It’s make your mind up time for John Coughlin

East Stirlingshire pre-season training.
East Stirlingshire pre-season training.
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It’s decision time for East Stirlingshire’s manager this weekend.

John Coughlin will travel north for friendly matches against Rothes on Friday night and Buckie Thistle on Saturday afternoon knowing he will have to make a decision on the future of half a dozen trialists who will be making the trip.

Coughlin currently has 12 first team squad members and wants to get the numbers up to around 17 by the time the season kicks off at the end of the month and he will use the two matches against Highland League opposition to decide who to keep.

One player unlikely to be on the bus north is former Berwick Rangers striker Darren Gibben who was the best-known of the trialists training with the Shire. He has opted to head elsewhere in the hope of a contract.

“Darren has informed me he was offered the chance of training facilities with Arbroath,” said Coughlin. “Obviously he is still a player with ambitions to play at the highest possible level so it looks as though we will miss out on that one. That is a disappointment because we really wanted to make a signing that would get our fans excited and make the rest of the division sit up and take notice.”

But those who are going on the trip and do not yet have contracts will get every chance to play for one. Coughlin says it has been hard making a decision about the future of those players looking to continue their football careers with the club.

“In all the training sessions and in each of the matches they have all shown touches of the ability required to play in the Third Division. I thought I would have been able to either offer them a deal or tell them ‘no thanks’ before we went north.

“But that has not been the case and there are five or six who will go with us who certainly have a contract to play for.”

Coughlin has added one new player to his squad in the last week with the signing of 20 year-old former Stranraer winger Nathan Shepherd and the Shire gaffer is hoping he will be one who will excite the club’s faithful followers.

“Nathan came to us looking for a trial after being released by Stranraer and has shown up really well,” he said. “He has scored in every match we have played in the build-up so far and has shown good touches in training.

“He will certainly give Scott Maxwell some competition in the wide left attacking position but he is versatile and we could probably fit him in at left-back if circumstances required.”

Shire’s match preparation for the new campaign has so far consisted of two straightforward wins over East of Scotland League opposition and Coughlin expects to get a more thorough examination from the two Highland League teams.

“I would think that the two teams we will play this weekend will be of a higher standard than anything we have faced, apart from Brechin City, who we played in a bounce game on Saturday.

“That will help us when it comes to deciding who to offer contracts to because you are hoping these guys will be able to show up well against better standard opposition.

“The Buckie game especially will be a tough work-out. We played them in the Scottish Cup last season and we needed extra-time in the replay to beat them. In fact, had it not been for Calum Antell’s penalty save in the first match they would have knocked us out.

“I believe we have improved our squad since then and hope we can show that on Saturday,” said Coughlin.

Fans travelling north should note Friday’s game at Rothes has a 7.45 p.m. kick-off while Saturday’s encounter with Buckie Thistle at Victoria Park starts at 3.00 p.m.