East Stirlingshire will prepare for Sunday’s visit of Lowland League bottom dogs Hawick Royal Albert exactly as if they were welcoming reigning champions and current leaders East Kilbride.
The Borders side may have lost all but two of their 19 games so far but the league’s form team will not be getting ahead of themselves, despite Shire’s unbeaten 12-game run stretching back to November.
If they needed a warning to be on their guard for Sunday’s encounter with a side now managed by former Shire boss Craig Tully, then it came last Saturday at the Falkirk Stadium where Hawick recorded their first league win of the season against a Stirling University side that John Sludden’s men have found problem opponents in the past.
Sludden expects that result will fire up this weekend’s opponents and his message is one of not taking anything for granted.
“There will be no difference in how we get ourselves ready for Sunday’s game, he said. “We will approach it in exactly the same way as we would if we were playing East Kilbride.
“They will come to us on a high after their win at the weekend while we are a side on a great run of form and high on confidence. But you have to recognise that every team you play can pose a danger to you and we have to be aware and give them the respect they deserve.
“There can be no slackness or complacency in the dressing room and I don’t think there will be because some of the senior guys in our squad won’t allow it.”
The Shire boss was full of praise for his side as they extended their unbeaten run with a hard-fought 4-2 victory over Selkirk at Ochilview on Saturday. The coach says it took a lot of self belief from his players to fight their way out of trouble after falling 2-1 behind early in the second half. It’s that kind of spirit that he says gives him hope that they can extend their unbeaten run on Sunday against Hawick.
“Right over the past two or three months the players have show bags of character. Even when we were 2-1 down on Saturday I didn’t doubt at all that they could get themselves out of that situation because they kept plugging away, never gave up, and were creating lots of chances.
“We hit the woodwork twice and the Selkirk keeper made some great saves and we still scored four goals.
“It’s not the first time recently we have found ourselves in a difficult situation in games and each time we have found a way out of it and that’s just down to the fact that the players are so determined to work hard to get the right result. In all of the games we are creating plenty of chances and when you have players with the ability of Andy Rodgers to call on then there’s a fair chance a guy like him is going to take some of them.”
Victory against Hawick would keep Shire on the coat tails of the leaders, even though they remain seven points behind East Kilbride although Sludden’s team does have a game in hand. If Selkirk do Shire a favour and take points from BSC Glasgow then a win at Ochilview on Sunday would send them second.
One piece of bad news this week is that versatile utility man Liam Allison is facing surgery on a knee injury which has kept him out of action for some time.
“Everyone at the club is really disappointed for him,” said Sludden. “Liam is a real asset to the squad and can play in two or three different positions.
“We just now need to hope he can get his operation quickly and that we can get him back as soon as possible.”