Shire endured another heavy defeat at Stair Park against promotion-chasing Stranraer.
The team had already lost 6-0 there earlier in the season and had high hopes of making amends after some recent good results but, sadly, they were unable to hit the heights and the home team were effectively home and dry after taking a 2-0 lead inside the opening twenty minutes.
Coach John Coughlin had to do without the services of Ryan Frances due to suspension but otherwise, and not surprisingly, struck with the team that had come so close to beating another of the play-off contenders, Elgin City, the previous Saturday.
Shire made the brightest of possible starts and were unlucky not to take the lead inside the opening minute. A great run from Michael Hunter set up skipper Kevin Turner for a chance at the edge of the six yard but his effort flew just over the bar.
But Stranraer took charge of the game after just eight minutes when a mazy run into the Shire box by Steven Stirling caused confusion and Craig Malcolm took full advantage by firing a low shot from eight yards into the far corner of the net.
Two minutes later a corner kick from the right gave the dangerous Michael Moore a free header which was scrambled off the Shire goal line first by Rhys Delvlin then by keeper Calum Antell.
But the home team were in full swing and after 17 minutes they scored a second goal. This time some clever play down the left involving Ryan Borris and Stuart Noble took the Shire defence out of position, leaving Noble to cross low for Moore to find the back of the net with a shot from the front edge of the six yard box.
Shire were reduced to damage limitation after that, although for a period they did enjoy the bulk of the play. The visitors created a number of decent scoring positions but a reluctance to shoot for goal meant those chances were wasted.
After 34 minutes another greart run from deep from Hunter set up Andy Stirling on the edge of the box and this time he did have a go but the club’s top scorer could not keep his shot down and it drifted harmlessly over the crossbar.
Five minutes before the interval Shire should have had a lifeline back into the match when Turner was tripped inside the box by Stranraer centre-half Frank McKeown but referee Andrew Dallas confounded the expectations of everyone inside the ground by awarding a goal kick rather than the penalty people had been anticipating.
Worse was to follow on the stroke of half-time. Stranraer made good progress down the right and Sean Winter whipped over a low cross into the box. There seemed little danger, though, as there was no home forward in sight, but Devlin, in attempting to put the ball out of harm’s way for a corner, only succeeded in turning it into his own net.
Shire had a great opportunity to get at least one goal back four minutes into the second half when Jamie Benton was left unmarked at the back edge of the penalty box. He was clean through with only the keeper to beat but Mitchell got down low to beat his shot away to safety.
Ninety seconds later Shire were hit with the sucker punch as Stranraer made it 4-0. Joe Dingwall fouled Malcolm 20 yards from goal and Stirling hit the resulting free-kick high into the top right-hand corner of Antell’s goal.
Lewis Horner showed some great skill just short of the hour mark, taking the ball from the centre circle to the edge of the Stranraer box and then hitting a great shot which Mitchell had to dive full-length to push round the post for a corner kick.
But Stranraer were always dangerous evan after they removed their starting forward line and replaced them with substitutes. Not long after Horner’s effort two of the home team’s bench men, Nathan Shepherd and Stuart McColm, combined well for the latter to go for goal from the edge of the six yard box and only a great near-post save from Antell prevented a fifth goal.
McColm was unlucky again after 70 minutes with a near post effort after a cross from wide on the right by Winter however his shot flashed wide of the upright.
Shire never stopped trying and they might have reduced the leeway on 78 minutes with a great long-range strike from David Cane which just shaved the crossbar on its way over.
They did eventually find the back of the net with what turned out to be the last kick of the match. Some clever play from Andy Stirling created an opportunity for Turner just inside the Stranraer penalty box and he controlled the ball before thumping it past an exposed Mitchell for at least a small consolation.
STRANRAER : Mitchell, Kane, Noble, McGregor, McKeown, Aitken, Winter, Stirling, Moore(Grehan 63), Malcolm(McColm 58), Borris(Shepherd 58).
SHIRE : Antell, Devlin(Gillespie 80), Dingwall, Cane, Jackson, Hunter, Benton(Ramage 55), Stirling, Turner, Horner(Sheerin 77), Maxwell.
REFEREE : A. Dallas.
ATTENDANCE : 304.