East Stirlingshire take on Cove Rangers in final pre-season test

Shire boss John Sludden
Shire boss John Sludden

East Stirlingshire will face their fourth, and final, pre-season warm-up game on Saturday with coach John Sludden convinced his side will be in good shape when the Lowland League action gets underway.

Shire have taken on East of Scotland League Tynecastle FC, West Region junior side Arthurlie, and Falkirk’s Under-20s in the space of the last week, and while the three matches have yielded just one victory (4-3 over Arthurlie) and brought two defeats (3-1 to Tynecastle and 3-2 to Falkirk on Tuesday night), Sludden says progress has been made.

The programme of friendlies will be brought to an end on Saturday when Shire face Highland League Cove Rangers at Links Park in Montrose.

The gaffer says the choice of their final pre-season opponents had been thought out in advance.

“We always had it in mind that we would want to take on a similar kind of challenge to the one we will face in the Lowland League,” he said. “Cove Rangers are a very good side and they will provide us with a benchmark.

“It’s a game we are looking forward to.”

Shire are unlikely to encounter players of the quality of Alan Maybury’s young Bairns regularly over the course of the coming season but Tuesday night’s work out at Westfield, which ended in a narrow 3-2 defeat for Sludden’s men was very worthwhile.

“They have a lot of very good young players and it was a decent work out for us,” he said. “We wanted to face a quality set of opponents from senior football and the game was useful.” in a number of different ways.”

While fitness levels may be regarded as the main factor, Shire boss John Sludden says the tactical element to pre-season games is an aspect which shouldn’t be overlooked.

Sludden tried different formations against the Falkirk under-20 team on Tuesday and believes these are just the kind of games to find out what does, and doesn’t, work.

“We started off with three at the back for the first 20 minutes then switched to four,” he said. ”In all our games so far we have tried to experiment with formations and playing some players in different positions.

“But at the same time we had to balance that out with the need to give everyone in the squad enough game time and make sure some of the younger players got their chance as well.”

Shire’s first competitive game of the season will be the Lowland League opener against BSC Glasgow at Ochilview on July 29.

And the boss says he thinks his players will be ready for the big kick-off.

He said: “The good thing is we have been scoring lots of goals and creating chances in the warm-up games and we will be looking for that to continue against Cove Rangers on Saturday.

“The results of the games are not as important as making sure players get to the right level of match fitness.”