Hawick Royal Albert 2
East Stirlingshire 4
At Albert Park
A BUMPER crowd of just under 300 witnessed a thrilling comeback by Shire to keep the title race alive for at least one more week.
Hard-working Hawick have proven in recent weeks that they are capable of mixing it with the best in the Lowland League.
And boss Kevin Milne could rightfully feel aggrieved not to have earned at least a point on Saturday evening.
His team had been narrowly beaten 2-1 midweek against East Kilbride – and there was an element of déjà vu four days later.
Milne told us: “We were very unlucky against East Kilbride as we got in front and looked good for it.
“We got ourselves into the lead twice tonight and they had resorted to long balls before they finally got the better of us.
“I’m pleased with the gutsy performance of the players and hopefully we can take that forward in our final games.
“We’ve performed well in recent weeks against the top three or four teams in this league and on another night we could have got something from this game.”
It started well enough for Hawick with in-form Hamish Hunter scrambling home the opener after only 13 minutes.
Jon McInally, who is also flourishing under the new management, stung the hands of Jamie Barclay 10 minutes later with a powerful 25-yard freekick.
But Shire began to create their own chances approaching the half hour.
Mike Oliver headed a Paul Sludden freekick inches over the bar, and Derek Ure’s speculative effort from 35 yards sailed just over the bar.
The equaliser came on 36 minutes with the prolific Andy Rodgers finding enough space at the back post to head home a deep cross.
Just two minutes later David Grant smacked the post as the visitors searched for the lead.
But Hawick, as they have shown most of this season, refused to lie down and both Josh Morris and Hunter forced goalline blocks before the break.
Shire were on top early in the second half but they were caught on the counter attack just before the hour.
Kris Mitchell raced onto a McInally through pass to steer the ball beyond Barclay.
Morris almost extended the lead on 68 minutes as he fired an angled shot across the face of goal.
But Shire were forcing the home team deeper and deeper.
Andy Jack made two impressive blocks on 75 minutes to deny David Grant but at the third attempt the striker lobbed to the back post for Kris Faulds to nod in the equaliser.
Just three minutes later Rodger beat the offside trap to slam in Shire’s third.
Jack’s protests earned him a yellow card – and a verbal attack on the referee, which included a simulated head butt, led to a further straight red card for the keeper.
James McPartlin deputised between the posts for the final 12 minutes, pulling off a couple of decent saves.
But Shire managed to score a fourth in stoppage time with Sludden hitting the target from a tight angle.
Hawick Royal Albert. A Jack, R Stevenson, D McKenzie, S Spence, C Watson, J McPartlin, J Bernawi (G Scott 84), J McInally, J Morris, K Mitchell & H Hunter