East Stirlingshire have lost their bid to keep hold of their top goalscorer until the end of the season.
Teenager Bradley Coyne, who scored six times for Shire on a three month loan from St. Mirren, has opted to join Second Division Forfar Athletic after being released by the Paisley club at the weekend.
Shire boss John Coughlin had been hoping the 18-year-old would stay with the club until May after holding talks with the player last week but had fears he might move.
“Bradley had been training with us last week and I took the opportunity to speak to him at length,” he said. “It became apparent then that he had been contacted by a number of clubs and that we would be struggling to keep hold of him.
“We were keen for him to stay but, ultimately, it is his decision who he plays for. Bradley was a real asset for us in the time he was here but we will just have to move on and try to find another player to replace him.”
Of even more concern to Coughlin is the worry that midfielder Lewis Horner might not return to the club either.
The on-loan Hibernian midfielder was Shire’s stand-out player in Saturday’s narrow defeat at Peterhead but he has been recalled to Easter Road to discuss his future with new Hibs boss, Pat Fenlon.
Coughlin has been seeking assurances from the Edinburgh club that Horner will come back to Shire once the discussions between the player, his agent and the club have taken place but admits he is currently playing a game of wait-and-see.
“Lewis and his agent were due to see Pat Fenlon on Wednesday,” he said. “It is only once those talks have been resolved that we will know what the situation is.
“He has become a really important player for us and we would love to keep him at the club until the end of the season. We have to remain hopeful and, having spoken to Lewis, I know he would be happy to come back to us on loan.
“But that decision is one that will have to wait for now. That said, I am confident that we could still get the paperwork done in time for Saturday.”
Coughlin held a full-scale bounce match at training on Tuesday night and brought in a couple of trialists to see how they shaped up.
“We are running with just a squad of 17 right now and one of them is suspended so we do not have many selection options,” he said. “It is plain that we do need to bring new players in.
“It is possible we could have a new striker in place in time for the Montrose match if the player we currently are having a look at fits the bill. He certainly comes highly recommended but we will not rush into things.”
The Shire boss is also pursuing an experienced central defender but is not sure yet if that deal will come off in time for the weekend.
“We have been alerted to the availability of a player who I think would fit the bill,” he said. “We have been talking to the club he is currently with about the possibility of coming here on loan.
“But there are all sorts of factors that still need to be worked out. The big worry in trying to bring in experienced players on loan is whether the player himself thinks coming to the team that is bottom of the league is going to enhance his career..
“I could bring in another kid to play at centre-half but I do not know whether, in our current state, that would do us any good,” he said.
Shire face Montrose at Ochilview on Saturday and the club is appealing to its own fans to help boost the attendance.
It has designated the game ‘Bring A Friend Day’ and has asked loyal Shire fans to do their best to bring along someone who has not been to a game for a while.
Shire’s adult season ticket holders have been sent vouchers offering half price admission to a friend. “We need to do something to encourage more people to get the Shire habit,” said chairman Tony Ford. “We are asking all our regulars to consider bringing someone who would not normally come to a home game. We hope that if they enjoy themselves they will consider coming back more often, he said.”