It may have been tough going at times but Shire took immense credit from Tuesday night’s Betfred Cup Group F match against Motherwell at Fir Park.
Faced with their second set of full-time top division opponents in the space of a few days the team showed no sign of wilting.
Instead, after a difficult first ten minutes, Shire started to give as good as they were taking. The half-time whistle was greeted with boos from the home fans in the 2,503 crowd and that, in itself, was a small victory.
But the pace could not be maintained and Shire fell behind quickly after the break. The result was not in doubt after that but no-one could deny the team had contributed a fair deal to the evening’s action.
Coach John Sludden sent out the same eleven who had faced Rangers at Ochilview three days earlier, but included Paul Sludden, newly returned from Canada on the bench.
Within seconds of the start the home team caught Shire cold and only a full-length diving save from Darren Dolan prevented Marvin Johnson from opening the scoring.
Less than a minute after that Scott McDonald nipped in to head the ball over a stranded Dolan and towards the empty net but Adam Murray was on hand to clear the danger.
The danger continued and on four minutes Andy Grant had to whip the ball off McDonald’s toes as the Australian looked set to tap Johnson’s cross into the net.
Motherwell were turning on the heat and not long after Dolan was berating his defence for failing to stop McDonald’s mazy run which ended with a shot that the Shire keeper did well to turn behind for a corner.
But Shire settled and the danger receded. Slowly they began to think about producing some forward momentum and, after 13 minutes, Kris Faulds found himself in behind but his shot from a tight angle was turned behind for a corner.
Johnson was a real danger for Shire and he set up Chris Cadden for a shot on 15 minutes which thankfully lacked power and allowed Dolan to save.
After 20 minutes Johnson’s half-volley from the 18 yard line swerved away and wide of goal at the last second otherwise Shire would have been in bother and Ben Henegan headed a corner behind at the back post after 26 minutes when he ought to have got the ball on target.
Shire were coping much better the longer the game went on. On 37 minutes Daryl McGuigan just failed to get on the end of a David Grant pass which would have sent him in on goal, two minutes later Derek Ure tested the keeper with a long range effort then a defensive mix-up almost left Murray through on goal but the home team mopped up any danger.
The longer Shire held on the better things looked. But after 52 minutes Johnson’s quick turn inside the area was too good for Ross Fisher and Andy Grant and he had enough room and time shot shoot the opening goal past Dolan.
The floodgates didn’t open. After 56 minutes Derek Ure’s shot took a deflection which might have wrong footed the keeper but he recovered to save. Dolan, though, did have look smart at the other end to tip Lionel Ainsworth’s direct free-kick over the bar.
After 65 minutes, though, the Shire fans were off their seats when David Grant turned and shot but the ball went agonisingly wide of the far post.
Unfortunately they lost a second goal after 76 minutes when McDonald was given a free header inside the six yard box to turn Cadden’s right wing cross into the net.
With four minutes remaining Cadden turned home Richard Tait’s right-wing cross to make the final score 3-0.
MOTHERWELL : Samson, Tait, Hammell(Chalmers 52), Henegan, McManus, Johnson, Cadden, Lasley, Clay, Thomas(Ainsworth 52), McDonald.
SHIRE : Dolan, Greene, Murray(Sludden 67), A. Grant, Fisher, MacGregor, McGuigan(Peddie 79), Ure, Faulds, D. Grant, Hogg(Comrie 73).
REFEREE : Craig Charleston.