A bug is threatening to floor East Stirlingshire’s chances of on the field recovery by laying low a number of key players ahead of this weekend’s trip to Elgin City.
Coach John Coughlin has not escaped and he is one of those affected by illness this week. The Shire boss was not alone in having to miss training on Tuesday night; fewer than half of his squad were able to participate in assistant Matt Kerr’s session.
Coughlin thought better of taking charge himself in case any more of his players went down with it.
“It is not a good situation and I felt there was no need to risk making things any worse,” he said. “I decided to stay as far away from them as I could but there were a few who simply did not make it.
“All we can do is hope that by the end of the week some of them have recovered enough to play. But illness is not our only issue; a number of people are out with long-term injuries and there are the usual bumps and knocks you get at this time of the year.”
Coughlin will still be able to raise a team for Saturday’s match at Borough Briggs, but what state of preparedness they will be in is another matter. And that is a real concern given they will be facing one of the top sides in the Third Division on their home patch.
“It was going to be difficult for us even if we were in the best possible state we could be,” said Coughlin. “But quite apart from the worries about illness and injuries, we have spent too little time together over the past week or so. “It was difficult to fit in training during the New Year holiday and the fact we had a game last Wednesday meant we went a whole week just going from game to game.
“Just when we thought we were over that and could get back to normal we are hit with a situation where so few of the squad are physically able to train.”
Such is the depth of the crisis that Coughlin is giving thought to an early return from injury for skipper Kevin Turner. He missed last Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at Berwick Rangers with a knee problem but may be pressed back into service against Elgin.
“Kevin was one of the few who did put in a full training session on Tuesday,” said the Shire boss. “He was about 80 per cent fit last weekend but the pitch was heavy and had he played it might have put him back weeks.
“He has had some rest now and I am hoping that has done him some good. Shire need the points to stave off the prospect of a return to the bottom of the league table after a poor run of results.
One piece of longer-term good news this week was the return to action of Craig Donaldson. The Shire midfielder played his first full 90 minutes of the season last weekend after being sent out on a month-long loan to Bo’ness United.
The player’s ankle problems, which caused him to miss last season, seem at last to be easing and he has now been set the task of proving his return to form.
“Craig will get four matches at Bo’ness and we will keep close tabs on his progress,” said Coughlin. “If he proves his fitness and plays well then he could find himself going straight back into our team once the loan period is over.”