For the first time in the league this season we face familiar opposition when we travel to Falkirk to face East Stirlingshire. Our paths crossed many times over the years. We've met 140 times in league games with the Dream Team having the better record it with 65 victories to Shire's 41, the other 34 being draws.
Shire were founded back in 1881 and spent virtually their entire existence in the lowest tier of Scottish Football. They spent two seasons in the top division back in 1932/33 and 1963/64. In more recent times they almost became a byword for a poor team - for five seasons from 2002/03 they would finish rock bottom of the Scottish League only improving in 2007/08 to rise to the mighty heights of ninth. The following two seasons would see Jim McInally guide them to successive third place finishes and the play offs only to slump to ninth the following season leading to the departure of McInally. He would be replaced by a certain John Coughlin who oversaw two more bottom place finishes followed by an eighth place. He was replaced by Craig Tully who would oversee what would be the final two seasons for Shire in the league for now. Finishing ninth in 14/15 before a bottom place the following season saw them enter a play off to retain their league status. As we know they would lose the play off to Edinburgh City and so a long in glorious time in the league came to an end.
Of course the bare history doesn't tell all the story with Shire. They will forever have a place in football history and in football quizzes simply for being the club who gave Alex Ferguson his break in management who was appointed on the recommendation of Ally McLeod. He was only there for 117 days but ensured his place in Shire folklore by getting them there first win over Falkirk in 70 year.
The early part of this century certainly proved a testing time for Shirefeaturing the infamous £10 a week payment to players and Dennis Newell working for free as manager, continual threats to their full member status which were saved only by their fellow clubs voting in their favour (not a closed shop though, absolutely not) and by league renegotiation discussions (ironically the renegotiation that would eventually cost them their place). The end of season 2007/08 also saw the sad move from Firs Park to groundsharing at Ochilview with Stenhousemuir.
In fact the whole of this century at Shire needs a page of it's own. Fortunately for those interested they have it on their own website and you can find it here https://eaststirlingshirefc.co.uk/2000s
Shire are now in their fourth season in the Lowland League having finished 2nd, 4th an 6th since relegation. Something which could be seen as a worrying decline (especially for any Berwick fans looking to draw parallels between the club's fortunes). This season has seen a new optimism at Shire and under Derek Ure's leadership with Andy Rodger helping they are making a challenge to regain their league place. They currently sit in third place, five points behind BFKH having played a game more. With 42 goals in 14 games they possess a real threat going forward. They come into this game on the back of tree consecutive 3 - 1 wins. Their only defeats this season have been at the hands of BFKH, East Kilbride and Bonnyrigg.
Jamie Dishington provides a threat up front having scored 11 goals but with 13 different goal scorers this season there are threats all over the pitch. One familiar face in their line up is Bobby Barr, now 31 many of us will remember Barr from his time at Albion Rovers where he was always an entertaining view while being one of those players who had a knack of winding up opposition fans. Dream Teamers will also recognise a familiar face in goal as we are likely to come up against Jamie Barclay.
Having seen Shire at Gala earlier this season there can be no doubt we will have to be on top of our game to take something away from Falkirk. They are a pretty slick fast moving team who can come at you from both wings and get men forward from the middle. We will really need to compete in midfield and stop them moving the ball around. the encouragement from that game would be that Gala created several decent chances but came up against a fairly inspired Jamie Barclay.
Our team news suggests that Healy is a doubt and Cook is still out. I would hope we stick with the midfield from last week as Chalmers should help to close down the space in the middle and Smith and Balde are competitive.