Month: March 2017

Shire Are Groundhoppers Again

Visiting new grounds for the first time is something Shire fans have had plenty of experience of this season, so few should be unfamiliar with the reason why Saturday’s trip to Hawick Royal Albert has an unusual 7pm kick-off time.

It’s to accommodate the third annual Scottish Groundhop Day. The event was set up in 2015 to allow fans from all across the UK  to come and experience non-league football in Scotland at places they were likely to be visiting for the first time.

Groundhopping has been a phenomenon for a number of years, particularly in England, with football enthusiasts who have outgrown the trail round the home grounds of clubs in the Premier League and English Football League and who wanted to continue their wanderings through England’s pyramid system.

The Groundhopping UK  group formalised an agreement with the Lowland League in 2015 and one round of fixtures was set aside with staggered kick-offs starting on a Friday evening and continuing on until the Sunday afternoon, allowing all the visitors the chance to go to every match.

The advantage to the league was evident with crowds, and gate revenue, for the host clubs boosted by more than 200 people who were attracted along.

Last season the second day was every bit as much a success, the only dampener being when a waterlogged pitch forced the postponement of the game at Preston Athletic. Nevertheless, the crowds at these games ranged from 300-450, many more times than the clubs would ordinarily have expected.

This year the East of Scotland League has joined in and will take on the majority of the games with only Shire’s visit to Hawick and the Preston Athletic versus  Cumbernauld Colts fixtures included from the Lowland League.

Somewhere To Call Home

Shire’s weekend trip to Hawick Royal Albert will give most people involved with the club their first chance to visit the tidy facilities at Albert Park on the banks of the River Teviot.

Only a few will be aware from looking round the ground the problems that their hosts have had in making sure it continued to remain Hawick Royal Albert’s home ground.

Catastrophic winter weather last season meant the club was forced out of Albert Park not once, but twice, due to the flooding caused when the Teviot burst its banks.

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The first floods, in October 2015, forced the club to flee Albert Park and play their home matches Gala’s Netherdale for a couple of months while they sought to clear the damage and find the money to pay for the necessary repairs to the ground and the facilities.

No sooner had this costly business been done than yet more torrential rain in January again caused  more flooding and meant Albert were forced to play away games for weeks on end while a second clear-up operation was undertaken.

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It was only in April 2016 that the club was able to move back to Albert Park on a permanent basis. Thankfully, this season has not been blighted by any more extreme weather events although Albert Park’s proximity to the river has meant a few games there have been postponed due to a waterlogged playing surface when there has been heavy rainfall.

It is certainly testament, though, to all the hard work and determination of the people involved with this weekend’s host club that they pulled through these serious problems and that Shire can look forward to a first-ever visit to a great wee ground.

Change May Do Us Good – Coach

Playing a game on a Saturday evening as opposed to the customary three o’clock may be novel, but coach John Sludden reckons the break with routine might just be a good thing for the Shire players.

This weekend’s Lowland League trip to face Hawick Royal Albert has a 7:00pm kick-off as a result of Groundhop Day – a special, yearly event which allows non-league football enthusiasts to watch multiple Lowland and East of Scotland League games with staggered starts.

But rather than seeing it as a disruption to a set way of doing things, the Shire coach has welcomed the initiative.

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

“Everyone seems to be looking forward to it, ” said John. “It’s certainly unusual playing on a Saturday night but it might just help us by breaking up the routine a bit and I think we might just enjoy the freshness of it. ”

One thing that won’t alter, according to the coach, is the difficulty of the task awaiting Shire at Albert Park. Hawick may sit second bottom of the league table but they stretched leaders East Kilbride away from home in midweek, going down 2-1 after holding a 1-0 half-time advantage.

“We know it will be a difficult game,” he said. “The players don’t need to be told, they should know that by now. Hawick showed on Tuesday they can make things difficult for the best teams in the league and we know we have to go there with the right attitude.

“That said, if we make the right start to the game then I am hopeful we can get the win that we want. So many of the positive things we have achieved this season have come when we have made a good start to games and that will be the focus of our approach, to get things right from kick-off.”

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

The result is also important for the coach as a way of building up momentum for the SFA South Region Challenge Cup semi-final against Cumbernauld Colts. That game will go ahead at The Falkirk Stadium on Friday 7th April with a 7:30pm kick-off.

Before that Shire are faced with a trip to Hawick on Saturday and will then follow that with a visit to bottom side Preston Athletic on 1st April. John says positive displays, and results, in these two games can only help going in to the cup match.

“We want to get into semi-finals and finals of the cups we are in,” he said. “The best way of getting that done is to build up a run of positive results to get us in the frame of mind we need to be in to win these cup games.

“That’s why Saturday’s game at Hawick is very important to us. We want to win as many games as we can between now and the end of the season.”

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Blue Toon Run Out For Shire

Shire coach John Sludden says a closed-door friendly against SPFL Ladbrokes League 1 side Peterhead on Tuesday was, “a really good exercise.”

The Ochilview encounter against the Blue Toon, managed by former Shire boss Jim McInally, ended in a 2-1 defeat but John says it was more important to prepare for Saturday’s trip to Hawick Royal Albert after a blank weekend.

Every member of the squad got a run out for either 45 or 90 minutes as the build-up to Shire’s return to league action at Albert Park on Saturday evening gathers pace.

“It was a really useful exercise,” said the head coach. “It was important to make sure everyone got game time and Peterhead are a quality side who set a good standard for us to try and reach.

“Everyone came through the game and it was good as well to get Liam Allison back on the pitch after his recent injury problems.”

The team will return to training at Little Kerse on Thursday evening as they make their final preparations for the trip to Hawick on Saturday. Fans are reminded this game has a 7:00pm kick-off due to Groundhop Day.

The Supporters Club is running a bus to the Albert Park match. Call Sandy Nimmo on 07803 708119 to book your seat or get more details.

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Semi-Final Set For Falkirk Stadium

Shire’s SFA South Region Challenge Cup semi-final match against Cumbernauld Colts will see the team return to The Falkirk Stadium, the scene of the quarter-final win over Tynecastle.

The last four clash will go ahead at Westfield on Friday 7th April and will have a 7:30pm kick-off.

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It’s the third time Shire will have played a Friday evening fixture this season, and it will be the second of the three to be played at The Falkirk Stadium after the 2-0 Lowland League victory over Stirling University in January.

In the last round Shire also played their home tie there, beating East of Scotland League Tynecastle 3-2 in a thrilling encounter.

The previous two Shire games played at The Falkirk Stadium this season have brought a very good turnout from fans and, with a place in the final at stake, it’s hoped a bumper crowd will come along and give the team some very important support.

“It’s a great occasion to look forward to,” said head coach John Sludden. “It’s not often the team gets to the latter stages of cup competitions and we are determined to do our best to try and get to the final.”

The match will be the third between the teams this season – Shire won 3-1 in the league at Ochilview with the return game at Broadwood Stadium ending in a 3-3 draw.

East Kilbride will host Lothian Thistle-Hutchison Vale in the other semi-final on Saturday 8th April. The final will be played at a neutral venue, yet to be decided, on Sunday 28th May.

All Roads To Hawick

Shire will return to action this weekend for a Saturday clash with a difference against Hawick Royal Albert.

The Lowland League clash at Albert Park will have a 7pm kick-off to accommodate the travellers doing the annual Groundhop Weekend with a number of visitors from other parts of the UK visiting a number of grounds in the Lowland League and East of Scotland League, with kick-off times staggered to fit in with their schedule.

By the time the tourists get to Albert Park they will already have seen Preston Athletic face Cumbernauld Colts on the Friday evening and the Shire game will be their fourth of the day on Saturday, having previously been to three East of Scotland League matches with the first, Ormiston versus Leith Athletic, kicking-off at 11am.

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Like many of the Groundhop Day visitors, Saturday’s game will be Shire’s first-ever league game at Albert Park, a ground that was, not so long ago, under flood water after several winter storms in 2015 and 2016.

The two sides have already met at Ochilview, that was back in August, and Shire rand out 3-1 winners that day recording what was the team’s first home victory since joining the Lowland League.

Although the kick-off time is unusual, to say the least, it would be great to see as many Shire fans as possible at the game. The Supporters Club will be running a bus to Albert Park and if you want to book your seat then give Sandy Nimmo a call on 07803 708119.

 

No Shireday This Week

We would just like to remind everyone that there is no scheduled fixture for the team this weekend.

The date had been intentionally left blank by the Lowland League to accommodate any postponed games from earlier in the season.

There are, in fact, four league games going ahead on Saturday. Civil Service Strollers will host Edinburgh University at Christie Gillies Park, Hawick Royal Albert are at home against Cumbernauld Colts, Vale of Leithen are at home against Stirling University, and Whitehill Welfare against Preston Athletic goes ahead at Ferguson Park in Rosewell.

Shire’s next competitive match will be on Saturday 25th March when the team travels to Hawick Royal Albert. Please bear in mind this game has a 7:00pm kick-off.

Shire Draw Colts In Cup

Shire have been given a home draw against fellow Lowland League club Cumbernauld Colts in the semi-final of the SFA South Region Challenge Cup.

The game is scheduled for Saturday 8th April and follows the draw for the competition which was made on Thursday evening. The other semi-final tie gives East Kilbride a home match against Lothian Thistle-Hutchson Vale from the East of Scotland League.

Shire reached the last four by virtue of last Saturday’s 3-2 victory over Tynecastle FC  at the Falkirk Stadium.

Earlier in the competition the team received a round one bye before beating Mid-Annadale in the second round and then recording a 9-0 victory over Newton Stewart in the last 16.

Colts recorded an impressive 4-0 semi-final win away at Edinburgh University on Saturday and have only played one home game in the competition this season.

That was a 1-0 Broadwood win over St. Cuthbert Wanderers in the first round. In round two they were 3-1 winners away at Hawick Royal Albert and they then won 4-1 at Leith Athletic in the third round.

The meeting of the teams will be the third so far this season. Shire won 3-1 at Ochilview in the first of two Lowland League games with Colts scoring a late equaliser to secure a 3-3 draw in the return game in Cumbernauld.

The two semi-final winners will meet in the final which is due to be played on Sunday 28th May at a neutral venue to be decided.

Plenty Left To Play For – Coach

There’s plenty of life left yet in Shire’s season according to coach John Sludden, who remains optimistic of ending the campaign with some prizes to show for their efforts.

While John accepts that closing the gap on the league leaders is looking a hard ask he insists that “you never know” , and with Saturday’s 3-2 SFA South Region Challenge Cup victory over Tynecastle fresh in the mind he has the bit between the teeth to go for some silverware.

Shire will also take part in the Lowland League Cup, travelling to Selkirk on 29th April in the first round, and that’s another pot that John is eyeing up.

He dismisses any notion of there being little now to play for.

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

“It doesn’t matter which level you play at, you want to get to cup finals,” said the coach. “It would be great for the players, great for the supporters, and great for everyone at the club. We are still in two cup competitions and we would like to try to get to the final of both.

“Saturday’s result has given everyone a lift,” he said. “It was a typical cup-tie and the most important thing was for us to get through it.

“You could sense the excitement about being in a semi-final from the supporters after the game. They were great in terms of showing appreciation for our opponents and applauding our own players and they are clearly looking forward to being in a cup semi-final.”

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

While the focus may now be on the two cups the coach insists they will also be up for each of the remaining four league games of the season, starting with a trip to Hawick Royal Albert a week on Saturday.

The plan is very much to win each of the remaining league games.

“We can only do what we can do in the league,” said John. “It’s obvious we would have to rely on other teams but we will take care of our remaining games ourselves and then there’s a lot to play for still – there are two cups to go for and we want to win them.”

With no competitive fixture this weekend the players who are carrying knocks or aches and pains will get time to recover. Everyone else will find it’s very much ‘business as usual’ despite the change that means there will be no weekend match.

The coach is finalising arrangements also for a closed-door friendly on either Monday or Tuesday of next week to help with the preparations for the visit to Hawick.

However, John says he would have been happier without a blank weekend.

“When you have come off a good result then you do want to go again the following week,” he admitted. “But we have what we have and we will just need to get on with it.

“The players will get two good training sessions this week and will get a full 90 minutes on either Monday or Tuesday and we want them to be ready to go again a week on Saturday.”

Andy Joins All-Time Scorers List

Striker Andy Rodgers’ haul of goals so far this season has moved him onto the list of Shire’s top 20 all-time goalscorers.

And, if he keeps up his scoring form between now and the end of the season, he looks likely to break into the top ten Shire scorers since the club was formed in October 1880.

Club historian Drummond Calder has spent years researching almost every aspect of the Shire story and he has, after much work, complied as close to a comprehensive a list of record goalscorers for Shire as is possible.

Currently, Andy’s tally in all Shire games (including friendlies) stands at 64 goals leaving him equal twelfth on the list and he needs just two more to take over the number ten spot in his own right.

Exactly half of Andy’s career goal total has come since he re-joined Shire from Peterhead in August. He had previously joined the club in January 2008 and scored more  than 30 goals in two and a half seasons, leaving in the summer of 2010.

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Mind you, Andy still has a fair way to go to become the club’s all-time leading scorer. That honour goes to David Alexander, who played for Shire in the 1890s who hit a total of 161 goals in Shire colours, during which time he became the last player to win a full Scotland cap while playing for the club.

Our club historian reckons, though, that Alexander scored many more goals but no-one at the time made a note of it.

“The club has scored around 9,000 goals since it played its first game,” said Dummond. “Unfortunately there is no record of who scored about 800 of them. Match reporters before the First World War just didn’t record some scorers at the time, although more than half the missing goals were scored in friendlies and benefit matches.

“It’s likely to top three scorers on the list, Alexander, Laurie McLachlan, and Wull Dunn all scored more than 200 goals while playing for Shire.”