John Sludden accepts his East Stirlingshire side could end up with a lower points tally this season without it harming their chances of claiming the Lowland League title.
The Shire boss’s pre-season warning about more teams being capable of challenging for the crown has been underlined by BSC Glasgow, who followed up their 3-0 win over Sludden’s men at Ochilview on Saturday with a draw away from home at reigning champions East Kilbride on Tuesday.
Sludden is one who believes as many as half a dozen clubs are capable of winning the league. And he says that the increased competition might not allow any team to sprint away from the pack.
“The team that wins the league might end up with more defeats than last season,” he said, as the dog-eat-dog nature of increased competition becomes more apparent.
He was hoping they would get their first three point haul last night when they were due to travel to Whitehill Welfare. This weekend Shire visit Dalbeattie Star, who looked potential challengers in the first half of last term before falling away.
Nevertheless, Shire’s last game at Islecroft Stadium ended in a hard-fought 2-2 draw and Sludden knows they will have to show more form than was apparent against BSC Glasgow.
“We need to ask questions and see how they respond,” he said. “BSC were a very good team and I would expect there to be half a dozen up there challenging and it’s how we respond to it that’s important.”
The Shire coach knows that bedding in new players can take time. He included Jamie McCormack and Jordan Tapping for the BSC Glasgow game although striker Kevin Kelbie was unavailable. “That didn’t have anything to do with new players bedding in. It was just down to players not starting the game correctly.”
That said Sludden did admit the absence of Kelbie on Saturday was certainly a setback to the way he would normally set his team up to play.
“Kevin holds the ball up well and can get other people involved when we get him back in,” he said. “But Jamie McCormack did well and his link-up play and energy and confidence on the ball meant there was a spell when we were on top [against BSC].
“But we do need to get wins quickly,” said Sludden.