Craig Tully faces some tough and important selection issues as he prepares to pick his team for this weekend’s SPFL League Two match against Annan Athletic at Ochilview.
With one of his experienced defensive mainstays, Michael Bolochoweckyj, now free
of suspension and another, Chris Townsley, making his way back after injury, the
Shire coach has to decide whether to twist and bring back his most experienced
players or stick with the youngsters who have done well as stand-ins.
His job is not made any easier by the fact that he has no reason to complain about
the performances of teenage central defensive partnership Jordan Tapping and
Connor Greene who, after last weekend’s solid display in the win over Clyde, might
consider themselves unfortunate to be left out this week.
Tully’s issues don’t end there. David Greenhill was absent from the team on
Saturday and although the experienced midfielder has been one of Shire’s more
consistent performers this season, the middle line coped well in his absence. Again,
were he to return at least one other player might feel a bit miffed at being left out.
Shire have spent the first few games of the campaign chopping and changing every
week as a different set of circumstances have cropped up to deprive them of key
But out of that process the coaching staff has gained a better understanding of what
works and what doesn’t. Clearly, against Clyde on Saturday something clicked and
they emerged from the game with one of their best performances and results of the
season so far.
The relative youth of his staring eleven for the Clyde match now seems less of a
concern for Tully than it was in the summer when he went to some lengths to try and
ensure a strong, experienced base for his squad.
As time has worn on, though, that plan has fallen by the wayside with David Niven
and Paul McMullan failing to appear while Townsley’s injuries have limited his
appearances as weel.
Given all of this, Tully seems to have adopted an ‘if they’re good enough they’re old
enough’ approach with youngsters singed in the close season with a view to playing
in the under-20s now in the first team.
“The club wants to go down the youth route so maybe it’s no bad thing to get them
into the team right now,” said the Shire coach. “You can see the younger ones
are starting to find their feet at this level and the more games they play the more
confident they become in their performances.”
A lot hinges on the outcome of Saturday’s match. Annan are one of only two teams
below Shire in the league table and victory against them would move Tully’s team
comfortably into the pack while defeat could leave them looking vulnerable.
They seem to have developed an affinity with their rented ‘home’ at Ochilview,
winning both league games there this season while losing all three on the road. Shire
also have a pretty good recent record against this weekend’s opponents who have
struggled despite being play-off challengers last term.
That said Jim Chapman’s team recorded their first league win of the season at the
weekend against Berwick Rangers, a team Tully has already described as “the best
we have faced all season” and the Shire coach has already tipped \Berwick to win
With that kind of background it should make Saturday’s game an interesting
encounter and although important to Shire’s chances of making the kind of progress
Tully wants them to make, it’s hardly yet ‘make or break’.