Saturday 27 August 2016, 15.00, Christie Gillies Park

Back to the Lowland League for the game between Civil Service Strollers and East Stirlingshire.

Strollers have made a few signings since I saw them in pre-season, although it’s nigh on impossible to find out anything from the club as they seem to have abandoned their Facebook, Twitter and website since the start of the season and have never replied to anything I’ve sent them.

They lost 5-0 at home on the opening day at home to fellow Lowland League newcomers Hawick Royal Albert before winning 4-0 at Gretna 2008.  A 3-3 draw at home to Gala Fairydean Rovers was next before going down 1-0 at Cumbernauld Colts.  A very mixed bag up to now.

East Stirlingshire Football Club was founded in 1881 and dropped down to the fifth tier of the Scottish football league system at the end of last season, when they became the first ever team to be relegated out of the national league system.  They were elected to the Scottish Football League in 1900-01 and have competed in the league system for most of its existence.  They have reached the top league on two occasions, both just for a solitary season, in 1932-33 and 1963-64.

They didn’t appoint their first manager until 1966, with the board making all team decisions up until then.  Alex Ferguson began his managerial career with East Stirlingshire.

They finished bottom of the football league five seasons in a row in the 2000s, before two successive third place finishes at the end of the decade.  In this decade, in the ten team league, they’ve finished bottom three times, second bottom twice and eighth once.  From season 2014-15, the bottom team enters a play-off against the winner of a play-off between the winners of the Highland and Lowland Leagues for a place in the next season’s competition.  East Stirlingshire fell foul of this with defeat to Edinburgh City in May.

The club left its traditional home in Falkirk to move in with Stenhousemuir at Ochilview Park  in 2008.  Plans are in place to set up a new home in Grangemouth.

There have been a lot of changes at the club since relegation.  John Sludden has come in from Camelon Juniors to manage the team.  With several players deciding that the Lowland League wasn’t for them, he has had to assemble a new squad quickly.  He brought striker Jamie Glasgow and defender Derek Ure with him from Camelon, both of whom are returning to East Stirlingshire.  He has signed up former Falkirk player Cameron Hogg, ex-Stirling Albion pair Craig Comrie and Scott Buist, , midfielder Dylan McGuigan from Cumbernauld United, his own son, Paul, from Stirling University, keeper Dean Shaw from Stenhousemuir, midfielder Graeme MacGregor from Linlithgow Rose (another returnee) and striker David Grant from Cumbernauld Colts.

East Stirlingshire began their first season in the Lowland League with a 2-2 draw at home to Vale of Leithen before winning 5-2 at Whitehill Welfare and were 3-1 winners at home to Hawick.

A bad start to the afternoon with the person in front of me getting the last programme as we entered the ground.  There were around 150 in the ground, including a small band of particularly vociferous East Stirlingshire fans who placed themselves behind the goal their team was shooting towards.

The Shire started strongly and Glasgow found Grant in the box in three minutes and he turned well, but Laird blocked his shot.

Grant was involved again a minute later when he squared the ball to Rodgers, but his first time shot was off target.

The Shire fans sang songs about “hating the trams” and whenever a plane flew overhead, one of them would point at it and shout “a plane!”.  That wouldn’t get annoying during the game.  Particularly when the ground is directly underneath a major flight path from Edinburgh Airport and an aircraft goes over every two minutes.

East Stirlingshire continued to make the early running and Sludden’s long ball forward in 7 minutes found Grant, who ran at two defenders, cut inside and then sent an unstoppable shot into the top corner for the opening goal.

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In 15 minutes, Rodgers took the ball down for East Stirlingshire and played it to Grant on the edge of the box.  The striker once again hammered a shot into the top corner past a helpless Burnside.

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Things were looking bleak for the home side but a minute later, they found a way back into the game.  Shaw in the Shire goal had the ball at his feet and plenty time to decide what to do with it, but delayed too long and Cunningham went to close him down and blocked the ball as the keeper tried to beat him, and the ball ricocheted into the net.

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Someone on (or near) the Strollers bench shouted across at the Shire fans behind the goal “We scored in a brothel” after they had been singing that the home side would be unable to do so.   They may well have, but it certainly wasn’t with one of the best looking ones there.

Straight up the other end from kick off and Glasgow restored the two goal lead with a curling shot into the corner after a pass from Rodgers.  This really didn’t look like being Burnside’s day in the Strollers’ goal.

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With 20 minutes on the clock, a good run from Grant after MacGregor’s throw in took him to the byline on the right after beating Turnbull and Dingwall.  He chipped the ball to the back post where Glasgow volleyed in via the post.  4-1 to the Shire.

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A minute later and it was 4-2.  A chip forward found Froude running in on goal and he half volleyed in Strollers’ second of the afternoon.

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Glasgow attacked Strollers again in 23 minutes and from the corner of the box, sent in a powerful shot that Burnside managed to touch over.

In 26 minutes, Rodgers played the ball through for Grant who ran between Dingwall and Turnbull and clipped it past Burnside for his hat-trick and his team’s fifth.

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A corner for Strollers in 28 minutes was crossed by Finnie and headed behind again by a defender, but a goal kick was given.

Ure began another Shire attack in 29 minutes with a pass to Grant on the right.  He played the ball across the face of goal and it came to Sludden who let the ball hit his thighs about a yard out to cushion it into the net.

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Not even half an hour gone and East Stirlingshire led 6-2.

Rodgers stole the ball for Shire in the home box in 40 minutes and crossed for Grant, but it was just too high and he couldn’t get his header on target.

A shot across the face of Strollers goal in 40 minutes by MacGregor after a good move found Glasgow at the far post and his cutback was rifled home by Rodgers for the ninth goal of the game.  Someone in the crowd pointed out that it was almost 50 pence a goal.

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With three minutes to half time, Strollers worked the ball down the left to Froude whose cross found the unmarked Milligan, and his diving header got Strollers’ third goal of the afternoon.

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After Shire kicked off, Sludden tried to score from the half way line, but his effort was too high.  Given the way the game had gone, you couldn’t really blame him.

An astonishing first half with ten goals shared between the sides.  Probably the most amazing half of football I’d ever seen.  Some of the finishing was fantastic with some of the defending abysmal.  The Shire front players were having a field day, but everything seemed to start with the excellent Ure.

Shaw needed lengthy treatment in the Shire goal after 53 minutes when he was tripped after catching a cross.  His team mates were going mad at what they considered to be a deliberate trip.  He eventually had to go off.

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In 59 minutes, a goalbound shot from East Stirlingshire’s Glasgow came off the back of the referee.  This game really did have everything.

Froude did well for Strollers in 63 minutes to turn away from Andy Grant and he ran on to the edge of the box, but his shot was easily taken by Dolan.

As the game progressed, it was as though the footballing gods were trying to decide what hadn’t happened yet, and another thing was ticked off in 64 minutes when Glasgow got the ball in the face in the Strollers’ box.

The Shire attacked again in 67 minutes and Rodgers picked out Glasgow on the left.  His cross found Grant in the middle whose shot came off the underside of the bar before sitting up for the same player to nod into the net.  That made it 8-3 to East Stirlingshire and was David Grant’s fourth of the game.

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The noisy away fans, who had switched ends at half time were asked to move from behind the goal, over the tannoy, as there was nothing between them and the goal.

Glasgow of Shire and Strollers’ Cunningham were both booked after a pushing match in 70 minutes.

There was a good turn and volley at the Strollers’ goal by Glasgow in 78 minutes which was well held by Burnside.

Froude did well down the right for Strollers in 79 minutes, and his cross was only half cleared to Milligan, but his shot was deflected wide.

A great curling shot by Boyce in 82 minutes was very close to the Shire goal, but went just wide.

The Shire fans told the linesman that his latest offside decision had been a guess.  He replied with “Every one is a guess”.  Nice comeback.

Injury time saw more pushing between players, this time between Crane and Greene.

Inevitably, a disappointing second half after the first.  East Stirlingshire are rightly considered to be one of the favourites to win the league this year and they were very good going forward.  They may need to tighten up that defence though. Strollers battled to the end but were a bit naïve in their defending in the first half.  The introduction of Milven at half time helped change that.

It’s hard to see past Shire’s attacking players for the pick of the bunch.  David Grant’s finishing was excellent, Glasgow, Rodgers and Sludden all impressed, but Ure was the star in midfield.  Froude probably took the honours for best Stroller.

A game that those in the crowd are unlikely to forget in a hurry.

Full Time: Civil Service Strollers 3 East Stirlingshire 8 (EIGHT)

Admission: £5

Civil Service Strollers: 1 Stuart Burnside, 2 Chris Milligan, 3 Joe Dingwall, 4 Robbie Laird (Milven 45), 5 Sean Turnbull, 6 Matthew Cunningham, 7 Alex Brown (Crane 76), 8 Edward Martin (Boyce 76), 9 Steven Froude, 10 Jordan Finnie, 11Gary Newark. Subs: 12 Jordan Boyce, 14 Hayden Crane, 15 Bradley Rixon, 16 Barry Milven, 17 Jonathan Watson.

East Stirlingshire: 1 Dean Shaw (Dolan 57), 2 Graeme MacGregor, 3 Adam Murray, 4 Andy Grant, 5 Connor Greene, 6 Kris Faulds (Hogg 68), 7 Andy Rodgers, 8 Derek Ure, 9 David Grant (McMillan 76), 10 Paul Sludden, 11 Jamie Glasgow. Subs: 12 Dylan McGuigan, 14 Cameron Hogg, 15 Gavin McMillan, 16 Simon White, 17 Darren Dolan, 18 Lewis Peddie.

Referee: Mike Taylor

Programme: Scarce.

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