Vale of Leithen 2

East Stirlingshire 4

David Knox at Victoria Park

WHAT began with plenty ho, ho, ho didn’t bring the Christmas cheer Vale boss Chris Anderson was hoping for.

Not only did his team squander a handful of early chances and give up a lead against Shire but his star player, Jay Stevens, suffered a horrific ankle injury.

A despondent Anderson said: “We made a positive start and created plenty opportunities, so it was disappointing to let them back into the game and go and deserve to win.

“Jay is a big player for us and the game went in their favour after he had to come off. He’s gone off to hospital with a gash on his ankle and it is likely he’ll be out for a while.

“We started the season brightly enough but we’ve lost our way lately, mainly because of the injuries we have, and we need to start winning again after the Christmas break.”

Vale could easily have been two or three up before Blair Atkinson blasted them into the lead on 14 minutes.

The on-loan striker from Spartans, who will remain at Victoria Park until the end of the season, had earlier tested Jamie Barclay with a powerful shot.

And both Stevens and Sean Stewart fired inches wide of the target during the early pressure.

Shire, who had fired 10 past Gala a fortnight earlier, created their first chance on 21 minutes – and it took a tremendous save from Andy McQueen to tip Paul Sludden’s lob round the post.

Stevens should have doubled Vale’s advantage on the half hour after being threaded through by Stewart, but he poked the ball round the wrong side of the post.

The miss was to prove costly as just two minutes later an Andy Rodgers shot deflected off the head of Steven Lynch to loop over a stranded McQueen.

The loss of Stevens to injury unbalanced Vale, and it was the visitors who began to get on top.

Just a minute before the interval Marc Berry failed to clear his lines and Kris Fauld’s return dink across goal was headed into his own net, via the post, by Danny O’Donnell.

Vale drew level two minutes into the second half with Atkinson latching onto Keith McLeod’s flick to rifle another powerful shot beyond Barclay.

But the comeback was short-lived, as a minute later Robbie Manson tripped Rodgers inside the area.

The Shire winger stepped up to despatch the penalty for his 24th of the season.

Apart from a couple of attempts from distance Vale failed to show any signs of getting back on level terms.

And it was the visitors who finished the strongest with Sludden completing a break away at the back post to make it 4-2.

Only the woodwork prevented Connor Greene making it five in the closing stages with a powerful header.

Shire boss John Sludden, who has just agreed a new long-term deal to remain at Ochilview, said: “We were poor in the first half but we sorted ourselves out and deserved the victory in the end.”

Vale of Leithen. A McQueen, R Manson, K Boyes (L McIntosh 46), S Lynch, D O’Donnell, A Hunter, S Stewart, R Lamb (T Patterson 70), B Atkinson, K McLeod & J Stevens (M Berry 37).