John Coughlin reckons he will learn more about his new-look East Stirlingshire side by watching them lose to good teams than by thumping poor ones.
The Shire coach is relatively unconcerned by Saturday’s 1-0 reverse against Stranraer and Tuesday night’s 3-1 defeat at the hands of Stenhousemuir and says it is better to test the team against good quality opponents.
Both Second Division sides started the games at almost full-strength sides while Shire were depleted by injuries and holiday call-offs. Coughlin feels, in such circumstances, his players did themselves justice.
“We have some new players coming into the squad this season and I need to find out how they are going to perform for us,” he said. “In truth, I will discover a lot more in these kind of games, against decent opposition, than I would if we were knocking in five or six goals against sides that were not anywhere near as good.
“These were two tough workouts for our players and there were stages in each game where I think we more than matched our opponents, and that is a very encouraging sign.”
Less encouraging is the absence at this stage of the season of key players. New signing Chris Townsley is doing pre-season at his own, slower pace as he continues to recover from a hernia operation in May. Michael Herd is seeking help for a recurring groin problem which hampered him last season while Iain Thomson and Michael McGowan have missed both games through holiday commitments.
The coach says that is just part of life at a part-time football club and he does not think their absence in the pre-season friendlies will make much of a difference once the action gets under way for real.
Coughlin cannot be too displeased with what he has seen from his squad so far. They will try to take that further when they face East of Scotland League side Craigroyston at St Mark’s Park in Edinburgh on Saturday at 2.30 p.m.
“This will be another tough game for us,” he said.
“They have been playing a lot of league sides in pre-season and getting very good results against them. It looks as though we won’t have any fresh legs to help us on Saturday and we will just have to rely on the players who have been in action in the last two games.
“But I have seen enough now from those players to give us a lot of encouragement for the new season. Once we get other key players back in the team then we should be raring to go.”
Meanwhile, Shire received an off-the-field boost this week by signing up a new sponsor for their first choice black-and-white strip.
The Larbert Mortgage Centre will have its name across the front of the team’s new-look jerseys when the season gets under way.
“It is a significant investment in our club and we are really delighted with this news,” said Shire chairman Tony Ford. “We have now secured strip sponsors for all three kits and at a time of economic recession across the whole country, that is a good achievement.
“I think there is a lot of optimism around the place and our fans seem enthusiastic about our prospects and the signings we have made. I don’t think there is a single person at the Shire who can’t wait for the season to start,” said Tony.