East Stirlingshire are hoping centre-half Ryan Frances’ red card last week does not cost him any more than a one-game ban.
Coach John Coughlin has expressed concern that the player’s previous poor disciplinary record may cost him when it comes to future punishments.
Part of Coughlin’s worry is the new SFA disciplinary procedures which were introduced at the start of the campaign and which, the Shire boss argues, players and coaches are still confused about. “We have changed systems and everyone understood the old one but there are still grey areas over the new code,” he said.
“I was worried immediately after the game because I thought that another red card might have implications given his earlier 12 game suspension.
“I have spoken to club officials and they think it is likely he will only get one game because the longer suspension was dealt with separately by the new Judicial Panel, but I am waiting on official word.”
Coughlin has often made public his concerns about his teams’ weakness in the central defensive positions and he again will have to make changes there for the weekend trip to promotion-chasing Stranraer.
Frances has done well alongside another teenager, Steven Jackson, since being re-called after three months out on the sidelines, and that only adds to his worries.
“For the last few games we have been OK in that area of the pitch and we have been picking up good results,” said Coughlin. “With that, I would not have chosen to split up the pairing at centre-half.
“However, there is nothing we can do about it other than bring in someone else and hope that Ryan’s ban is only for the one match.”
Coughlin has made repeated attempts to bring in central defenders with more experience but has failed to make significant inroads into solving his one major team selection problem.
A month-long loan for veteran Cowdenbeath defender Craig Winter midway through the season proved the point to the Shire boss that one experienced player could make a big difference.
Winter was released by the Fife club a few weeks ago and Coughlin has revealed he did talk to the player about a return.
“I had a conversation after Cowdenbeath told him he could go,” said the Shire coach. “But by that time he had already made up his mind to go junior.
“It was disappointing because we would have tried to get him back here if possible. However, I get the impression that he wanted to concentrate more on the coaching side. I will not stop looking, though, but at the moment we will place our faith in the young lads we have here.
“To be fair to Frances and Jackson they have both put in decent performances over the last few matches and we will miss Ryan at Stranraer on Saturday.”
Coughlin still believes Montrose can be caught and his side can achieve its aim of avoiding this season’s wooden spoon. Five points currently separate the clubs with seven games to go.
Crucially, they are due to meet at Links Park in Shire’s penultimate away game.
“A point against Elgin last weekend was disappointing because we led until so late and then gifted them an equaliser from the penalty spot,” he said. “A win would have made such a big difference and would have closed the gap to three points.
“But the draw at least meant we got another point closer to Montrose.”
In addition to the suspended Frances, Shire are unlikely to have Alex Lurinsky available for Stranraer due to a groin problem that caused him to miss the Elgin match.