Highland battle will be tough, says Coughlin

John Coughlin.
John Coughlin.
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John Coughlin knows his East Stirlingshire team will have to triumph through adversity if they are to make the third round of the Scottish Cup when they travel to Fraserburgh.

The Shire boss has added Rhys Devlin and Nathan Shepherd to the already long list of players he can rule out of the match, but wants the same kind of response he got from those who will travel that gained them a 3-0 league win over Clyde Last Saturday.

Shire are so short of players they may not have enough for a full compliment of substitutes to take to Bellslea Park and, if anything, Coughlin says their situation has deteriorated since the Clyde win.

“Rhys will be out for two to three weeks after his injury last week,” he said. “Looking positively, it could have been a lot worse for him but that is no consolation and we will still miss him on Saturday. We can also rule Nathan out and Joe Savage is unavailable because he is best man at a friend’s wedding.”

On the plus side on-loan St. Mirren defender Sean Kelly should return to the team after missing the Clyde game through injury. And there are still hopes that new signing Philipp Zufle will have received international clearance from the German FA in time to make his debut.

“If we can get Sean back and if we are able to include Philipp then that will ease the pressure on us a bit,” said the coach. “But even adding those two still only gives us the bare minimum in terms of a squad and means the team pretty much picks itself.”

In addition to Devlin and Shepherd, Craig Donaldson’s out with a bad back, Michael Herd’s arm is still in plaster and Forfar have refused permission for on-loan defender Michael Dunlop to play because they do not want him cup-tied.

“That’s five players who, if they were all fit, would be in the team,” said Coughlin. “It puts the onus on the guys who have taken over their positions to keep their high level of performance

“I thought they did very well against Clyde but we need to see whether we get some consistency from them and the game at Fraserburgh will not be an easy one.

“They will fancy their chances against us and once they know that we are struggling with injuries that will give them another confidence boost. We have had them watched and we know we will be in for a tough game.”

Shire record against Highland League opposition in the Scottish Cup is good even when they have been the underdogs. However, in two of their last three encounters with opposition from the north they have required replays to get through. Coughlin was in charge for last season’s victory over Buckie Thistle and says that experience has given him some insight into what his team may face on Saturday.

“The truth is we had Calum Antell to thank against Buckie for keeping us in the cup,” he said. “He made an injury-time save from a penalty kick in the first game that allowed us to get a replay which we won in extra-time.

“But I remember in the run-up to that game people making Buckie the favourites to win, yet even with that we still came out on top. I know we could have had a better lead up to this match but we still need to have the mentality that we can go there and win. There is no point concentrating on who will not be in the team on Saturday. What we have to do is focus on the fact that the players who are going to Fraserburgh on Saturday are the same ones who beat Clyde 3-0 last weekend.

“We are wary of the fact that we will be facing a set of opponents out to create a cup upset and grab some headlines in the process but we should not get hung-up about that.”