John Coughlin will throw even more of his promising youth team into Third Division action this weekend in what is likely to be a last battle to avoid finishing bottom of the league when they play Clyde at Ochilview.
The Shire coach is being forced by circumstance to pitch in members of his under-19 squad as injuries and suspensions start to bite.
Striker Jamie Glasgow will be recalled to the first team squad, and Kyle Gillespie and Steven Tart, who both made substitute appearances in last weekend’s heavy defeat at Hampden will get another chance.
“The under-19’s have had a record-breaking season,” said Coughlin. “They ended the league campaign in their highest ever position so we need to take a look at them and see if that counts for something.
“There is no point in having youth football if you are not prepared to find out whether they can make it.”
Coughlin has been impressed by the form of Gillespie who he has used as a regular substitute at right-back over the last few games and Tart also caught the eye against Queen’s Park.
“By the time they came on the game was lost but they showed no nerves and made a good contribution to the team effort.”
The need to include the youngsters is being driven by a lack of first team squad players through injury and suspension.
Rhys Devlin’s red card last Saturday means he will be suspended for the Clyde game, while Michael Hunter will also be sitting in the stand serving the second of a two match ban.
Alex Lurinsky has not played for a month due to a groin injury and has already been ruled out of Saturday’s match. Lewis Horner is still struggling with a foot injury that caused him to miss last week’s game and there are concerns over a number of players who are suffering minor aches and pains.
“The physio seemed to be the busiest person at training on Tuesday night,” said Coughlin. “But I am sure come Saturday those things will have cleared up and the rest of the guys will be ready to go.
“We cannot really afford to have many more drop out but that is something that happens at this stage of the season and it is a thing you just have to live with and get round the best you can.”
Coughlin admits Saturday’s encounter with Clyde will be Shire’s last chance of avoiding a last place finish in the league. A disappointing run of results and performances over the last three weeks has taken away the positive momentum built up after good results, especially at Ochilview, against some of the league’s top teams.
“A month ago I thought our chances of getting off the bottom of the league were high,” said the Shire boss. “But the last three results have taken the wind out of our sails and now we are struggling.
“It is extremely disappointing. We had hoped we could go into the Clyde game in a situation where, at the very least, if we beat them we could draw level on points with them.
“But that is not going to happen now. I personally have never finished bottom of the league as a player or a manager and although avoiding bottom was our only realistic aim this season it is still hard to take.
“We still have four games to go, however. It will be a very difficult task but we will not give up until it is beyond us.”
Meanwhile, Shire will be holding a bucket collection at Saturday’s game in aid of the charity Parkinson’s UK.
Coaches, players and staff will also be participating in events prior to the match to raise awareness of the illness.
The club has made Parkinson’s UK its charity of choice after Shire chairman, Tony Ford, was diagnosed with the disease last year.