Shire travelled the short distance over the River Forth to Alloa more in hope than anticipation but the team and their supporters made the return journey rueing a missed opportunity to claim their first away league win of the season.
Almost the entire Third Division table sperated the sides before kick-off but Shire made light of any apparent difference in class with a display full of defensive discipline and not a little bit of attacking menace once Michael Hunter’s headed goal had edged them in front twenty minutes into the second half.
Indeed Alloa can count their blessings that they were still in a position to gain a point when Craig Campbell scored an equalising goal nine minutes from the end because the visitors could well have been beyond catching by that stage.
Coach John Coughlin, as expected, introduced new loan signing Craig Winter into the centre of the Shire defence to partner David Cane, with Steven Jackson relegated to the substitutes bench. Otherwise, it was the same starting eleven as had lost to East Fife in the Scottish Cup seven days earlier.
However, Bradley Coyne was on this occasion left to plough a loan furrow up front as the coach opted to congest the midfield in the hope of quashing Alloa’s natual attacking flair.
The game opened in a very low-key manner. Graeme Holmes hit a 20 yarder wide of Calum Antell’s goal after six minutes and not long after Andy Stirling’s pass sent Coyne clear but his angled drive flew across the face of the Alloa goal and wide.
After 16 minutes there was a real moment of danger for Shire as Mark Docherty swung over a cross from the left that found Robbie Winters unmarked at the back post. The veteran striker looked poised to open the scoring but his low shot from the edge of the six yard box was brilliantly saved by Antell.
Just short of the half hour it was Shire’s turn to create a great scoring opportunity. Stirling cut inside from the right wing and reached the edge of the box before unleashing a low, curling drive that almost made it into the net at the far corner but the ball drifted just narrowly past the post.
Former Shire man Kevin Cawley was next to take aim for goal after 38 minutes but his shot from outside the box was turned round the post for a corner and four minutes from the interval Winters found space inside the Shire box but somehow blasted his effort well over the crossbar when he might at least have expected to force Antell into a save.
Alloa began the second half in a hurry and barely three minutes in Holmes created the space for a shot with a fine run but his final effort was wayward.
The home team hogged possession but could do little with it. Twice Cawley was presented with great opportunties to score but each time he failed to test Antell. First, a cross from the right reached him unmarked at the back post but the ball bounced off his shins into the Shire keeper’s arms. Then he could not get his outstretched boot to a low and dangerous cross from the left when the deftest of touches would have given Alloa the lead.
After 65 minutes Shire changed the complexion of the match by taking the lead. A sustained bit of pressure on the home goal looked as though it would come to nothing until Scott Maxwell fired a great cross into the box from wide on the left for Michael Hunter to send a powerful diving header into the net at the back post.
For the next ten minutes the league’s bottom team had one of the promotion favourites on the ropes and they had real chances to deliver a knock out blow. Barely sixty seconds after taking the lead, Maxwell jinked his way into the Alloa box and unleashed a powerful shot which Scott Bain in the home goal batted away with difficulty. The Shire player collected the rebound from his own effort and fired for goal again but an Alloa leg deflected his shot.
After 68 minutes Fraser Team dispossessed Ryan Harding on the edge of the Alloa box and raced in on goal but his angled shot from just inside the box was saved at the near post by a now under pressure Bain.
Three minutes later the Alloa keeper kept his team in the match after Coyne’s clever bit of skill had left Alloa’s two central defenders in his wake. The Shire striker raced into the box with only the keeper to beat to make the score 2-0 but he placed his effort too close to Bain who pushed the shot away.
Shire were left to regret those misses nine minutes from the end when a free-kick played in from the left edge of the penalty area was fired into the net from close range by Alloa substitute Craig Campbell.
Neither team was able to carve out any real openings in the reamining nine minutes and the match ended in the draw that probably left neither side satisfied.
ALLOA ATHLETIC : Bain, McCallagh, Doyle, Gordon(Forrest 46), Harding, Young, Docherty(Campbell 71), Winters, One(Ross McCord 63), Holmes, Cawley.
SHIRE : Antell, Chisholm, Maxwell, Winter, Cane, Hunter(Jackson 79), Team, Stirling, Coyne(Turner 79), Horner, Lurinsky.
REFEREE : J. McKendrick.
ATTENDANCE : 421.