It’s hardly been a happy new year for East Stirlingshire boss Craig Tully as his problems mount up on and off the field.
Four defeats on the bounce have left Shire exposed again to the potential drop into the end-of-season pyramid play-off and as if that wasn’t bad enough, he has been hit with more bad news on the injury front.
On-loan Celtic midfielder Luke Donnelly, who was just emerging as a key component of the team, has been ruled out for at least four weeks with a groin muscle tear.
The teenager lasted barely 20 minutes of last weekend’s 3-0 defeat at Berwick Rangers. The medical diagnosis is that it could take anything up to six weeks before he will be fit enough to play again.
As if that wasn’t bad enough it has been revealed that key striker Max Wright may not play for another three months to give his hamstring problems time to recover. The former Rangers man has made two comebacks from his injury concerns already this season only to break down after a few games and now complete rest has been advised in order to sort the problem once-and-for-all.
“It’s not good news and you do have to wonder what we have done to deserve such bad luck,” said Tully, who is also waiting to see if Nathan Shepherd is going to be able to make a comeback. “These are players we really need in our team right now but we are set to be deprived of them at an important time for us.”
The inclusion of Donnelly and Wright in the team in November had a huge impact of results with Shire taking seven points from a possible nine in the three games they played together before Wright’s injury concerns flared up again.
“Luke gives us both a physical presence in midfield and also a player with good football ability who is able to take the game to the opposition,” said Tully. “Max is not just a goal threat but he is a busy player who gives us a bit of pace up top and has the drive and energy to close the opposition down and force them to make mistakes.”
With neither an option for this Saturday’s crucial visit to Montrose, Tully has to contemplate even more changes. He wielded the axe at Berwick bringing in new loan signing from Raith Rovers, David Bates, at centre-half as well as two trialists but that failed to counteract a three game losing run.
Without Donnelly he will be forced into at least one more change to his starting line-up if he sticks with the other ten who began to Berwick match, which is by no means certain.