For the second Saturday in succession Shire were left frustrated at their inability to beat one of the promotion-chasing teams in this season’s Third Division.
Defensive errors hampered their ability to take any more than a 2-2 draw from Annan Athletic but it was bad luck that prevented Shire taking a three point haul against second placed Stranraer.
Only the award of a controversial penalty kick four minutes from the end of the game allowed the visitors to take a point from the match, with Shire more than slightly aggrieved at the award of the spot kick.
The home defenders were admant that it was Stranraer’s Michael Moore who had handled a right-wing corner rather than one of their own number, but referee Steven Conroy remained unmoved and awarded a spot kick for handball which substitute Chris Aitken converted.
Despite the disappointment at not seeing out the game to their advantage there were plenty positives to take from another disciplined and committed performance from the Shire team.
Coach John Coughlin pulled no surprises with his starting eleven; David Cane was omitted through injury and was replaced by Rhys Devlin, but otherwise the team was the same as had begun each of the previous three matches.
The game began in horrendous weather conditions with torrential rain and a driving, icy cold wind but Shire fans had something to cheer about after just three minutes.
Scott Maxwell hit an in-swinging corner kick from the right wing which curled in towards goal at the near post. The Stranraer defender on the line failed to make a clearance and, to most people’s surprise, the ball ended up in the back of the net.
However, Stranraer are one of the real form teams of the moment and they set about trying to cancel Shire’s advantage almost straight from the re-start. After four minutes Sean Winter sent a shot from the 18 yard line towards goal forcing Calum Antell into a decent save.
Lewis Horner then tried his luck with a free-kick which crashed into the defensive wall and he failed to find the target with a shot from the rebound while at the other end Scott Taggart’s shot was clutched by the Shire keeper.
After 26 minutes Shire skipper Kevin Turner was clean through on goal but visiting keeper Ryan Marshall raced off his line to block the shot for a corner.
There was little to divide the teams as the weather worsened and after 33 minutes parity was restored. The home defence made a hash of clearing a high ball into the penalty box and it broke nicely for Stephen Stirling who scored with a low shot past Antell from just inside the area.
Five minutes before the break Nathan Shephard’s cross from the left found Taggart unmarked at the back post but the visiting full-back wasted a glorious chance by deciding to hit the ball first time, a course of action that sent it high into the terracing behind Antell’s goal.
Shire were stung by the Stranraer goal but wasted little time in regaining the advantage at the start of the second half. Barely 30 seconds after the interval a careless pass from a visiting defender across the face of his own box gave Horner possession and he sent a wonderful chip over Marshall into the net from the edge of the penalty area.
The on-loan Hibernian midfielder then sent Turner clean through with only Marshall to beat after 52 minutes but again the Stranraer keeper got down bravely to smother the Shire skippper’s shot.
But Shire had a lucky escape five minutes later when Taggart’s cross from the right was met by Sean Winter’s near post header that came back off the frame of the goal before being cleared.
After 66 minutes Taggart pumped a free-kick high into the Shire box and Moore should have done better than send his free header over the crossbar from just six yards out.
By that stage Stranrear were starting to exert some real pressure on the Shire goal but a shot from outside the box from Stirling went too high and a cross from wide on the right flew across the face of goal with no-one to supply the finishing touch.
It looked as though Shire had done enough to hold on for a well-meited victory when they conceded a corner four minutes from the end. As the ball came across it appeared as though a hand was used to divert it and referee Steven Conroy pointed to the penalty spot.
That sparked off protests from the home defenders who claimed it was a Stranraer attacker who had committed the offence. Nevertheless the award stood and substitute Chris Aitken scored.
Things might have got worse for Shire in injury time but Aitken’s effort flew across the face of goal and thankfully wide of target.
SHIRE : Antell, Chisholm, Dingwall, Jackson, Devlin, Hunter, Lurinsky, Stirling, Turner, Horner, Maxwell.
STRANRAER : Marshall, Taggart, Noble, McGregor, McKeown, Kane, Winter, Stirling, Moore, Malcolm, Shepherd.
REFEREE : S. Conroy.
ATTENDANCE : 275.