East Stirlingshire players are being told to forget about Rangers and instead keep their sights set on extending their recent good run of results when they visit Annan this weekend.
John Coughlin’s side have won four of their last five matches and he does not want anyone to get distracted by the impending visit of the Glasgow giants to Ochilview on November 17 - the next home match.
The Shire boss admits it will be impossible not to let it creep into their thinking, but he says the players must focus instead on the three important matches beforehand.
“It is going to be a big day for the club and we can see it looming on the horizon,” he said. “But that is for the behind-the-scenes people to deal with right now. The game is well into the future for the players and we cannot lose any focus thinking too far ahead.”
Coughlin says his players coped well with the pre-match hype ahead of their visit to Ibrox in August and thinks they are level-headed enough not to let the return game distract them for the next three weekends.
“When you look at our form in the run-up to the Ibrox game it was very good. In our last match before we went there we beat the team who were at the top of the First Division in a cup-tie, so no-one could accuse us of being distracted by Rangers. I hope the same will apply this time round.”
What worries Coughlin more about the impending Rangers match is the reaction of his players once it is over. He fears that is more likely to have a negative impact.
“When you look at it, the game after you play Rangers is always the one to worry about. We went to Ibrox one week and played well in front of 50,000 people and the following Saturday we were absolutely dreadful when we faced Elgin City at Ochilview. That is more of an issue, but we will deal with it at the time”
Of more immediate concern is what he does for Saturday’s trip to face Annan at Galabank. Coughlin has admitted the team which started last weekend’s deserved 2-1 win over promotion contenders Peterhead was not his first choice.
Now with players returning who he would prefer to start, the Shire coach is faced with a selection dilemma.
“If I had had my way then the team which started the Peterhead game would have been different to the eleven players selected,” he said. “This week we have extra options so it will make picking the team a process we will have to give a great deal of careful consideration to.”
Annan have installed a 3G pitch similar to the one at Ochilview over the summer and that is something which Coughlin hopes will help his side overcome a poor record there since their hosts joined the league.
“We have players who enjoy playing on a 3G surface and I know we will be comfortable going there.
“Annan always seemed to be a place we used to dread. The pitch was narrow, there was a big slope and in the winter time it cut up easily which certainly did not suit our style of play. But the synthetic surface will take away those issues and, hopefully, we can keep the good run going.”
Shire will be able to add Philipp Züfle to the squad that beat Peterhead and David Greenhill is also likely to resume a role in the starting eleven. There are hopes too that Craig Donaldson might not be far from returning to the team.
The star midfielder has been limited to just two brief substitute appearances this season because of an ankle problem and he is now hoping a course of injections will get him back into action.
“Craig was due to see the doctors this week about the injections,” said the Shire boss. “We are hopeful this will resolve the issue.”