East Stirlingshire have been hit by a fresh injury blow this week as Nathan Shepherd becomes the latest player to be ruled out of competitive action after picking up a knee knock.
He missed last weekend’s game against Annan and it’s looking unlikely he’ll be fit for Saturday’s visit to Albion Rovers.
It’s just the latest example of how Shire boss Craig Tully’s summer team building plans have been thrown to the four winds often in the strangest of circumstances.
As well as Shepherd, Shire will be missing Chris Townsley, who hasn’t played since East Fife a month ago, and Paul McMullan whose injury problems have limited him to just two substitute appearances all season.
Add to that the fact that one major close-season target never joined the club at all because of contract difficulties while two who did, David Niven and Jamie Glasgow, left Shire for personal reasons and Tully’s plans for making Shire a force in the league have been hit on the head.
Indiscipline has also cost him the services of Michael Bolochoweckyj and David McKenna for important games.
Tully’s only real alternative has been to promote players from his under-20 squad and although they have done a good job, it clearly wasn’t part of his summer thinking to have Connor Greene, Billy Vidler and Steven Brisbane as integral parts of his first team plans so early in the season.
The injury to Shepherd is just the latest tale of woe to land at the Shire gaffer’s door. “It’s the same knee he had his recent ACL operation on but we can’t say if that’s the problem,” said Tully.
“It’s something Nathan will have to have looked at by the doctors and see where we go from there.
“It’s only right that after what he’s been through we are cautious and we are not going to take any risks. But we aren’t blessed with too many options in that defensive left-sided position so it does leave us with a problem.”
However, Tully is able to bring back a bit of experience for this week’s visit to Coatbridge. He stuck with a winning team last week against Annan but his kids turned in a disappointing display. That may leave the door open for David Greenhill and Bolochoweckyj to make their return to the starting 11.
Both players showed good form on Monday evening when helping the Shire under-20 team to a 3-1 victory at Alloa, a result that keeps Tully’s teenagers top of the Development League East.
The two older heads returning to the side this weekend may make sense given that Albion Rovers are an experienced side and have been returning some good results of late. It will be certainly a tough place to take a squad of younger players and get a result.
“Spirits are still good,” said the Shire boss. “We did well enough in certain parts of the Annan game and we conceded the only goal of the game to a daft free0kick that we didn’t need to give away.
“They young lads are playing well and you can see them becoming better players as they get more game time at this level. That all should help us get better in the games ahead.”