Scottish Communities League Cup, 1st Round - Ochilview Park
With Hearts not playing until Sunday I took the opportunity to head to darkest Larbert - actually it was a very sunny and warm Larbert - on Saturday to watch my 'other team' take on Ayr United in the Scottish Communities League Cup. As was the case a year ago Shire have had numerous changes in personnel with only a handful of players remaining from last season. In addition, coach Jim McInally left at the end of last season and his replacement is the vastly experienced John Coughlin.
It was a decent game played in warm weather and there was much to entertain the shirt-sleeved crowd, in particular a noisy travelling support who gave Ayr United huge vocal encouragement from start to finish. Being something of an old punk (insert your own punchline here) I was quite impressed by their version of the Sex Pistols classic Anarchy in the UK...
Ayr United are two divisions higher than Shire - and it showed. Despite a spirited showing from the home team, Ayr had more skill and experience - Alex Burke and Mark Roberts showed some of the Shire youngsters a thing or two - although after an opening five minutes when Shire could barely get out of their own half, the home side did come more into things. After the visitors passed up several chances to score, it was Shire who almost opened the scoring when Ally Love had an effort well saved by Cuthbert. Just when it seemed they might get to half time on level terms, Shire's good work was undone when Trouten took advantage of hesitancy in the home defence to poke the ball past Sorely to give the visitors the lead. Five minutes later the roof fell in on the hosts when Moffat tapped home after Sorely had saved well from Trouten.
Ayr United then put the issue beyond doubt five minutes after the break when Roberts was first to react in the six yard box to tap home and end the scoring at 3-0 to The Honest Men.
However, it was a decent game and while there is a lot of work for Shire manager John Coughlin to do there are some promising signs and some good young talent who work hard for each other. I sense a more passing style from Shire this season than was the case under Jim McInally. One thing that might become an issue, though - indiscipline. I sat just a few yards away from an incident in the second half when Love belied his surname by having a real go at the standside assistant referee in a manner that could easily have brought the Shire man a yellow card. The Scottish Communities League Cup has respect as a buzzword - something a few players should think about.