Having been chilled to the bone at Celtic Park the day before, I took advantage of the fact East Stirling’s home match with Berwick Rangers was on the Sunday. As Stenhousemuir were playing at the same venue on the Saturday it was an opportune moment to continue our grounds tour.
I had initially been looking for Sunday’s Premiership fixtures and kick off time’s on Saturday night when I saw there was a 3pm Scottish 3rd Division fixture. I said to my two boys, “how do you fancy going to see East Stirling?” and was greeted with faces akin to those who’d just been told Christmas was cancelled! I tried, somewhat unsuccessfully to encourage them and enthuse that we could technically tick two grounds off the list as the Shire ground share with Stenhousemuir.
By lunch time however, the older one had come round and said he would go, so instead of watching Chelsea v Manchester City in the warmth of our own home, we set off for the 37 mile journey to sit in the Larbert cold!
We set off quite late but were still parked up and in the ground in plenty of time. On entering the ground everything is in close proximity, the food bar, the toilets, merchandise, programme seller and half time draw tickets. We were closest to the Berwick players warming up and watched them being put through their paces.
The ground has a terrace area behind one goal and the main stand with the dug outs situated across. Both sets of supporters mingled freely without any animosity and it was a very friendly atmosphere. As the East Stirlingshire players came off the park having completed their warm up, two young lads aged approximately eight or nine waited at the tunnel to collect autographs, which was quite touching to see for this level of football. I’m not sure they’d fetch much if they were ever put on ebay!
I have to confess I only knew a couple of names from either team and was no more the wiser even after reading the match programme. As the two teams came out, my son remarked how ‘ancient’ the Berwick keeper looked, so out of intrigue I googled him on my phone. On finding out that the keeper in question, Ian McCaldon is actually a year older than me it would be fair to say that the boy was bordering getting a clip round the ear!
Both teams went at each other from the first whistle, and there was a lot of football played on the deck which I was surprised to see. There weren’t many clear cut chances for either side, though Shire probably had the better of them before Berwick opened the scoring. From a corner on the far side, the ball fell to Ross Gray at the back post and he swept the ball into the net for what turned out to be the only goal of the game.
We sat in the main stand near the halfway line near the Berwick Directors. The banter between both sets of supporters was both funny and good natured. We were surrounded by predominantly older fans and were doubled up laughing at one guy who kept shouting “ring a ding ding, East Stir-ling” along with a group who belted out “dirty, dirty, dur-tee” every time there was a bad challenge!
Just before the start of the second half, the jovial tannoy announcer gave the official attendance as 327 which I was surprised at as to me it seemed as if there were more people present than that. We left just at the start of injury time to make a sharp exit home and read later that Shire had hit the post right at the death.
Overall, I’d have to say that it was an enjoyable day out. I genuinely commend and applaud the staff at the club who make a matchday possible. The players, although part time and not paid great sums of money were fully committed and ran themselves into the ground for their team and supporters. I’d have to say it was a very good advert for the Scottish 3rd Division and will no doubt see these teams play again this season……..