May 13, 2009 – Ochilview Park, Stenhousemuir
I have to confess to having a wee soft spot for East Stirlingshire, so I ventured along to this game in the hope of seeing them take a step towards some long overdue and much deserved success.
Stenhousemuir’s Ochilview Park was the venue, as it is for all the Shire home games nowadays, with their homely and humble Firs Park now languishing in the football ground equivalent of the knackers yard.
I used to really enjoy going to Firs Park, and tried to make it there a couple of times a season. While it was spoiled to some extent by the large, featureless wall behind one goal, it’s wee barrel roofed stand and the shed opposite had a bit of character about them.
As mere tenants, Shire haven’t been able to stamp any sort of mark on Ochilview, although they have brought with them the legendary tannoy announcer who was a staple at Firs Park over many years.
In an era of bland and irritating stadium announcers, who tend to burst your eardrums with their inane appeals to ‘make some noise’, the Shire man’s patter makes for a refreshing change.
Robbed of his former boast that the Shire were the top team in Falkirk (town centre), he now takes a tongue-in-cheek pop at Shire’s landlords by referring to their Ochilview home as ‘Lesser Firs Park’.
Whatever you want to call it, Ochilview itself doesn’t have a whole lot to recommend it in my view, mainly because it consists of only two sides these days.
The covered terracing behind the goal was reserved for Cowdenbeath supporters on this occasion, a disappointingly small number of whom turned up for this important match.
Being a Shire sympathiser, I opted for the stand instead, going against my usual preference to stand rather than sit.
The stand itself is relatively new and as such is a pretty bog standard concrete effort containing a few rows of maroon plastic seats. I can’t recall for sure when it was built, but when I visited the ground with Meadowbank in the mid Nineties, the old stand was still standing on the touchline opposite.
In fairness to Stenhousemuir, the ground ticks most of the boxes in terms of what they require and in many respects is probably an ideal set-up for a small town, lower league club.
Its limited capacity is still plenty for most of their games, and for generating income there are five-a-side pitches for hire, in addition to the main artificial park which itself is rented out whenever it’s not required for training or games.
For me, it’s just a bit generic, with the highlight of any trip there being the food, which ranks amongst the best in Scottish football.
On the field, the game started brightly with the Shire looking the more positive in the early stages. The wind was taken out of their sails somewhat when Cowden found the net with their first meaningful attack, striker John Gemmill showing alertness to score with a rebound after a teammate’s initial shot was blocked.
After that initial spurt, the game degenerated into a pretty dull affair in the most part. It was an unhappy contrast with the fine sunny weather overhead.
There were some highlights obviously, but the two teams seemed to cancel each other out. The level of finishing was woeful too, with the notable example of Cowden’s second goal after half an hour’s play.
It was strike of quite stunning quality – the proverbial goal fit to win any match with Jay Stein hitting a unstoppable shot from the angle of the box. To drop another cliche into the mix, it was worth the admission money on its own.
Two goals to the good, Cowden were generally in control although they were dealt a blow when one of their players fell awkwardly early in the second half and had to be carted off on a stretcher.
Shire were largely disappointing, and it wasn’t until the last half hour that they exerted any real pressure on the visitors defence.
They pulled a goal back though an untidy Andy Rodgers finish and had a couple of chances thereafter, but their hopes of clawing the game back to a draw were scuppered in the end by a lack of quality in the final third.
There could have been few complaints at the final result in Cowdenbeath’s favour, although the consolation for the Shire and their vociferous fans is that their side have a lifeline for the second leg at Central Park.
Scoring – 0-1 Gemmill (12), 0-2 Stein (30), 1-2 Rodgers (62)
Attendance – 605
Admission – £10
Programme – £1.50
Ground – 6/10 – Two-sided but in good order
Game – 6/10. A wee bit flat
Overall experience – 6/10. The catering was the best bit!
Match Report Links
East Stirlingshire FC official website