No-one at East Stirlingshire should give up hope that the team can still avoid finishing the season bottom of the Third Division.
Coach John Coughlin says he still believes they can claw back a six point gap on the rest of the league with just half a dozen matches still to play, and this week called on the club’s fans to get out and support the team in numbers when they face Annan Athletic at Ochilview this weekend.
Shire slipped a further point off the pace after Saturday’s disappointing 4-1 defeat at Stranraer but Coughlin has no intention of giving up the season as a lost cause.
“Six points may seem like a lot to claw back at this stage of the season but we will not give up until it is impossible to do so,” he said. “I actually think there is still plenty to play for.
“We are facing Annan Athletic on Saturday who are not in the best of form right now. And people should not forget that we still have to play Clyde and Montrose, who are the two teams closest to us and the ones we are determined to catch.”
Coughlin says that despite their heavy defeat against one of the promotion chasers last weekend, his players remain in good spirits.
“They are a determined bunch of lads who want to prove their point to everyone,” he said. “The team has worked hard in the last couple of months to try and stay in touch and we have pulled off some good results, especially at Ochilview.
“They deserve a chance and it would be good if we could get an extra few in through the gate on Saturday to give them the encouragement they need. We beat Annan the last time they came to Ochilview and we know that what we need are wins with games running out.”
Saturday’s visitors are toiling after a flying start to the season and, having picked up just one point in their last five matches, are not in as good form as the team currently sitting bottom of the heap.
Shire have only lost one of their last five on the 3G surface and the boss says returning to their rented home may make a difference to their fortunes.
“The pitch at Stranraer was not the best and you could see our players were not as sure of their touch as they would have been on the artificial surface.
“They clearly enjoy playing on it and we have a decent record playing at home over the last couple of months. In fact, it would have been a lot better if we had been able to avoid conceding late goals.”
Coughlin will be able to bring back Ryan Frances after a one game ban and is hopeful that Alex Lurinsky will be fit enough to make a return as well. He has missed the last two games with a groin problem but has been receiving extensive treatment.
“We will leave it as late as we can with Alex,” said the Shire boss. “We would like to have him back because he gives us real energy and dynamism and has been able to unsettle teams.
“However, the injury he has picked up is one of those things that is only really treatable through rest and we will just have to wait and see how he is when it gets closer to game time.”
Should the experienced Lurinsky be fit then Coughlin’s team will almost pick itself. He says that is not necessarily anything to worry about.
“We have a very small squad anyway,” said the Shire coach. “When we have our best eleven players out on the pitch I believe we are a match for most teams in the league.
“But when we are hit by injuries and suspensions we do seem a bit thin on the ground and that has maybe set us back a bit in a few of our recent game.
“That said, we are perhaps now starting to show a bit of form as a team and although it may seem a tall order, I am convinced that we have what it takes to get out of the situation we find ourselves in.”