Shire hope for Rangers rebound help

Coughlin has seen his team lose all three league games this season
Coughlin has seen his team lose all three league games this season

East Stirlingshire are hoping this weekend’s opponents suffer the same negative reaction to facing Rangers that they did.

Coach John Coughlin will take his team to Berwick Rangers conscious of the fact that they came close to beating the Ibrox club in their last outing on Sunday.

But the Shire boss feels the fact that the Shielfield men ran Ally McCoist’s team so close might actually do his team’s chances of victory some good.

“There is a theory, and one I think has some value, that the game after you face Rangers you struggle in,” he said. “It certainly happened to us last week against Elgin City and it may be that the same thing happens to Berwick on Saturday.”

Coughlin must be hoping that is the case. His team has lost all three league games this season and he knows that victory against Berwick in what will be a bottom-of-the-table clash will leave their hosts in last place.

But he knows as well that to do that Shire will have to perform at a much higher level than they did at Ochilview last Saturday. And, again, he feels that facing Rangers one week and Elgin City the next did not help his players at all.

“It is a massive difference for the team,” he said. “We had been looking forward to playing at Ibrox in front of 50,000 people and although we lost 5-1 I still think we did the best we could in the circumstances.

“But it’s hard to go from that to playing back at Ochilview in front of less than 300 and that’s a significant part of what happened against Elgin.”

And he clearly believes if Shire can suffer that kind of reaction then so can Berwick Rangers. The feeling gives the Shire boss some hope going into Saturday’s encounter.

“They might be feeling a little bit like we did after going to Ibrox,” said Coughlin. “They will go from the excitement of playing against Rangers in front of a sell-out crowd at their own stadium, and coming close to beating them, to just a normal Saturday.

“If they do suffer an adverse reaction then we must be ready to take advantage of that.”

Berwick’s surprise 1-1 draw with the Govan giants might give Shire the feeling of being massive underdogs for the game, but the coach says there were significant and unique factors that contributed to the draw on Sunday.

“I have said all along that the best chance of beating Rangers is early on in the season and on their own patch,” he said. “I genuinely never believed all this talk of Rangers winning every single league game. They are going to unfamiliar places where they just might not fancy it.

“Psychology is an important part of football and cannot be overlooked. People who are used to playing at the top levels, in the best stadiums and on top quality surfaces might suffer a negative reaction, but opponents will be motivated.”

Shire will have no problem with the surroundings of Shielfield Park or the atmosphere at Saturday’s game. They won convincingly on their last visit to Northumberland in February and Coughlin wants more of the same this weekend.

He will bring Scott Maxwell and Michael Herd back into the squad, although Herd missed Tuesday training with a slight cold. Craig Donaldson also came through a full training session earlier in the week and there are hopes he could at least make the substitutes bench.

Jamie Benton is out with a knee injury while Craig Hume has been suffering from a virus and will probably not be risked unless he has shown significant improvement by the weekend.

“It is such an important game for us, we cannot afford to be left behind at the start of the season like last year. We are an improvement on last season’s team and we have shown that we can compete and beat teams higher up the league, as we have done in cup-ties.

“But time is moving on and the longer we go without league points the pressure will build. We need to win on Saturday.”​