Ironing out the maddening inconsistencies is likely to be a top priority for East Stirlingshire boss John Sludden as they take on Lowland League leaders BSC Glasgow in Alloa this weekend.
The SFA South Challenge Cup third round match at The Recs means the pressure’s off Shire in terms of gaining points to improve their mid-table position.
But it’s likely Sludden will be seeking something more from his players after last Saturday’s impressive 3-0 away league victory at fourth-placed Selkirk.
The Yarrow Park display proved the Bainsford men have what it takes to not only compete with the top sides but to be one of them.
It’s not the first time this term that Shire have produced a result against the odds only to see their good work undone by indifferent displays in subsequent games.
A 5-0 demolition of last term’s champions, East Kilbride, was followed by a home defeat against struggling Edinburgh University. Likewise Shire turned over Cumbernauld Colts at Broadwood only to fall flat in their next outing.
Now they will be hoping to build on what they achieved against Selkirk against one of the main favourites for this season’s title without the added risk of losing points or ground to the teams around them on the league ladder.
Shire will want to set down a marker in what has been a hugely disappointing first half of the season undermined by a problem which seems a million miles away from their form a year ago; scoring goals.
With main strikers David Grant and Kevin Kelbie departed and not replaced, Shire have found finding the back of the net a bigger problem than keeping them out at the other end, and a succession of one-goal defeats has been the main drag on their league position.
They have enjoyed this particular cup competition this season, however, and hit seven goals without reply against South of Scotland League Nithsdale Wanderers in round one.
An Andy Rodgers injury-time goal bought Shire a draw and extra-time away at Gala Fairydean Rovers in round two and the additional half hour worked in their favour as they ran out 3-1 winners over the two hours play.
It was a performance which coach Sludden said at the time showed ‘character and determination’ and they will need it again this week against a BSC side which has suffered just one defeat in 14 league matches.
The two teams met on the opening day of the league campaign at Ochilview – a game which signalled a shift in power from last season’s Lowland League which was dominated by a free-scoring Shire team and eventual champions East Kilbride.
BSC have invested heavily over the summer in a core of experienced former Scottish League players and that was reflected in a 3-0 win which was the first indication that Sludden’s men might have a difficult second Lowland League season ahead.
The Shire coach is still actively seeking to strengthen his squad, especially in the striker department although he acknowledges he does also require extra defensive cover.
Finding the talent to bring in, though, has proven a bit more elusive.
Sludden has had injury and suspension problems to contend with as well in recent weeks which have not helped.
The fact that both issues have eased and last weekend’s morale boosting 3-0 victory over Selkirk may not be coincidental.
But the last thing Sludden and the Shire faithful want is to land on a snake this weekend after rolling the dice and finding a ladder last Saturday in the Borders.
STOP PRESS: Michael Bolochowekyj has re-joined Shire on a loan from Montrose.