Shire’s Lowland League debut against Vale of Leithen at Ochilview turned out to be a classic game of two halves. In the end, no-one could complain too loudly about the final outcome ending in a 2-2 draw.
The home team will feel they should have had the game out of sight by the interval; instead Shire missed a hatful of chances and only had Andy Grant’s 27th minute strike to show for their efforts.
That vulnerability was reflected when Vale equalised on the stroke of half-time with only their second effort of the opening 45 minutes.
The levelling goal took the wind from Shire and Vale had by far the better of the second period, going in front not long after the re-start.
Although they were pegged back by Kris Faulds’ strike the visitors had other great chances, notably a Keith McLeod penalty kick which was saved by Shire keeper Dean Shaw.
Shaw was the only change coach John Sludden made from Shire’s midweek outing against Montrose. The former Stenhousemuir goalie was included after Darren Dolan failed a fitness test.
Jamie Glasgow passed a fitness test but had to make do with a place on the bench while Andy Rodgers missed out due to suspension.
Shire were plainly not intent to play themselves into the encounter and within the first five minutes both Faulds and Dylan McGuigan had shots that went narrowly wide of goal.
Skipper Derek Ure tried his luck from long-range that forced a save from Vale keeper Andrew McQueen and twice in the space of a minute Paul Sludden was clean through on goal; his second effort, after 17 minutes, flew agonisingly across the face of goal and just wide of the far post.
By this stage Shire were starting to lay siege to their visitor’s goal. Andy Grant’s cross cum-shot- only needed a touch in the middle to turn the ball into the net but brother David just could not connect.
However the deadlock was broken on 27 minutes when Vale failed to clear their lines properly and Andy Grant’s terrific long-range drive hit a visiting boot and looped over the stranded keeper into the net. Shire then went in search of a second goal.
A Connor Greene cross set up McGuigan but his 20 yard effort skimmed the crossbar.
After 33 minutes Shire were almost caught out at the back but Blair Atkinson, despite having plenty of time and space to pick his spot, hit his shot straight at Shaw.
The response was another Shire barrage and the Vale goal led a charmed life especially in 42 minutes when David Grant’s shot hit the inside of the post and bounced back into play.
The failure to add an insurance goal had consequences when, with seconds of the first half left, Thomas Paterson’s cross from the left bounced over Ross Fisher as he attempted to clear, leaving Jason Stevens with a point-blank header to equalise.
Despite having the interval to re-group, Shire still seemed stunned by the loss of the goal as the second half started. Vale, by contrast, played as though they felt a million dollars.
Atkinson sent a shot over the bar within a minute of the re-start and McLeod would have scored after 47 minutes but for a brilliant Shaw save, diverting the ball with an outstretched leg.
But Vale were not to be denied and they went ahead on 51 minutes with a cracking half-volley from Stevens which beat Shaw at the keeper’s near post.
However, the lead only lasted four minutes. Derek Ure’s free-kick from wide on the right touchline was cut back into the penalty box for Kris Faulds to slam the ball home.
But Vale still had their tails up. Sean Stewart forced a great fingertip save from Shaw and then, after 66 minutes, Adam Murray’s foul on Stevens inside the box gave the visitors the chance to re-take the lead from the penalty spot.
However, the veteran McLeod squandered the chance with a shot which Shaw saved.
After that both teams had chances as the game went end-to-end. McLeod shaved the bar with a great effort after 72 minutes and then David Grant should have won it for Shire with seven minutes left but was denied by McQueen’s wonder save.
SHIRE : Shaw, Greene, A. Grant(Comrie 83), Buist, Fisher(Murray 63), Faulds, Sludden, Ure, McMillan, D. Grant, McGuigan(Glasgow 63).
VALE OF LEITHEN : McQueen, Scott-Mercer, Paterson, O’Donnell, Elliot, Manson, Stewart(McIntosh 70), Motion, Atkinson, McLeod, Stevens.
REFEREE : John McKendrick