East Stirlingshire may have to do without Ally Love when they travel to East Fife this weekend for their important Scottish Cup third round match.
Coach John Coughlin fears Love’s red card picked up in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Elgin City will rule the former St. Mirren man out of the match through suspension.
Normally, bans incurred in league matches only apply to the same competition but Coughlin says Love’s offence could be considered violent conduct, and if that is the case he may be landed with a two or three match automatic suspension.
“We will just have to wait on the referee’s report and what action the SFA take,” said the Shire boss. “But I am bracing myself for the prospect of having to do without Ally.
“What he did on Saturday was stupid and if he does get a longer ban then he will only have himself to blame.”
Coughlin has not had his problems to seek with player discipline this season. Only last week defender Ryan Frances was banned for 12 matches by the SFA after being sent-off in a Scottish Cup-tie against Buckie Thistle. Coughlin says the club was taken by surprise by the length of the ban but may just have to take it on the chin and move on.
“To be honest, we knew he was going to get a long ban for what happened but 12 matches does seem a bit excessive. We have been asked whether we would appeal on the grounds that the punishment was too harsh but to appeal costs money and the club does not have the kind of cash needed to lodge one.
“We know what Ryan did was wrong, we did not seek to defend his actions and although 12 games seems harsh the point remains that he should not have acted in the way he did,” said Coughlin.
All of which leaves the Shire boss covering old ground with his players again trying to encourage them to keep their cool on the pitch. He says the Love incident on Saturday has forced him into a fresh think about how he approaches the subject of indiscipline with his players.
“We have spoken to them until we are blue in the face and it seems to have no effect,” he said. “I may just change tack and tell them that if they get sent-off then they are out of the team. That may sound harsh but this is one area where we need to improve.”
Saturday’s point against Elgin City was Shire’s first since the opening day of the season and brought to an end a miserable run of ten straight league defeats.
The lift the club got from that result may help them boost confidence levels for the weekend trip to Methil. Coughlin put his players through their paces in a closed-door match with Dumbarton on Tuesday night and although they lost 3-2 the coach was encouraged.
“We passed the ball very well, created lots of chances and Nico Gibson scored two goals which will only do his confidence some good. Our morale should have improved on the back of Saturday’s result and Tuesday night’s performance but we know it will be really difficult for us at East Fife,” he said.
Coughlin is not making any rash noises about giant-killing and he knows better than most that East Fife will be expected to notch a routine victory against the Third Division’s bottom side. However, he will travel with some hope.
“You have to believe your team can win any match, otherwise there is no point in turning up,” he said. “But we are not going to be kidded into thinking it would be anything other than a major shock if we were to win.
“But what a great boost it would be to go there and win. It would put us in the draw with the big SPL clubs and it would give the club some much needed cash at a time when money is really tight.”