Shire endured a defensive nightmare afternoon against Berwick Rangers at Shielfield as they went down to their first league defeat of the new season.
The visitors made a poor start, going behind to Paul Currie’s eighth minute penalty and fell further behind just five minutes into the second period.
The wheels seemed to come off in the space of a few minutes late in the match when Steven Jackson was shown a straight red card and, within seconds, Berwick made it 3-0.
But credit was due to the Shire team who never gave up and who pulled things back to 3-2. However there was no fairytale comeback and the home team scored their fourth with the last kick of the game.
Coach John Coughlin wielded the axe in central defence after the previous week’s 1-0 win over Montrose, dropping both David Cane and Stuart Beveridge.
In came Ryan Frances and Steven Jackson was moved from midfield to partner him. The coach also switched things up front with Jordyn Sheerin stepping up from the bench to a starting role alongside Kevin Turner.
But the new-look team was given no time to settle. After eight minutes keeper Calum Antell and Jackson left a harmless looking through ball to each other. Berwick striker Damon Gray nipped in to take advantage but he was fouled by Jackson inside the box as he was about to aim for goal and referee Andrew Dallas pointed to the penalty spot.
Paul Currie wasted no time in giving the home team the lead from the penalty kick and for a short time it looked like Berwick would prosper.
After 14 minutes Stuart Noble was allowed to run at goal but instead of opting to shoot he squared the ball to Gray who hit a powerful 20 yarder just wide.
Two minutes later Gray robbed Iain Chisholm inside the penalty box but instead of passing to a better placed team-mate he went for goal and sent his shot from a tight angle just over the bar.
But Shire recovered and started to claw their way back into the game. On 19 minutes Kevin Turner turned and shot inside the box and although Jamie Barclay got a hand on the ball his effort still had to be hacked off the line by a desperate defender.
On the half hour Jackson took aim with a 20 yard free-kick but hit it just the wrong side of Barclay’s right-hand post. Seven minutes later Turner again got free inside the box and this time his shot was clearly net-bound but Barclay had to dive to his right to make a decent save.
A minute later Ally Love crossed in from the left, Jordyn Sheerin collected at the back post and hit a well-struck shot across the face on goal and wide of the target.
There were changes at half-time with Alex Lurinsky coming off and teenage striker Nico Gibson coming off the bench for his Shire debut.
But Shire were fortunate not to go two goals behind just 90 seconds after the resumption. Noble picked the ball up in midfield and made it to the edge of the box before unleashing a shot that hit the underside of the bar and bounced to safety, as far as the Shire were concerned.
Gibson almost had a perfect start to his Shire career on 49 minutes when Turner played the ball into the box for the former Aberdeen teenager to send a header towards goal that was cleared off the line by a Berwick defender.
But a minute later some poor defending allowed Gray a clear run on goal and he fired Berwick 2-0 in front with a low shot from 10 yards out.
That made a Shire comeback seem extremely unlikely and it looked even further away when Jackson lunged into a tackle and was shown a straight red card on 70 minutes.
The team was still trying to re-organise in the face of that setback when Berwick made the score 3-0. A simple ball into the box fell nicely for substitute Fraser McLaren who seemed to have far too much time and space for a shot which easily beat Antell in the Shire goal.
But instead of giving up Shire responded brilliantly. Some trickery from Love inside the Berwick box induced a foul which had referee Dallas pointing g to the penalty spot for the second time in the match. Love reduced the leeway with ease.
The visitors pressed hard until late in the game looking for a way back in and they were rewarded on 88 minutes. A great run by substitute Joe Savage ended with a pass to Andy Stirling who threaded the ball through to Gibson who scored with a cracking drive from just inside the box.
For the next couple of minutes Berwick got a dose of the jitters as they sensed Shire were ready to crack on and complete the comeback. But the visitors couldn’t make the pressure tell and there was an unfortunate sting in the tail in the third minute of injury-time when some poor defending presented McLaren with a clean run in on goal and he fired Berwick’s fourth past Antell with what turned out to be the last kick of the game.
BERWICK RANGERS : Barclay, Walker, Thomson(Smith 73), Townsley, McLeod, L. Currie, Greenhill, P. Currie, Gray(McLaren 66), Noble(Gribben 66), McDonald.
SHIRE : Antell, Chisholm, Dingwall, Jackson, Frances, Hunter, Lurinsky(Gibson 46), Stirling, Turner(Maxwell 77), Sheerin(Savage 77), Love.
REFEREE : A. Dallas.
ATTENDANCE : 441.