Craig Tully is starting to see light at the end of the tunnel as his long list of injuries starts to clear up, which he hopes will mean his East Stirlingshire side start realising its potential.
Shire have been beset by a whole series of issues since pre-season which has meant Tully has never been able to field his strongest team. It has forced him to play a number of teenagers signed for the unxer-20 team in league matches and they have had some growing-up to do.
But now the situation is starting to ease. Chris Townsley played his first game since August at Annan and the head coach’s mood improved this week when both Nathan Shepherd and Max Wright returned to full training.
Even Paul McMullan, who suffered a freak injury in the League Cup and hasn’t played since, resumed light training.
“It’s great to see the boys getting back,” said the Shire boss. “We have been missing that bit of experience and have had to play a very young team in some games this season.
“Townsley and Michael Bolochoweckyj would be expected to be the backbone of your team but they have hardly played together this season for one reason or another. We have been relying on the young boys and they have been fine but you need your most experienced players most weeks.”
Tully will certainly need the more experienced players for Sunday’s Scottish Cup game against Dunfermline Athletic at Ochilview.
It’s likely his first choice defensive pairing will play a first game together since August and striker Guy Tahin will be added to the squad. There is a chance fellow striker Wright will be included as well.
“There is no doubt we need our strongest possible group for this game,” said Tully. “Dunfermline will be among the strongest opponents we have faced and they will give us real problems if we let them.”
The Shire gaffer’s biggest problem will be how to shore up Scotland’s leakiest defence. The back line has conceded 11 goals in their last three games but he says there has to be an all-round improvement.
“It’s not just about the youngsters who have been thrown in at the deep end,” he said. “We are a decent side who have been underperforming because of the daft goals we give away. You can’t simply blame the kids for that.”
The club is reminding football fans without a game on Sunday that the game is not all-ticket. Cash turnstiles will operate with Shire fans and neutrals in the stand while Pars supporters will take the Tryst Road terracing. Admission prices are £12 and £6 and season tickets are not valid.