play the game the right way,” he said of Shire’s opponents after the re-match. “It proves just how well we played that day down there to take ten off them.
“They demonstrated today they are a good team and for us to be able to do to them what we did down there is credit to us, and how good our performance was.”
John knew it was too much to ask for anything like a repeat. And he knew as well that the memory of that defeat would only inspire Gala Fairydean Rovers to try to make a much more positive impression this time round. He says he had discussed it with his team prior to the Ochilview encounter in case any of them thought they could take it easy.
“We spoke about it at training on Tuesday and Thursday and we knew they would be compact and make things difficult for us. It was a tough game for us but we showed our qualities in the end.”
The first half was a bit of an Ochilview rarity this season in that it ended goalless. Both sides had chances to score and Gala certainly made things uncomfortable for Shire although visiting keeper Kieran Wright was busy as well.
“We had some chances to score and their keeper made some good saves in the first half,” said John. But as the teams trooped off at half-time without Shire having found the sought-after breakthrough he also claims there was no sense of panic or desperation in their attitude.
“That’s something we have learned to deal with since the Edinburgh University game when we got a bit frustrated and tried to play too many ‘World Cup’ passes,” said the coach. “We just said to them to be patient, to keep passing the ball, to keep going from side-to-side, and just keep hoping that they switched off and that’s what happened.”
After making some tactical adjustments Shire began the second half at a lick and, within two minutes, took the lead which was doubled just after the hour mark. Although the visitors did come back strongly, and might have mounted a grandstand finish had a ‘goal’ near the end not been disallowed for offside, a penalty in the final minute brought Shire a comforting 3-0 victory.
“We switched it because we felt we weren’t getting the width we needed,” said John. “And that worked for us at the second goal with good movement from Drew (Ramsay) and Jamie (Glasgow)’s cross which was finished well. And at the first goal as well which although from a corner was a top-drawer finish from Andy (Rodgers).”
Nevertheless there was a sense of relief that the visitor’s strong comeback at 2-0 passed without much in the way of incident, apart from the disallowed goal.
“We maybe got a bit of luck there,” said John. “But it all came about from us being a bit sloppy.”
At full-time, the coach was less concerned about the negative aspects of the encounter and simply happy to have scored some good goals and wrapped up a third successive league win without having conceded one.
“I think even the supporters realise that teams are coming to be compact and we just have to be patient. We have the ability to create chances and with the ability we have going forward we believe those chances will be taken.”