East Stirlingshire have been given a massive boost ahead of this weekend’s game against Clyde with news that on-loan defender Craig Winter may be fit to play.
The 35 year-old Cowdenbeath veteran was stretchered off during Shire’s home win over league leaders Annan Athletic almost two weeks ago with suspected ankle ligament damage.
Coach John Coughlin lamented the player’s absence after Saturday’s 6-0 defeat at Stranraer but the Shire boss has been told by the player that he intends to train with the team tonight (Thursday) and declare himself fit this weekend.
Coughlin admitted his was sceptical of the player’s own hopes to miss only one game but is now delighted to have been proven wrong.
“I spoke to Craig last week and he told me that the injury was not as bad as it first looked,” said the Shire coach. “But I had my doubts when he said he was only going to miss one match.
“It was a bad enough injury for him to go to hospital and I thought immediately after the Annan game that we were unlikely to see him back.
“So even when he was telling me that the swelling was down and he was on the road to recovery I felt he was being far too optimistic about being out for just one week.”
However, Coughlin was given good news that the player was back in training with the blessing of the medical staff at Cowdenbeath and that information brightened a bleak week for the Shire boss.
The more time he has had to reflect on Saturday’s dreadful showing at Stair Park the more he has pinpointed the loss of Winter to injury as the major contributory factor.
“You do not want to believe that taking one player out of your starting 11 can make such a big difference to how they perform but in this case it really was a factor,” he said.
“When you think back to the draw at Alloa, we had real chances to win, and the victory over Annan and compare those games to what happened at Stranraer, then Craig’s absence was crucial.
“The experience he has and the confidence he gives to the young players around him was really noticeable in his two matches so far.”
Shire will be out for revenge on Saturday against a team who beat them 7-1 earlier in the season. Coughlin says the memory of that match should be enough to motivate his players, but Peterhead have two games in hand with just one point separating the teams and having worked so hard to get off the bottom rung of the ladder he does not want to surrender that cheaply.