East Stirlingshire v Annan Athletic preview: Coughlin hopes returning players will halt form slide

East Stirlingshire manager John Coughlin

East Stirlingshire manager John Coughlin

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East Stirlingshire are hoping to get three of their most important players back into action in a bid to stop an alarming slide in form.

Tuesday’s 3-2 defeat at Albion Rovers was Shire’s fifth game since their last win and now coach John Coughlin is praying that Iain Thomson, Chris Townsley and Max Wright will all be fit to face Annan Athletic at Ochilview this weekend.

Thomson and Townsley are two of Shire’s most experienced performers and were sorely missed on Tuesday at Coatbridge.

Thomson has been suffering from a chest infection and has now missed the team’s last three matches, although hopes are high he may at last be ready for a recall.

The situation with Townsley is more concerning. He injured his back playing in a friendly game last weekend and he is still in a lot of discomfort and may struggle again for this weekend.

Wright is another, like Thomson, who has been absent for too long for Coughlin’s liking.

The former Rangers player adds both attacking pace and a goal threat but he has been unable to do that for almost two months due to a recurring hamstring problem.

However, the good news is that Wright is set to take part in a full training session at Little Kerse tonight (Thursday) with the aim of being in the team for Saturday.

Despite lacking so many key players Shire still came within a whisker of taking something from Tuesday night’s game with a spirited second half showing.

However, Coughlin was the first to admit that a nightmare first half performance cost them very dear indeed.

“We lost the game in the first half, there is absolutely no doubt about that,” he said.

“Albion Rovers totally deserved their lead at half-time as they had dominated the game until that point.”

And Coughlin was so furious with his players for their display that he admitted afterwards that he had given them a real roasting in the dressing room during the interval.

“That was my first real crack-up at them all season,” he said.

“We were powder puff all over the park and our attitude to the game was not good enough.

“But, to be fair, we were more spirited in the second half then lost a ridiculous third goal when we were in possession of the ball.

“We got a goal to get back into it but then lost a ridiculous third goal when we were in possession of the ball.

“It was hard to take because I thought by that stage Albion Rovers were starting to tire and we looked about to take control of things. But we paid a heavy price for our first half display where we simply were not at the races.”

There were relatively few positives for Coughlin from Tuesday’s defeat. One was the performance of Paul Quinn who has been out for two months with a knee injury. The striker made a telling cameo appearance as a substitute, scoring twice, and may be considered as a potential answer to Shire’s inability to score goals.

The other was a senior debut for 17 year-old Jordan Tapping who played the whole second half at Cliftonhill and came through the occasion with some accomplishment.

The Larbert lad has been nurtured through the reserves this season and he is now another option for the head coach.

Coughlin will be hoping he can make changes for Saturday’s visit of Annan Athletic. Jim Chapman’s side were the last one Shire beat back on October 29 and suffered their own midweek setback after losing 2-1 at Clyde.

The addition of Thomson, Townsley and Wright would be a start to getting Shire back to the kind of form that kept them top of the league for the first three months of the season.