Weekend friendly in focus for Shire boss Sludden

Paul Sludden (centre) scored at the weekend. Picture Michael Gillen.
Paul Sludden (centre) scored at the weekend. Picture Michael Gillen.

There will be no rest this week for East Stirlingshire players despite the fact that the team has no game. Shire’s planned Lowland League encounter with Spartans, set for Ochilview on Saturday, is a casualty of the SPFL decision last week to expel Albion Rovers from the IRN-BRU Cup.

The knock-on effect of that was to reinstate Spartans, the team Rovers defeated in the first round, and, with the second round ties due this weekend, it now means Shire’s planned league opponents’ match against Belfast outfit Linfield takes precedence.

While the postponement to a later date, which hasn’t yet been announced, is seen as a bit of a nuisance from a Shire perspective it doesn’t mean coach John Sludden is allowing his players to put their feet up.

“We will just have a normal week,” said the Shire boss. “There will be training as usual and we are trying to fix up a friendly game for Saturday to keep the players up to speed.”

While Shire’s first round elimination from the first round of the IRN-BRU Cup had no effect on their league programme, that’s not the case for similarly-placed SPFL teams, and Sludden is hoping to fix up a bounce game against one of them.

“We want to try and get a friendly in against a league team,” he said. “There are a few, like us, who lost in the first round of the cup who have no scheduled league match on Saturday.

“There has been contact with a number of teams and we are very hopeful of getting something sorted out.”

Sludden sees it as key not to let the momentum slip after an encouraging result and performance in the team’s last outing, a 2-0 away win at Vale of Leithen.

Although it took Shire an hour to ease lingering concerns that they would once again fail to claim all three points from a game they controlled, the coach says he was pleased with a number of different aspects to the trip to the Borders.

“I thought there were a number of real positives,” he said. “We played with a good tempo, the passing was good and we got real width to our play, which is something we asked them to do,” he said.

A particular feature was the way both full-backs, Jamie McCormack and Drew Ramsay, were used prominently as wide attackers with the Vale of Leithen defence having to cope with a barrage of dangerous crosses from both flanks.

“You know what you’re going to get from Drew in that regard,” said Sludden. “But it was great to see Jamie get forward with a bit of pace and get quality balls into the penalty box,” he said of his new summer arrival, a utility player who has started at right-back but who can perform in a number of different roles.

The coach’s concern, though, was the long wait to convert that pressure into goals. “We had chances, their keeper made some good saves and then Andy Rodgers had one cleared off the line.

“There is a point when you start to wonder but once we got the opening goal we were fine. It was really encouraging.”

The result ends a worrying run of three successive league draws which has left Shire some ground to make up on the Lowland League pacesetters. A win over Spartans would have been a big boost, hence to slight sense of frustration at having the game postponed. The team will now have to wait until Friday, September 8, to get back into competitive action when Shire face Stirling University at the Falkirk Stadium.