Cut out the soft goals we are giving away and get us back on track. That’s the rallying call from East Stirlingshire coach John Coughlin this week.
Five defeats in their last six matches have seen Shire slip to the outer fringes of the promotion play-off picture and, with only four games left in the season, that may now be a difficult gap to make up.
But Coughlin says there is a way back along the road to recovery between now and the final match of a season that will still be measured as a success for a club who have finished bottom of the table in each of the last two seasons.
“The goals we are losing right now are costing us games,” he said. “And they are avoidable goals that stem from our own mistakes. We are still playing well in matches and creating chances but we have to stop gifting opponents the lead in games.
“The longer it goes on the more it becomes about confidence. Sometimes you can see it just drift out of players as soon as we fall behind.”
Saturday’s trip to Albion Rovers was the perfect case in point. Shire had more possession, more chances and more shots on goal than their hosts but still ended up losing the game. Coughlin now wants their superiority in the stats column transfer into the only stat that really matters; three points on a Saturday.
“When you look at the percentages in isolation it would give anyone not at the game the impression that we dominated it. We had more of the ball, we had more shots and we had decent chances to score as well.
“But it doesn’t matter if you can’t put the ball in the net and then make the kinds of error in front of your own goal that gift opponents scoring opportunities that are almost impossible to miss.”
Shire will draw some comfort when they look at the fixture list for this weekend and see Annan Athletic down for a visit to Ochilview. The club from Dumfriesshire booked their own promotion play-off spot last weekend but have found Shire impossible to beat this term.
Coughlin’s men reserved two of their best performances of the season for their trips to Annan’s Galabank ground and came away each time with impressive victories each time, while their only meeting at Ochilview ended in a draw.
Coughlin’s squad is nursing a few bumps and bruises. Jordan McKechnie missed the Albion Rovers match with a knee injury and is already a doubt to face the club he left last summer to join Shire. Some others are nursing injuries and illness so Coughlin will leave his team selection to the last minute to get a clearer picture of who is available.
It is still not impossible that should Shire get their campaign back on the road with a win on Saturday they may still sneak into the play-offs. But the reality is that would take a dramatic turnaround in recent form and probably require them to win each of their last four games.
Coughlin had built his hopes on making the play-offs and has not given up on the idea yet. But he says however the remainder of the season unfolds it has to be regarded as a successful step in the right direction for a club making steady progress after decades in the doldrums.
“Of course we would have liked to have consolidated after spending the first twelve weeks of the season at the top of the league. We have worked hard to get ourselves in a play-off position and even now that is still achievable.
“But we have also brought a bit of respect back to the club after so many last place finishes and however it turns out that is a point which should not be lost on anyone.”