Shire’s first trip of the new year took the team to Elgin City but the long journey did not agree with them and they went home from Borough Briggs a well-beaten team.
Although the overall balance of play left no doubt that the home team were deserved winners the flow of the match was not quite as straightforward as that; Elgin dominated the first half and should have been goals to the good at the interval but found themselves pegged back at 1-1 as the half-time whistle blew.
The second period was much more even with barely anything to divide the teams but, paradoxically, it was during that spell that Elgin scored the goals that were decisive in giving them the three points.
Shire coach John Coughlin headed north with the only 16 players that were available to him. That meant a place on the bench for Jordyn Sheerin, who had not featured in a Shire squad since September.
The starting eleven was exactly that which had begun Monday’s derby with Alloa Athletic at Ochilview and that once again meant that Michael Hunter, Iain Chisholm and Joe Dingwall were left to sit on the bench.
The game almost had the perfect start for the visitors. With just four minutes on the clock Shire keeper Calum Antell launched a huge wind-assisted ball up the park which bounced over his confused-looking oppositie number John Calder and just clipped the base of the post before going behind just the wrong side of the upright.
But it was all Elgin City as the first half gained some momentum. After six minutes Antell was called on to make a fine diving save at the feet of Stuart Leslie and two minutes later his full-length diving stop to prevent Mark Nicolson opening the scoring was even better.
Everything seemed to be heading towards Antell’s goal with Shire barely able to get out of their own half. After 22 minutes Craig Gunn’s free-kick from just outside the box flashed just wide of the post and just before the half hour Paul Millar sent Daniel Mooore clear down the left and his angled shot looked destined to find the back of the net but for Antell’s great diving save.
After 34 minutes Millar brushed aside Stuart Beveridge’s challenge inside the box and fired a shot which Antell somehow managed to block with his legs when an Elgin City goal seemed almost inevitable.
At the other end only Kevin Turner’s run into the box which provided Bradley Coyne with a shooting opportunity and a long-range free-kick from Lewis Horner gave home keeper Calder anything to do.
Three minutes before the interval the home team finally took the lead their play deserved. A free-kick outside the Shire box broke down but the ball was played back into the penalty area for the unmarked Leslie to score from just outside the six yard box.
But two minutes later Shire were level. Turner’s run into the box ended with a shot which David Niven hacked off the line only for Jamie Duff to inexplicably put his arm out to divert the clearance.
Referee David Somers awarded Shire the penalty and Bradley Coyne, who had missed his last spot kick, showed no nerves or doubts in shooting home from the 12 yard mark.
The coaching staff wasted no time in making adjustments to things in a bid to get Shire a foothold in the game. Craig Scott and Stuart Beveridge were left in the deressing room at the start of the second half with their places taken by Iain Chisholm and Michael Hunter.
And with the back line re-jigged Shire looked a lot stronger and the match quickly became much more even than in the first period. In fact, the match became almost chanceless with most of the play confined to a midfield battle for possession and territory.
That said, Elgin should have re-taken the lead after 61 minutes when a cross from the right found Nicolson unmarked but he shot over when well-placed to score.
The game seemed to be going nowhere with neither team able to exert any influence on altering the scoreline until the home team scored out of the blue after 74 minutes.
A throw-in on the right was shuttled to Archie McPhee 25 yards from goal and with no Shire player to close him down the full-back simply took aim from long distance and hit a rocket shot high into the top far corner of the net.
It was a real blow for Shire who looked with every passing minute that they might get at least a draw. But there was little to indicate that they would get back back into the match for a second time save for a Turner shot after 77 minutes what was deflected wide of the target for a Shire corner.
Elgin’s third goal gave the home team the gloss to the final score that perhaps their first half superiority merited but came at a time when the outcome of the result had already been settled.
With the game about to enter added on time a disastrous mistake by David Cane just outside his own penalty box surrendered possession and it was quickly fed to substitute Jason Crooks who shot low past Antell from just inside the penalty area.
ELGIN CITY : Calder, Niven, McPhee, McMullan, Duff, Beveridge, Gunn, Leslie(Cameron 75), Millar(Crooks 78), Nicolson, Moore(O’Donoghue 85).
SHIRE : Antell, Jackson, Maxwell, Beveridge(Chisholm 46), Cane, Horner, Scott(Hunter 46), Stirling, Coyne, Turner(Sheerin 78), Lurinsky.
REFEREE : D. Somers.
ATTENDANCE : 531.