|13th January 2017||19:45||Ferrari Packaging Lowland League||2016-17|
|Team||1st Half||2nd Half||Goals||Outcome|
|University of Stirling||0||0||0||Loss|
STIRLING UNIVERSITY 0 SHIRE 2
David Grant returned to the Shire starting eleven and celebrated that return with both goals in a hard-fought win against an able and willing Stirling University team at the Falkirk Stadium.
Like Shire’s previous game, they faced opponents who were prepared to funnel nine outfield players behind the ball for most of the match, but unlike the encounter with Edinburgh University, Shire were patient in possession and they eventually found the key to unlock the defensive door they faced from the men in green.
It was by no means an easy encounter and Shire were tested to the limit by the students, who had chances of their own.
Grant’s inclusion, in place of Steven Brisbane, was the only personnel change by head coach John Sludden from the team which had drawn its previous match against Edinburgh University, but before he had the chance to make an impression the team had some defending to do.
The students won a corner after just two minutes and from Ross Kellock’s flag kick, Andrew Gillen sent a looping back-post header toward goal that just shaved the top of the Shire crossbar.
Shire did their best to respond and not much later Andy Rodgers had a 20 yard effort blocked by the home defence, although the Airthrey men were quickly on the front foot again and it took an alert piece of goalkeeping from Jamie Barclay to thwart Rory McEwan as he raced in on goal.
It quickly became apparent the students would try to sit in and frustrate Shire by denying them space while happy to allow the visitors possession and dare them to break down the defensive barrier.
After 11 minutes Shire almost succeeded when Paul Sludden’s great ball into the box was cleared awkwardly with Jamie Glasgow lurking but unable to get on the end of it.
A minute later some lovely passing play involving Graeme MacGregor, David Grant and Sludden set up the latter for a low cross which flew across the face of goal but could not find the touch in the middle which would have brought a certain goal.
Despite the early indications that Shire did have a formula to get past the massed home defence, the game went through a considerable lull and although Shire had almost total control of the ball they were unable to do little with it apart from a Rodgers snapshot that flew high and wide after 20 minutes.
And then, after 23 minutes, Drew Ramsay finally solved the puzzle of how to break down the resistance of the opposition with an incisive run into the box which ended in a low cross to the back post which David Grant turned into the net from almost point-blank range.
Shire had, of course, worked hard to get their noses in front in the previous match only to allow Edinburgh University back into the game with an equalising goal five minutes later.
But, within five minutes of taking the led this time round it was Shire who struck with a second goal. Some great passing play set up Sludden to fire a ball into the box for David Grant to collect before turning and shooting into the far corner of the net.
The students didn’t crumble, though – they held their shape and stuck to their game plan and continued to keep Shire at bay with the visitors frustrated at some offside decisions which went against them.
However, on 43 minutes, Ramsay again made progress down the left and his low cross was again almost turned into the net by David Grant, this time at the near post.
The start of the second period brought a far more positive approach from the university men as they looked to claw back Shire’s advantage.
Two minutes after the break McEwan’s back post header was pawed away by Barclay after Lewis Hunter’s fine cross from the left and then Hunter’s header from a corner hit Kris Faulds before it could get to the Shire goal line.
In fairness, though, Shire had chances especially a Rodgers snapshot which flew just wide of the near post and a lovely,flowing move which put Jamie Glasgow clear but he shot straight at the keeper.
After 61 minutes David Grant’s cross from the right to the far post found Sludden but his net-bound effort was cleared off the line by Jack Nixon.
The university team was still up for it and they missed a great chance to pull one back after 63 minutes when substitute Sam Jamieson dragged his shot across the face of goal when well-placed to find the back of the net.
At the other end a Rodgers cross just eluded David Grant in the middle as he shaped up to burst the net with a powerful header and the ball instead flew across the face of goal and out of play.
The game opened out more as it moved towards a conclusion but some solid defending by both teams limited the scoring chances, although Shire were denied a penalty when Nixon brought David Grant to the ground inside the box after 76 minutes, with referee Gavin Ross choosing instead to wave play on.
Shire looked happy to hold on to what they had late on but will be thankful that Stirling University star striker Chris Geddes missed two great chances in injury-time – first blazing over the bar when set to shoot from the 18 yard line, then curling one fractionally too high from the angle of the box with the last meaningful action of the game.
STIRLING UNIVERSITY : Marshall, Mailer, Jones, Ashe, Nixon, Leigh, Gillen(Kane 74), Hunter, Geddes, McEwan(Jamieson 55), Kellock(*McAfferty 65).
SHIRE : Barclay, MacGregor, Ramsay, Greene, A.Grant, Faulds, Rodgers, Ure, D.Grant(Allison 85), Sludden(Brisbane 75), Glasgow.
|Stirling University FC|
|Forth Bank Stadium, Stirling FK7 7UJ, UK|