Shire had to make the long trip home from Moray disappointed after going down to a 2-0 defeat against Elgin City at Borough Briggs.
But the scoreline did not tell the whole story, for it was a frustrated and aggrieved set of players who travelled back home rather than a well-beaten group.
It was yet another tale of woe, missed opportunities and defensive mistakes and, on a different day, the outcome would have been very different. It was 90 minutes of if only’s and what-might-have-beens for John Coughlin’s young players who created plenty of scoring opportunities and hogged possession for large parts of the match.
The coach opted to make changes to the team after the previous week’s 2-0 defeat against Peterhead. Out went Joe Savage, Stuart Beveridge and Michael Hunter, while Craig Scott made his first start of the season and both Joe Dingwall and Alex Lurinsky were re-instated.
The visitors, wearing their new change strip for the first time this season, made a great start.
After just four minutes Ally Love burrowed his way into the Elgin City penalty area but he couldn’t get enough power into his final shot which was blocked by two home defenders.
Shire were not discouraged and two minutes later Love was racing through on goal after a defence-splitting pass from Jordyn Sheerin. However, Elgin keeper Clark was off his line quickly and defused any danger by smothering the ball at the Shire player’s feet.
The early stages were all Shire. After nine minutes Love tried his luck from long-range. The keeper fumbled the shot and both Lurinsky and Sheerin raced in on goal to collect the rebound. But the Shire men got in each others way and Elgin got the chance to clear the danger.
Sheerin was the next Shire man to be presented with an opportunity to score. He collected a short header back to the keeper and tried to lob Clark who was way off his line. Unfortunately his effort sailed harmlessly over the top of the unguarded Elgin goal.
But Shire should have taken the lead after 18 minutes. Dingwall’s long ball out of defence released Love, who beat the offside trap and raced into the penalty box.
He rounded the keeper but, from about six yards out, somehow managed to shoot wide of the empty net.
It looked as though that miss would prove costly for Shire after 26 minutes. David Cane was rather harshly judged to have deliberately handled a powerful Graeme Beveridge shot at point-blank range.
Craig Gunn stepped up to hit the resulting penalty kick but was denied by a brilliant save from Calum Antell, who threw himself to his left to claw the ball round the post for a corner.
But from that moment of elation Shire were, within seconds, in the depths of despair. Moore’s corner kick swung in towards goal, Antell came off his line to fist it clear but couldn’t get enough power on it and the ball fell nicely for Gunn to score at the back post.
The visitors were back on the attack after 37 minutes. Lurinsky got behind the Elgin City defence and squared for Love who sent a rasping drive just wide of the keeper’s right-hand post.
Shire were unfortunate to be a goal down at the interval but, within two minutes of the re-start they were lucky not to be two goals down.
Some nice play from the home team set up Jason Crooks for a shot from just outside the box and Antell had to earn his wages with a decent save.
Back came the visitors and Sheerin was unlucky with a back post header after 53 minutes following some good work down the left from Lurinsky, but the keeper was well-placed to make a save.
But five minutes later Love turned and twisted his way down the left wing and whipped over a cross that flew across goal without any Shire player in the right place for what would have been a tap-in equaliser.
Shire dominated possession after that but couldn’t turn any of that into clear-cut chances. And that proved their undoing.
With nine minutes left the Shire defence could not clear a corner properly and Gunn hit a first-time shot from the back corner of the penalty box that flew past Antell into the net at his near post.
The Shire keeper prevented Elgin making it 3-0 with two minutes of the game left. Moore raced down the left wing and cracked in a great shot which the Welsh youth international had to palm over the bar to safety.
ELGIN CITY : Clark, Niven, Moore, Kaczan, Duff, Crooks(O’Donoghue 72), Gunn, McPhee(Frizzell 13), Leslie, Nicolson, Beveridge(Wilson 84).
SHIRE : Antell, Chisholm, Dingwall, Cane, Frances, Maxwell, Stirling, Scott(Hunter 78), Sheerin(Turner 66), Lurinsky(Team 66), Love.
REFEREE : D. Roache.