There was some good news for East Stirlingshire coach Craig Tully this week when his two most experienced players were able to train together for the first time since the end of August.
Hopefully for Shire fans, that should mean that central defensive duo Chris Townsley and Michael Bolochoweckyj could return to the squad for this weekend’s visit to Arbroath.
Townsley has not featured since injuring his ankle at East Fife in late August while Bolochoweckyj has been in and out of the team this season because of suspension and illness. His missed last Saturday’s game against Queen’s Park because of a flu bug but should have recovered sufficiently to stake a claim for a place in the team at Gayfield.
The news could not have come at a better time for Tully, who has been struck by a series of injuries to his most senior squad members which have forced him to field youngsters from the under-20 team.
And although his two main central defenders may be about to come back into the team, Tully still has to contend with a long list of injured players who almost certainly won’t feature on Saturday the main ones being Nathan Shepherd, Max Wright and Paul McMullan who might all have been automatic starters.
“It’s just bad luck the way things have worked out this season so far,” said the Shire boss.
“We could not have predicted such a long list of players out injured and it just so happens that the guys who have been on the sidelines have been the experienced guys who we probably needed most.”
However, every cloud has a silver lining for the Shire boss. Even though he believes results would have been better with a full compliment of players available, he says having to fill in has helped the development of his younger players.
“A lot of these guys might not have had the chance if we had the experienced boys to choose from,” he said.
“In the circumstances I think they have done really well and you can see the younger ones growing in confidence the more games they play and that will only be a positive thing for us in the future.”
Tully admits that last Saturday’s 3-1 Ochilview defeat at the hands of Queen’s Park was a major disappointment but sees no reason why his side can’t go and bring back a result from Arbroath.
“You can’t give teams two goals of a start as we did on Saturday and expect to win games,” he said.
“We didn’t turn up for the first half and by the time we got things sorted they were already two goals up. The second half performance was a lot better but we were chasing the game by that point.
“It is disappointing because results over the last few weeks had been good. We can go to Arbroath and bounce back, though. A few weeks ago we went to Albion Rovers when no-one gave us much of a chance and we won there.”
Arbroath have started the season as though they mean to make an instant return to League One after last season’s relegation and will give what will still be an under-strength Shire team perhaps their toughest test of the season yet.