Shire’s rotten luck at Dumbarton’s Strathclyde Homes Stadium continues.
John Coughlin’s new-look side went the way of so many Shire teams before them as they slipped to defeat in the Ramsdens Cup first round on Sunday, but they found a new way to lose.
Having battled bravely to half-time and having kept the scoreline blank, they conceded two goals inside the first quarter hour of the second period. But rather than buckle, Shire fought back to level the scores within ten minutes of falling 2-0 behind.
However, despite playing the last 20 minutes with an extra man following the sending-off of Dumbarton right-back Jamie Lyden, Shire could not make their numerical advantage tell although they did have some great chances to go in front.
And the sucker punch was delivered in the third minute of injury-time when Ryan Frances missed what appeared to be a simple clearing header and Sons’ striker Pat Walker nipped in to slip the ball past keeper Calum Antell for the winner.
Ten of the eleven players in the Shire starting line-up were making their debuts for the club, with only Steven Jackson surviving from the team that beat Annan Athletic in the final league match of last season in May.
The team had very little experience of playing with each other but they seemed to make light of that in the opening period in which they matched their Second Division opponents step for step.
Former St. Mirren man Ally Love was prominent for the visitors early on and twice in a minute just after the quarter hour mark he tested Dumbarton keeper Stephen Grindlay with good efforts hit from just outside the box.
Neither keeper had a great deal to do in the first 45 minutes but Antell in the Shire goal pulled off the best save of the half with four minutes of the period to go, diving full-length to turn a Walker shot round the post.
The first half did not contain much in the way of excitement, but the second period more than made up for that.
Three minutes after the break Love played a free-kick into the Dumbarton box and Frances hit a low shot from six yards out that Grindlay did well to save. At the other end Bryan Prunty tried to catch Antell off his line and his effort only narrowly cleared the crossbar.
But on 53 minutes Prunty did get his name on the scoresheet. A corner was only half cleared to the back edge of the Shire box and when it was played back in Prunty collected the ball on the six yard line and shot high into the net.
Seven minutes later it was 2-0 when Ian Chisholm was harshly judged to have brought down Kieran Brannan on the edge of the box. Martin McBride beat Antell with the resulting penalty kick.
It could have been all downhill from there for Shire but the team refused to accept the situation lying down. After 65 minutes they reduced the leeway when a great Kevin Turner pass released Love who raced into the penalty box, rounded the Dumbarton keeper, and calmly stroked the ball into the empty net.
Barely two minutes later Love was racing clean through on goal again but this time Dumbarton full-back Jamie Lyden wrestled the Shire man to the ground as he went for goal. Referee Paul Robertson judged the Sons defender had denied Love a clear goal scoring opportunity and showed him a straight red card.
The home team suffered a further setback just three minutes later. Joe Dingwall raced down the left and whipped over a low cross which Turner beat everyone to, his looping shot ending up in the back of the net to level the scores.
Coach Coughlin sent on Joe Savage from the bench with 15 minutes left and within minutes of coming on the Shire striker had two great efforts on goal which were blocked bravely by home defenders.
But Prunty was a menace at the other end and he might have given Dumbarton the lead with a great shot but Antell made a stunning save, pushing his net-bound effort onto the crossbar from where Shire cleared.
With 77 minutes on the clock Andy Stirling might have given Shire the advantage but he sent a free header from Dingwall’s cross wide of the target.
Dumbarton piled on the pressure in the closing couple of minutes and only a brilliant block by David Cane stopped Scott Agnew from scoring as the clock ran down towards 90 minutes.
But the stopwatch of referee Robertson did not stop quickly enough for Shire. Frances will feel he should have judged a long ball upfield better but he could not get proper contact and it fell nicely for Walker to collect and slot the ball past Antell for the home team’s 93rd minute winning goal.
DUMBARTON ; Grindlay, Lyden, Nicoll, Nugent(Wallace 61), Lithgow, Brannan(Metcalfe 82), Gilhaney, McBride(Ramage 78), Prunty, Agnew, Walker.
SHIRE : Antell, Chisholm, Dingwall, Cane, Frances, Hunter(Team 87), Jackson, Stirling, Turner(Sheerin 87), Lurinsky(Savage 73), Love.
REFEREE : P. Robertson.
ATTENDANCE : 454.