Players are out but opponents give optimism

Craig Tully (centre)
Craig Tully (centre)

There is little likelihood that three key East Stirlingshire players will return from injury in time for Saturday’s derby trip to face Stirling Albion at Forthbank Stadium.

The absence of Chris Townsley, Neil McCabe and David McKenna over the past few weeks has had a major impact in Shire’s inability to close the eight point gap at the bottom of the League 2 table. And the news this week is that the three men may have to sit on the sidelines for a while yet.

It’s a severe headache for coach Craig Tully, who says he can ill-afford to be without three players he considers automatic starters.“It’s been a bit of a nightmare with injuries and suspensions,” he said. “We’ve got three of our most important players, guys we can’t really afford to be without, having to sit in the stand at the most crucial time of the season.

“And it looks like it could be a couple of weeks longer before we get them back. The players who have come back into the team have done a decent job and no-one can fault any of the players for effort over the past few matches, but we have come up short.”

Like everyone else who has seen Shire’s most recent performances it’s obvious to Tully where the main issues lie. Since a 1-0 victory over Clyde on March 1, Shire have lost four straight and have conceded 14 goals in that quartet of games. “Against Clyde on Saturday we looked good going forward and created plenty of chances but the goals we gave away were cheap ones. And it mostly comes down to individual errors or a lack of concentration, we need to aim for better.”

Shire will now have a real job on their hands to stay out of the pyramid play-off in May. They trail the rest of the division by eight points and have only six games left to play, but Tully is not giving up the season as a lost cause.

“We just have to approach every game believing we can win it,” he added.

If Shire are looking for positive signs then their opponents’ recent form might just give a chink of light; Stirling Albion have lost five of their last seven, the most recent a 6-0 thumping at home against leaders East Fife last weekend.

Albion at one point looked part of the promotion-chasing pack but have now drifted away off the pace taking just four points from a possible 21, a record identical to Shire’s.