Having been out for a couple of shandies on Friday evening, I didn’t venture north for Hearts clash with Inverness Caledonian Thistle. I figured my delicate constitution would struggle with a three and a half hour train journey to the beautiful capital of the Highlands. Instead, I headed to Larbert to see my other team, East Stirlingshire, take on a side now managed by a man still hugely popular with Hearts supporters - one Paul Hartley (as used to be chanted at Tynecastle)
The man who destroyed Hibernian with a hat trick in the Scottish Cup semi final at Hampden five and a half years ago is now player-manager of Third Division Alloa Athletic and while he opted to remain in his suit, collar and tie for the short trip to Ochilview, there’s no doubt Hartley is already exerting considerable influence over The Wasps. Alloa played a neat, passing game which some might say will prove their undoing in the hurley burley of the basement league although it didn’t stop Livingston powering their way to the Third Division title a couple of seasons back. With former Aberdeen players Darren Young and Robbie Winters providing experience, The Wasps won 1-0 and it was interesting to see Hartley, a rookie manager, continually encouraging his players from the touchline.
Shire played some decent football at times and manager John Couglin has the team playing more of a passing game. However, as has been proved so far this season, Shire have nothing up front and their decent play counts for nothing when they get to the final third of the field. Chances are few and far between so when they do come along they really have to take them. After half an hour, Ally Love had a glorious chance to open the scoring when he pounced on a mistake from Ben Gordon but the Shire man, having rounded the goalkeeper, then contrived to place his shot wide of the post. Inevitably, Alloa scored just before half time when the aforementioned Gordon diverted McCord's cross for the only goal of the game.
I had hoped to see Paul Hartley in action but, with his 35th birthday just a few weeks away, he believed the players in his team would do the business without his influence on the field. And he was right. Having been relegated to the Third Division following a play-off defeat by Annan Athletic at the end of last season, Alloa are among the favourites to bounce straight back up again. Led by a man who remains a hero to thousands of Hearts supporters, I would be very surprised if The Wasps didn’t live up to expectations.
As for Shire, they may be bottom of the league but they won't be there for long. If only they could unearth a striker who knows where the goal is...