East Stirlingshire are hopeful key defender Chris Townsley will be fit for Saturday’s important SPFL League Two match against Queen’s Park at Ochilview.
The central defender was substituted late in Shire’s last competitive fixture, the 6-0 Scottish Cup win over Threave Rovers almost two weeks ago, after suffering a groin strain.
He attempted to start a closed-door bounce game at Livingston last weekend but came off after just 15 minutes, mainly as a precaution.
Shire were hopeful the former Berwick Rangers captain would be able to train this week as he has made a significant contribution to the club’s great start to the season.
His partnership in central defence with Michael Bolochoweckyj has been cited by coach John Coughlin as one of the main reason’s behind Shire’s rise to the top of the league table.
“After last season when we lost something like 94 goals we knew where we would have to improve,” he said. “And bringing in two experienced central defenders has made an instant impact and has been one of the main reasons why we have reached our current position.
“We know that there will be injuries and suspensions over the season, and while we want to keep everyone fit, we know also that we have enough cover in these positions. But that’s something we want to avoid.”
Townsley’s physical state will be assessed at training tonight (Thursday) ahead of what is sure to be a tough encounter even though Saturday’s opponents currently sit well adrift at the bottom of the league.
Coughlin took advantage of a blank weekend caused by Annan Athletic’s Ramsdens Cup semi-final to take in Queen’s Park’s Scottish Cup win over Preston Athletic and will know, at least from Saturday’s evidence, that they will put up a strong physical challenge.
The return from injury of last season’s Third Division Player of the Year, David Anderson, will also give Shire a cause for concern. The two sides are separated by the entire length of the league table, but in a division so tight there is nothing certain.
Queen’s Park have lost many of the players who propelled them into the play-offs last season and have yet to pick up a league win. Shire have already beaten them 3-1 at Hampden on the opening day but Coughlin will be cautious about taking them too lightly.
“There is very little between the teams in the league,” he said. “Queen’s Park are not going to go through the entire season without winning a game and what you have to do is make sure you are not the first. There can be no complacency and we cannot take things for granted.”
It makes a nice change for the Shire boss to think like that about a set of opponents rather than the other way about and if there is a team that will guard against any lazy thinking it’s Shire, who know only too well what it is like to be in Queen’s Park’s current position.
Apart from Townsley, Coughlin will be monitoring the fitness of Max Wright who also came off with a knock against Livingston. However, he is not expected to miss the game.
The Championship team ran out comfortable winners in Saturday’s game but that was of little concern to Coughlin who used the opportunity to keep his players match fit.
“We made mistakes which led to goals but I would rather we got that out of the system in a game like that than do it when it was important.”