Shire emerged with a 3-2 victory over Lowland League champions East Kilbride after heeding a pre-match warning from coach John Sludden about how their opponents might approach the game.
The head coach admitted he was concerned with chat prior to kick-off about East Kilbride resting key players or being more concerned with the pyramid play-off games than in a final dead rubber against his team.
So his final words to his men prior to the start of the game concentrated on getting them to focus properly on the threat he was sure that East Kilbride would possess and the damage they could do if Shire were not properly focused on their task.
“We had heard and read so much about the East Kilbride focus being on events elsewhere in the days before the match,” said John. “But I didn’t believe that at all. There is no team that goes into a game with anything else in their minds other than winning it.
“So five minutes before kick-off we sat the players down and emphasised that to them. We told them to forget about all that had been said and written in the run-up to the game and concentrate on winning it.”
The coach’s thoughts were bourne out by the match itself. Although Shire had early chances it was the visitors who took the lead and it took a strong fightback, and two David Grant goals, to put Shire ahead.
East Kilbride equalised with ten minutes to go and it took an Andy Rodgers penalty to give Shire a winning margin with five minutes to play.
“It was exactly like I said. When we went 3-2 up their players were still keen to get back into it and stop us winning,” said John. “It shows getting a result still meant something to East Kilbride and it shows you should never believe talk when people say things like, ‘their minds will be elsewhere’, because it’s almost never true.”
That said, the coach praised his players for taking on board his pre-match instructions and for trying to play the kind of football they had practised in training all week.
“In particular I thought the goals we scored were just how we want to play football with good build up from the back and then passes through for Granty to score. Even at the penalty Connor Greene has been strong for us all season at setpieces in the opposition box and it was from that we got the penalty that allowed Andy to win the game for us.
“So, all-in-all, it was very pleasing. We said we wanted to end the league season on a high and we have done that and it also puts us in the right frame of mind for the start of the League Cup next week.”
The team’s Lowland League programme is now complete but they will now move on to the end-of-season League Cup with Shire travelling to face Selkirk in the first round at Yarrow Park next Saturday (29th April) with a 3:00pm kick-off.