Shire refuse to throw in the towel on Lowland title

John Sludden.
John Sludden.

They may be running out of games if they are to mount a challenge to Lowland League leaders East Kilbride, but East Stirlingshire say there is still plenty to play for between now and the end of the season.

The post-match reaction to last weekend’s 3-2 win over Tynecastle in the quarter-final of the SFA South Region Challenge Cup shows that for John Sludden’s team, and the club’s fans, winning some silverware really does matter.

Shire are waiting on the outcome of the semi-final draw, which will pair them with either the current Lowland League leaders, Cumbernauld Colts or Lothian Thistle-Hutchison Vale, with more than a keen sense of anticipation. And anyone who thinks winning the trophy would be a poor consolation for failing to take the league championship should probably think again.

“You want to win things,” said Sludden, whose team won’t be able to build on that win this weekend because they have a blank Saturday. “It would be great for the club and the supporters to get to the semi-final and the final of the cup competitions.

“And that’s what we are aiming for. We have two cup competitions to play in and we want to get to the finals and win them.”

Sludden says the Tynecastle win put a smile on the faces of all associated with the club although they had to wait until the 84th minute to score the winner against a very determined set of opponents.

“It gave everyone a lift,” he said. “They game panned out as we thought. We knew they would be a good team. It was a difficult cup game and the most important thing was to get through.”

Although the Shire coach would have preferred not to sit idle this Saturday he recognises that having the weekend free does give some advantages.

“After winning on the Saturday you just want to carry on and we would prefer to have a game this weekend,” said the Shire boss. “But that’s not to be so we will just need to prepare as best we can.”

That said, he appreciates that the blank Saturday will have its upside as well.

“I’m sure one or two of the older ones would appreciate the rest,” he joked. “We also have some players who are getting treatment for knocks and maybe not having a game on Saturday gives them extra time to get ready for the next game.”

Shire will not now be in competitive action again until Saturday, March 25, when they travel to second bottom Hawick Royal Albert on league business. But his players will not be able to put their feet up. Sludden will have them in for their normal training schedule this week and will set up a closed door friendly with an SPFL team to keep his men fully prepared for the resumption of competitive action.

“We will train as normal and keep things ticking over this week and then will look to play a bounce game on Monday or Tuesday,” said Sludden. ”So that will be a good test for us and it will be good for the players to get 90 minutes before playing again a week on Saturday.

“We are just trying to finalise the arrangements and that will, hopefully, leave us ready to go for the Hawick game.”