Big week for Shire as they look to move up the table

Shire face two games in four days.
Shire face two games in four days.

An enforced weather break may have done East Stirlingshire’s chances of moving away from the bottom of the Third Division table some good.

Coach John Coughlin has admitted that had Saturday’s planned game at Stirling Albion gone ahead he would have been struggling to pick a first choice team because of injuries.

With a week off, however, he has his fingers crossed that the extra rest has done his squad some good in time for the visit of high-flying Montrose to Ochilview this weekend.

“We had a few niggles and doubts ahead of the Stirling game and they were giving some cause for concern,” said the Shire boss. “Ricky Miller certainly would not have played and we even went to the lengths of bringing in a trialist to cover at centre-half but it did not help us when he picked up an injury as well.

“I would not have liked to have gone into such an important match with key players out and doubts over some others, so maybe it was not a bad thing that the game was off.”

Coughlin is now hoping that the players who were doubts for the trip to Stirling will have proven their fitness in training this week, although his sessions have been affected by the wintry weather.

The Shire boss has been a tireless campaigner over the years for summer football and the effect the snow and ice that hits Scotland every winter has on training facilities is one of the key components to his argument.

Even with this week’s relatively light snowfalls, Coughlin says conditions have not been ideal.

“Given our injury and suspension situation it has not helped,” he said. “The facilities we have for training are very good but on a freezing cold Tuesday night there is always the chance of someone slipping and hurting themselves.

“We have one indoor pitch for the whole central belt and you have to go to Glasgow to use it, if you can get a booking.”

While injuries and winter training facilities have occupied the Shire boss’s mind, he has also to contend with preparing a plan to defeat this weekend’s opponents.

Montrose have moved through the Third Division almost unnoticed to occupy third place in the table and defeated Berwick Rangers 4-1 while Shire sat idle on Saturday.

“They got off to a poor start and earlier in the season I thought they would be one of the teams we would be aiming to catch and overtake,” said Coughlin.

“But they are flying right now and I think they have gone six league games without defeat, so there is no denying that we will have a real task ahead of us to try to take something out of the match.”

When Shire last faced Montrose in October they were ahead of the Links Park side in the table and went to Angus knowing a win would stretch the advantage even further.

However they lost the game 3-1 and Stuart Garden’s men have rarely looked back since.

“They have opened up a ten point gap on us since that day, albeit they have played two more matches than we have,” said Coughlin.

“We know they are flying right now and we have a fair idea of how they will play and who their danger men are and we will just have to go out there deal with them. We tend to get better performances from the players against the better teams in the league and we are hoping that will be the case on Saturday.”

Shire will move straight on from the Montrose match to their re-arranged game with Stirling Albion at Forthbank on Tuesday. With their hosts sitting bottom of the table Coughlin knows the importance of the outcome.

“It is building up into a very big week for us.”