Month: March 2017

Preston Athletic Preview

Shire will travel to Preston Athletic on Saturday for the team’s penultimate away game in this season’s Lowland League looking for another victory but with a warning from coach John Sludden not to simply expect to win.

This week’s opponents have gone nine league matches without a victory and defeat in last weekend’s home encounter against Cumbernauld Colts ensured that Preston Athletic will get this season’s wooden spoon.

The coach will be able to welcome back Drew Ramsay, who missed the 4-2 win at Hawick Royal Albert in the club’s last outing through suspension, and he may have a full squad to choose from for the first time in a while.

This game should have gone ahead at Pennypit Park on Saturday 4th February but was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch. It will be the first meeting of the teams in Prestonpans and follows the reverse fixture at Ochilview in November which ended in a 6-2 Shire victory.

The Shire coach remembers that outing as being a more difficult affair than the final scoreline suggests and he has made plain that he will not entertain any complacency from anyone in the run up to the game.

“It will be a tough game,” said John. “Maybe there will be some people who just think we can go there and put three or four past them but we can’t take that attitude. We have to get the mindset right because they will treat it like a cup final.”

John will leave it late before deciding on a starting eleven for the game and says the underfoot conditions will be a factor in his thinking when it comes to picking his team.

“We expect the pitch will be heavy and that will be a consideration in team selection,” he said. “We are a team that likes to play passes but there is a time and a place for that.

“Last week at Hawick the pitch was soft and we decided to play it up to the strikers early and feed off them but it took us time to get used to it and, to be fair, Hawick adapted to the conditionms better in the first half hour.”

Shire eventually won 4-2 but left it late to claim the points at Albert Park.

The one thing John is keen to avoid at Prestonpans is a similarly slow start. In fact, the team has conceded the opening goal in each of its last three matches, and although they have emerged unbeaten the coach says the players can make life easier for themselves if they can get in front early.

“That’s our aim every week,” he said. “But sometimes circumstances mean you don’t always get what you want and, fair play to our opponents who have done their best to stop us.

“The good thing is that when we go one or two behind we have the quality to turn things around. But we would much rather get ahead early in games and stay ahead and that’s what we will look to do on Saturday.”

The coach and the players would appreciate as big a turnout from the Shire supporters as possible. Admission to the game is £5.00 adults and £3.00 concessions. Shire will wear the usual black and white hoops. Kick-off is 3:00pm.

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On This Day – 31st March 1888

Saturday 31st March 1888 was Easter Saturday. Queen Victoria had taken part of her court to Tuscany for some sunshine and on Easter Saturday morning the Queen-Empress had visited an orphanage in Florence. Thoughtfully, the children had presented a bouquet of flowers from across the British Empire.

Her Imperial Parliament was gathering at Westminster to debate the Irish Land Bill, while French parliamentarians were due to meet in Paris to discuss the fact that the country was, once again, without a government. German Kaiser Friedrich, Queen Victorian’s son-in-law, had that Saturday returned to Berlin for an operation on his throat. Italy’s war of conquest in Abyssinia was nearing conclusion.

And on Easter Saturday 1888 there was football. The game in Scotland was different to today’s game – players were nominally amateur and leagues, although talked about, hadn’t been formed.

East Stirlingshire Football Club’s fixtures were mainly friendlies, with competitive matches limited to cup-ties, the most important of which was, of course, the Scottish Cup. Next in terms of importance was the Stirlingshire Cup and, on Saturday 31st March 1888, Shire were due to meet Falkirk in that season’s final.

They were aiming to be the first team to win the competition three years in a row and that morning’s Glasgow Herald had declared Shire, “the favourites to win and by several goals.” That was hardly surprising as they were easily the best team in the county. They had no manager or coach, but their on-the-field leader was Laurence “Laurie” McLachlan, a forward so highly thought of that the local newspapers typically referred to him by his first name in match reports.

The Shire squad also contained Wull “The Laddie” Dunn, who was to go on to play top level professional football in England and, most famously of all, left-back Dan Doyle who was a future captain of the Scotland national team.

Camelon FC’s Victoria Park was chosen as the neutral venue and “almost 3,000 people” turned up and paid more than £51 in gate money to watch. We haven’t been left any details about the long-gone Victoria Park (which was roughly where today’s Mariner Centre stands) but both teams chose to get changed in Falkirk and get a horse-drawn brake to the ground in time for the 2:45pm kick-off.

Laurie won the toss and chose to have the breeze at Shire’s backs in the first half. They were the favourites to win, they had the advantage of the wind but it was Falkirk who were left to deal with a force a lot stronger.

Jocky Stewart gave Shire a fifth minute lead, which Dunn doubled after eight minutes. Then Doyle, rather than give the forwards the ball, tried a long-range shot which ended up flying through the sticks for a third Shire goal on the quarter hour.

Laurie was not to be outdone and he then added another two goals to give Shire a 5-0 advantage before even half an hour was gone. Thankfully for Falkirk there was no more damage before the interval but when referee Mr Sneddon re-started their misery continued.

Danny Kirkwood got Shire’s sixth and then passed to Dunn who scored the seventh, who then added an eighth. There was controversy when the referee disallowed a Falkirk strike but late on Kirkwood added a ninth. Full-time East Stirlingshire 9 Falkirk 0.

Although the result was not a shock the score was. Nevertheless, the two teams made their way back to the Crown Hotel for tea.  Before starting the proceedings Stirlingshire FA President, James Wilson, presented the cup to the winning team.

During the meal, which The Falkirk Herald’s sports writer Scrutator described as, “a very good affair – not exciting, but good of its kind”, there were toasts and singing too.

There was plenty of signing in Bainsford that night too. The village celebrated in the usual ways but the Carron Band, on its way home from a concert, played in the streets and at night people set off fireworks to mark the victory.

The partying did not end there. On the Monday evening a “Smoker” at the club halls was held where the cup was put on display, the Falkirk Iron Works Band played and there was “much rejoicing.”

Saturday’s Opponents – Preston Athletic

Shire will make their first-ever competitive visit to Prestonpans this weekend to face Preston Athletic in their latest Lowland League outing of the season.

Their opponents will be playing their first match since having to confront the reality of finishing bottom of the table and with that the likelihood of relegation to the East of Scotland League – something that was confirmed last Friday evening when they lost 2-0 at home to Cumbernauld Colts.

Despite all of this, coach John Sludden does not think this weekend’s trip will be straightforward or that the team and its followers can roll up to Pennypit Park and assume they will win.

“They are at the bottom of the league and I suppose there will be some people who just expect us to take three or four goals off them,” he said. “We have to ignore that and make sure our mindset is correct.

“We will be working hard in training this week to make sure everyone is in the right frame of mind. The most important thing is to get three points and it doesn’t matter what position your opponents are in the league.

“Every game this season has been like a cup final for our opponents and this weekend that might be even more so given the position they are in.”

The teams met at Ochilview in the reverse fixture in November and Shire won 6-2 that day, largely thanks to four goals from David Grant. But the visitors were in the game a 3-2 well into the second period and gave Shire plenty of food for thought that day.

David Grant finds the back of the net against Preston Athletic at Ochilview in November.
David Grant finds the back of the net against Preston Athletic at Ochilview in November.

Since that day, though, times have been hard for The Panners. A week after losing six goals to Shire they went down 8-3 to BSC Glasgow at The Recs, and, although they staged a mini-revival with back-to-back victories against Hawick Royal Albert and Dalbeattie Star on successive Saturdays in December, points have been hard to come by since.

In fact, impossible. Since the win over Dalbeattie Star at Islecroft Stadium on 17th December they have lost nine consecutive Lowland League matches although, over the course of that run, they have had chances to claim some points.

They were just edged out 4-3 by Civil Service Strollers as they aimed to make it three wins in a row. Against Gala Fairydean Rovers they found themselves 3-0 down but levelled things at 3-3 before an injury-time goal gave Rovers a 4-3 win, and there was another high scoring affair against Stirling University but that ended in a 5-3 defeat.

All of which points to the fact that Saturday’s opponents know where the opposition goal is and they have proven they can punish even the best teams at the back. The Shire coach knows this and is urging his players to take that on board as they aim to finish the season on a high.

“There is still a lot to play for,” said John. “We need to keep standards high and that’s the message we will be getting across to the players.”

The coach and the players would love to see as many Shire fans as possible at Pennypit Park on Saturday. The Supporters Club is running a bus and if you want to book your seat then give Sandy Nimmo a call on 07803 708119. Admission prices are £5.00 adults and £3.00 concessions, so if you can please make the effort to go along and support the team.

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Pitch Will Play It’s Part -Coach

Coach John Sludden says the pitch at Preston Athletic’s Pennypit Park will have an important say in how Shire approach this weekend’s Lowland League trip to Prestonpans.

With rain forecast for much of the rest of the week the head coach will wait and see what effect that has on the playing surface before naming his team.

Drew Ramsay is due to return after a one game ban but team selection may be influenced by the playing surface. Soft underfoot conditions at Hawick last weekend not only affected who played but tactics too and John says that’s likely to be on his mind for Shire’s next game as well.

Photo : Alan Murray, Falkirk Herald
Photo : Alan Murray, Falkirk Herald

“On Saturday [at Hawick] the big issue was the park,” he said. “That swayed it for us in terms of team selection and it will be exactly the same this Saturday.

“We have a rough idea of how we want to play but that will depend of the weather as well before we decide who’s going to play on Saturday.”

He will certainly be hoping that whoever takes to the field at Pennypit Park will be able to better cope with the conditions than was the case in the Borders. By his own admission, the Shire coach says his team never really got going until half and hour into the game.

John says part of that was down to the underfoot conditions.

“We normally like to play passes but we told them before the game that we wanted to get the ball up early to the strikers because of the pitch,” he said. “But we didn’t do that and, to be fair to Hawick, they adjusted to the conditions better than we did in the first half hour.”

Photo : Alan, Murray, Falkirk Herald.
Photo : Alan, Murray, Falkirk Herald.

Whatever the weather has in store, John admits Shire must start games better than has been the case in the last couple of outings. Against Hawick, and in the previous game against Tynecastle in the SFA South Region Challenge Cup, Shire have been forced to come from a losing position late in the game to win.

He says it’s much preferable to get on the front foot early and will be driving home that message in training this week.

“In the last couple of games we have made a slower start than we have been used to,” said the head coach. “Although you have to give credit too to the teams we have been playing who have made it very difficult for us.

“But ideally, on Saturday, we want to start the game better and get a better tempo to our play. But sometimes things don’t go for you and the good thing is that when they have gone one or two down there’s enough ability to get us back in the game.

“However, we would much rather be on the front foot and take the lead rather than come from behind.”

The coach is hoping to see as many Shire fans as possible at Saturday’s game to support the team. The Supporters Club will run a bus to the game and if you want to book your seat then contact Sandy Nimmo on 07803 708119. Preston Athletic have set admission prices at £5.00 for adults and £3.00 concessions, so, if you can, please come along and help the team.

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Rodgers Leads Goal Charts

Andy Rodgers has moved narrowly ahead of David Grant in the race to be Shire’s leading scorer this season.

His two goals in Saturday’s 4-2 victory over Hawick Royal Albert gives Andy 34 goals for the season and move him clear of Granty after both had been level on 32 prior to kick-off at the weekend.

However, in Lowland League action it’s David who had the advantage having scored 29 goals to Andy’s 27.

Paul Sludden’s strike at Albert Park on Saturday reinforces his position in third place with 15 goals for the season and Jamie Glasgow moves on to 13 after he found the back of the net at Hawick with Shire’s second goal.

The club’s goal tally in all competitive games this season now stands at 111 with the four recognised forwards having an incredible strike rate – between them Grant, Rodgers, Sludden, and Glasgow have contributed 93 of those 111 goals or 84% of the overall total.

In fact there have only been eleven different scorers for Shire this season, and one of those goals was an own goal. The complete scoring chart for the season so far is listed below :

Andy Rodgers      34 goals

David Grant          32 goals

Paul Sludden        15 goals

Jamie Glasgow     13 goals

Kris Faulds             6 goals

Connor Greene      5 goals

Derek Ure              3 goals

Liam Allison           1 goal

Andy Grant            1 goal

Dylan McGuigan    1 goal

Own Goals             1 goal.

Can You Help ?

We are looking for a little assistance from either a Shire programme collector or someone who has a spare match programme from a recent game.

The club needs just one copy of the programme for the away game against Cumbernauld Colts played at Broadwood Stadium on Friday 3rd March.

If you have one that you would be willing to part with we would be grateful.

Anyone who can assist the club should, in the first instance, send an e-mail to Charles McLaughlin at charles-mclaughlin@hotmail.co.uk .

Thanks.

Prestonpans is Next Stop

Fans are reminded that our next Lowland League date is this Saturday, 1st April, when the team will travel to Prestonpans for a match up against Preston Athletic at Pennypit Park.

This game has a 3:00pm kick-off. The encounter should have gone ahead on Saturday 4th February but heavy overnight rain led to a waterlogged pitch and a Saturday morning pitch inspection failed to get the referee’s approval.

Shire will be hoping to do the double over Preston Athletic this season. The reverse fixture at Ochilview in November ended in a 6-2 victory for John Sludden’s team with David Grant grabbing the headlines, and the match ball, after scoring four of Shire’s six goals.

There was a very impressive number of Shire supporters who made the trip to Hawick on Saturday to cheer the team on to a 4-2 victory and all the players and coaches are hoping to see as many supporters as possible at Pennypit Park this coming weekend.

Your support will make a big difference to the team so, if you can, please make the effort to come along. The Supporters Club will be running a bus to the game so please give Sandy Nimmo a call on 07803 708119 to book your seat.

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Jamie Gets His Prize

Shire goalie Jamie Barclay went home from Hawick on Saturday with more than just three points.

He also collected his Ladbrokes Shire Player of the Month award for February which was presented to him before the weekend game at Albert Park by club chaplain, Bill Sharp.

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Jamie topped the Twitter poll of Shire fans, beating off competition from club captain Derek Ure, Drew Ramsay and Kris Faulds who were the other players nominated by head coach John Sludden.

The keeper’s performances over February certainly merited the accolade – he made a number of tremendous saves during the month as Shire played three games without conceding a single goal.

With the programme of matches for the month of March now complete it will be once again up to the head coach to nominate his four top picks for the latest Player of the Month award.

Once we know who they are then we will launch another Twitter poll to let you decide who the winner should be, so keep your eyes peeled for more information.

Coach Praises Team Spirit

Coach John Sludden paid tribute to his players after coming from 2-1 down to beat Hawick Royal Albert 4-2 in Saturday evening’s Lowland League fixture at Albert Park.

It was the second successive game where Shire have emerged victorious despite being behind in the second half after a similar scenario in the cup-tie against Tynecastle two weeks earlier.

John claims it says plenty about the players’ will to win and their hunger to succeed that they have shown a calm determination simply to chip away at opponents to get what they want.

And he points out that goes beyond the eleven players on the pitch.

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“I think you could see it on the sidelines on Saturday too,” he said. “The guys on the bench all kept on encouraging and getting right behind the team. It’s one great thing we have here is our team spirit and that includes the guys who aren’t playing.

“We all want to win and we all stick together to help each other when things aren’t going to plan.”

The plan was to overcome the bobbly pitch by being more direct and getting the strikers involved in the action early. But the coach admits it was not something that bore early success as the home team went ahead after 13 minutes.

“We knew the surface wasn’t going to be easy so we told the players to get the ball in to the strikers early,” said John. “But we wren’t able to do that and we started to play too many passes and we ended up getting bogged down.

“To be fair to them Hawick played the conditions much better in the first half hour but after that I thought we got to grips with the game.”

That was underlined by Shire’s equalising goal from Andy Rodgers after 33 minutes and three minutes later they were unlucky not to be in front after David Grant’s shot hit the post. But rather than pick up from where they left off the team found themselves behind again quickly after the re-start.

“It was just us being sloppy,” said John  of Kris Mitchell’s counter for the home team. “We switched off and allowed their guy to run onto a long ball and finish and that shouldn’t happen. But, to be fair, the defence held their hands up for that one.”

Photo : Alan Murray, Falkirk Herald.
Photo : Alan Murray, Falkirk Herald.

What pleased the coach most, though, was the way the team once again responded to adversity. They regained a foothold although it took until 76 minutes for Jamie Glasgow to level the scores.

Four minutes later Rodgers put Shire in front and Paul Sludden provided the gloss with a fourth goal in injury-time.

“It was great to see the way the team came back,” said the coach. “We put Jamie Glasgow and Steven Brisbane on just to freshen things up and they provided the spark that we needed.

“It was a difficult game but we always knew it would be. That said, once we got the second goal were were able to kick on and get more.”

Hawick Royal Albert Preview

Coach John Sludden is hopeful his Shire squad will be at almost full strength for the first-ever Lowland League trip to Hawick Royal Albert on Saturday, with only Drew Ramsay missing through suspension.

The match has an unusual 7pm kick-off due to its inclusion in the annual Scottish Groundhop Day, with the crowd at Albert Park likely to be boosted well beyond what might have been expected by visitors from across the UK  attending as part of a trek across grounds in the Lowland and East of Scotland Leagues.

The coach will be less concerned with the late start than making sure his team gets back to winning ways in the league. The last Lowland League outing was a disappointing 3-3 draw at Cumbernauld Colts three weeks ago.

He is hoping, rather, they pick up from where Shire left off a fortnight ago in booking a semi-final spot in the SFA South Region Challenge Cup when they defeated East of Scotland League Tynecastle 3-2.

That game was a fortnight ago and although Shire have had no competitive game since, they did face SPFL League 1 Peterhead in a closed-door friendly on Tuesday evening.

“It was a useful exercise,” said John of the narrow 2-1 defeat. “It gave everyone some game time and that will do us all good going into Saturday’s game at Hawick.”

The coach was boosted by the participation of Liam Allison in the midweek friendly. The utility man has been sidelined by injury and has not started the last two game although he may come back into contention.

Also included for the Hawick trip will be club captain Derek Ure who missed the Tynecastle victory due to suspension. However, one player will be missing – it’s Drew Ramsay’s turn to sit out a game after picking up his sixth yellow card of the season against Cumbernauld Colts in the last league game thus incurring a one game ban.

The reverse fixture at Ochilview in August produced a Shire win, their first-ever home Lowland League victory.

But Shire were the first to accept that day the 3-1 victory had not been straightforward and they expect Saturday’s game will be every bit as difficult, especially in light of Hawick’s recent performances.

The hosts have played twice while Shire have been idle since the Tynecastle victory – they won 4-3 at home against Cumbernauld Colts last Saturday and it took a late goal on Tuesday night for leaders East Kilbride to score a 2-1 win over them at K Park on Tuesday evening.

“We know it will be difficult,” said John. “The players should know that by now. But if we get off to a good start then I would be confident that we have the players who can get the result we want.”

Albert are currently second from bottom in the league table but they are more than capable of beating teams higher up the table, as they have proven on several occasions already this season.

They also caused perhaps the biggest shock of the second round of this season’s Scottish Cup when they won 3-2 away at SPFL League 2 Berwick Rangers.

There is no doubt Shire will be in for a tough evening under lights at Hawick and our hosts should also have their biggest home crowd of the season there for the game. We would love to see as many Shire fans as possible make the trip to cheer on the team. The Supporters Club is running a bus and you can book your seat by giving Sandy Nimmo a call on 07803 708119. Please make the effort to go if you are able, it would be appreciated by everyone.

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