Craig Tully will give careful consideration to his team selection over the final two league games of the season to make sure he has his best players available for East Stirlingshire’s vital pyramid play-off games in May.
The Shire coach knows that one booking for Reece Donaldson, Andy Kay or David McKenna in either this weekend’s Ochilview clash with Elgin City or next week’s visit to League 2 champions-elect East Fife will mean a suspension for any of them in the play-offs.
Tully will want to build on last week’s 3-1 victory at Annan Athletic to give his team some momentum, and badly-needed confidence, going into the two matches which will decide whether or not they remain members of the SPFL next season.
But he will have to balance that out with an assessment of the risks of fielding players so close to a ban. One player who will not feature in the last two league games is Max Wright. His straight red card at Annan on Saturday means the scorer of Shire’s opening goal in their first win in six weeks is banned for the Elgin and East Fife games.One big plus from the Annan game, apart from the result, was having three key men back in the team after long-term injuries.
It was the first time Ross Gilmour, Neil McCabe and Chris Townsley had featured in the same Shire line-up since January and all three played an important part in helping make sure they ended a dismal run of six defeats and a draw in their last seven league matches.
“It was the first game back for both Ross and Neil in a long time and I thought they came back and made a big difference straight away,” said the Shire boss.
He will lose Wright for the final two league games but will welcome back Ross Fisher to the fold after he was forced to sit out last weekend’s Galabank match due to a one game suspension.
“It’s things like that which have really cost us over the past few weeks, and when you add in the absence of McCabe and Gilmour we really haven’t had our problems to seek.”
The process of deciding Shire’s play-off opponents begins on Saturday when Highland League champions Cove Rangers play Lowland League counterparts Edinburgh City in Inverurie. The outcome will be concluded next weekend.