Shire’s best-ever performance at Annan’s Galabank ground maybe did not reproduce their best-ever result there but there was a great deal of encouragement to take from the result and the display of the team.
The customary poor start saw Shire go a goal down after less than five minutes but the players put that behind them and went in at the interval good value for a 2-1 half-time lead. Unfortunately, they could not keep Annan at bay during a period of sustained pressure at the start of the second period and a draw was a result that neither side could complain too much about.
Coach John Coughlin again stuck with the same starting eleven for the third week running which again meant new boys Rhys Devlin and Graeme Ramage were left on the substitutes bench.
After just four minutes, though Shire found themselves behind. Keeper Calum Antell tried to dribble the ball out of his own box but lost possession as he attempted to side-step Annan striker Sean O’connor who simply rolled the ball sideways to fellow front man David Winters to fire it into an empty net.
The visiting fans at that point perhaps rightly feared what might happen next but the script did not unfold in the most obvious manner. Shire did not look immediately vulnerable to conceding a second goal and after 11 minutes it was the home team’s turn to get a shock.
David Cane took possession from an Andy Stirling throw-in and fired a high ball into the Annan penalty box which Scott Maxwell controlled perfectly with one touch before shooting past Craig Summersgill at the Annan keeper’s near post from six yards out to bring the scores level.
It was all Shire for a spell after the levelling goal and Alex Lurinsky was unlucky to see his shot from a tight angle hot the seide netting before Lewis Horner hit a 25 yard free-kick that Summersgill had to dive full-length to turn round the post for a corner.
After 23 minutes it was Horner who started the move that gave Shire the lead. He ran from deep to unleash a shot from the edge of the box that Summersgill saved but could not hold. Lurinsky was the first to reach the loose ball and he fired it home from ten yards.
Two minutes later, though, Shire had Antell to thank for preserving their advantage. The ever-dangerous O’Connor made space inside the box for a shot but the visiting keeper got down well to block the fierce drive.
Annan’s David Cox made a speedy break down the left just before the half-hour and went for goal from the tightest of angles but the ball flashed across the face of goal and went wide with the two central strikers just unable to reach it.
After 35 minutes Shire had a great chance to make it 3-1. Antell’s huge upfield clerarance was flicked into Maxwell’s path. The midfielder had a clear run on goal but with only Summersgill to beat hit his final shot just too high.
Just before the break two opportunities fell Horner’s way. The first a free-kick which Summersgill scrambled to save, the last a shot from outside the box that just cleared the crossbar.
Annan started the second half with real intent and after 48 minutes Antell was forced to make a brave diving save at the feet of Chris Jardine. Two minutes later Michael McGowan’s shot from the edge of the bar shaved the outside of the post.
With 56 minutes gone a long ball hit to the edge of the Shire box caused confusion and as Antell and Steven Jackson left it to each other to clear the danger Jack Steele stole possession, rounded the keeper and fired home the equaliser.
Ten minutes later Ben McKenna was clean through with only Antell to beat but hit his shot both high and wide of the target when well-placed.
But after 67 minutes Shire were desperately unlucky not to re-take the lead. Lurinsky’s cross from the right was flicked on to Maxwell at the back post. He took aim from ten yards and hit a goal-bound effort that was only prevented from entering the net by a desperate Annan boot that deflected the shot over the bar.
Both teams carved out chances to win it late on with both Lurinsky and Horner going close for Shire, while for Annan Jason McKechnie’s looping header hit the bar with three minutes left.
ANNAN ATHLETIC : Summersgill, Muirhead, McGowan, Swinglehurst, Watson, Steele(Mitchell 80), McKenna(Sloan 80), Jardine(McKechnie 86), Winter, O’Connor, Cox.
SHIRE : Antell, Chisholm, Dingwall, Jackson, Cane(Devlin 30), Hunter, Lurinsky(Ramage 82), Stirling, Turner, Horner, Maxwell.
REFEREE : B. Cook
ATTENDANCE : 401.