Shire slumped to their sixth successive league defeat at league leaders Annan Athletic.
The game was effectively over after half an hour by which time the home team were three goals up and out of sight. But Shire deserve credit for sticking to their task and defending solidly in the second half and might have scored a consolation goal in injury-time.
Coach John Coughlin was missing the services of the suspended Andy Stirling and brought Alex Lurinsky back into the starting eleven to compensate.
But the visitors were under the cosh right from the start. It tok a vital interception from Joe Dingwall to stop David Cox giving Annan the lead after just four minutes following some good work by Sean O’Connor.
But that only delayed the inevitable. After nine minutes Steven Sloan swung over a cross from the right which no Shire player could clear and the ball crept into the net at the far post.
Calum Antell then twice had to prevent Annan extending their lead, the second a decent save from a point-blank Peter Watson header.
Annan skipper Chris Jardine was next to come close with a 20 yard free-kick that just cleared the Shire crossbar and not long after Antell was scrambling across his goal to guide a long-range effort from full-back Mark McGowan wide of the target.
However, the home team were not to be denied and went 2-0 ahead on 24 minutes. Again the problems started in Shire’s left-back area and Graham Bell was allowed far too much time and space to whip over a cross which David Cox, unmarked at the back post, was able to head with ease past the keeper.
At the other end there was almost nothing for Annan keeper Craig Summersgill to do, although he was called upon to make one save from Ally Love’s long-range effort on 27 minutes.
Four minutes after that the home team struck again. Not surprisingly, they were again able to exploit weaknesses in the left side of the Shire defence with Jardine this time crossing for Cox whose downward, near-post header gave Antell no chance.
It was a relief, given how the first half action had gone, that Shire managed to get to the interval only three goals behind.
But they started the second half brightly and after just a couple of minutes had engineered a half-chance for Steven Jackson but Summersgill made a good diving save from the Shire player’s shot.
That said, Annan should have been 4-0 up after 54 minutes when Cox controlled a cross perfectly and took it past the last Shire defender. But, with only Antell to beat, he blasted his shot over the bar when it seemed easier to score.
The visitors then enjoyed their best spell of the match but, for al that, could not create a clear-cut opening. Their best opportunity came when Love’s free-kick from wide on the left flew across goal to the unmarked Michael Hunter at the back post. The midfielder could not make anything of the chance, though, and simply put the ball harmlessly wide.
The game then drifted towards its conclusion in splendid late summer sunshine with neither team creating anything of note.
There were a couple of exceptions late on. After 81 minutes O’Connor rose to send a looping header from a right-wing cross towards Antell’s goal and the Shire keeper was relieved to see the ball drift over the crossbar.
Then, five minutes later, Antel was beaten by substitute Jack Steele’s low shot but was saved by the post with the bal crashing back off the frame of the goal before being cleared to safety.
Shire’s valiant second half efforts should have been rewarded by a goal in injury-time. A right-wing corner was headed back acrosss goal by Ryan Frances and turned into the net by a combination of Kevin Turner and Michael Hunter from point-blank range.
However, the visitors’ consolation was ruled out by an offside flag from the stand-side linesman.
ANNAN ATHLETIC : Summersgill, Neilson, McGowan, Gibson(Gilfillan 62), Watson, McKechnie(Steele 74), Sloan(MacBeth 62), Jardine, Bell, O’Connor, Cox.
SHIRE : Antell, Chisholm, Frances, Beveridge, Cane, Dingwall(Scott 66), Lurinsky(Team 80), Hunter, Turner, Jackson(Gibson 66), Love.
REFEREE : S. Conroy
ATTENDANCE : 511.