John Coughlin may be considering changing his East Stirlingshire side, despite a run that has brought seven points from their last three games.
The Shire boss is no respecter of the old adage that you should never change a winning side and even after Tuesday night’s thumping 3-0 win over Clyde at Ochilview the players who contributed to that emphatic victory are by no means certain of keeping their place for this weekend’s clash with Elgin City.
Primary candidate for a return is skipper Kevin Turner who has sat out the last two games with a groin strain. But also waiting in the wings are Nathan Shepherd and Philipp Züfle who have made full recoveries from serious injuries.
“The players who have been in the team over the last few games have done really well,” said Coughlin after Tuesday’s game. “When you look at those three games in the space of seven days you could not really have asked any more of them.
“We were disappointed only to take a draw against Stirling Albion but even in that match I could see that we were going to improve. We saw that improvement on Saturday at Annan and again this midweek against Clyde when the team turned in one of its best performances of the season.”
But the Shire boss admitted that if it came to a choice of sticking with a winning team or being able to choose his strongest one, he knows which option he would plump for.
“It is really great that we have managed to achieve these most recent wins without two players I consider to be really crucial to our team. A fully fit Kevin Turner and Nathan Shepherd would be automatic starters and if we can get them back for the Elgin match than that is what we will do.
“That may seem harsh on players who have done nothing wrong and who would have to drop out to make way for their return, but I think those two players each add a great deal and we really need them back.”
Turner is likely to be closest to a return. The Shire coach hopes giving his top scorer a two game break will have allowed his troublesome groin problem the rest it needs.
The return of Shepherd would give Shire a natural left-back and allow Scott Maxwell who has been doing an excellent job as emergency cover to move forward into his more comfortable attacking midfield role.
“Nathan has been sorely missed,” said Coughlin. “He is really the only player we have who is a natural in the left-back position, but he gives us an extra dimension with his ability to break forward at speed. His return would also allow us to get a bit more out of Scott Maxwell further forward where he can be very dangerous.”
As well as getting the very best from his players Coughlin’s willingness to contemplate changes is also partly influenced by a busy spell which has seen his team play five matches in fourteen days.
“It is asking a lot of players to maintain standards with so many games in such a short space of time,” he said. “It might do us good to freshen things up for Saturday not only to make us stronger but to give some tired legs a rest.”
According to Coughlin, Tuesday night’s results suited Shire down to the ground. They were delighted with their own victory against Clyde and were happy as well to see Stirling Albion beat Annan Athletic. The result has been to draw the five bottom sides much closer together, something Coughlin sees advantages in.
“There were probably people who thought we would be disappointed to see Stirling win on Tuesday because they might have imagined it would suit us for them to become detached,” said the Shire coach. “But we are looking up the way rather than down and by beating Annan they have brought us closer to some of sides just above us.”
Shire can get that little bit nearer their objective of a mid-table placing if they can get the better of Elgin City at Ochilview on Saturday. Despite Elgin’s relatively poor recent form, which includes a 4-3 home defeat the last time the teams met, Coughlin is wary of the weekend’s encounter.
“We were on a high after Tuesday night’s win but we need to concentrate now on the different challenge posed by Elgin City. There can be no resting on laurels after some decent results, instead we must use them as a springboard to better things.”