Coach John Sludden says he will not allow his players to become distracted from the main focus of Sunday’s Lowland League encounter against Spartans at Ochilview – three points.
He is happy for others to look at the bigger picture of what a win would mean for the club. But he wants the team to concentrate on treating it simply as a match they want to win, in the same way they have before each of the eleven previous games which have yielded nine wins and two draws in an unbeaten run stretching back to October.
The hype around the clash of second versus third and what the result might mean for each team’s respective chances of catching league leaders East Kilbride are things the coach wants to stop grabbing the attention of the players.
“We will keep all of that off the players,” he said. “Our focus is simply on three points and just trying to continue the form that we have been on. But we will try to keep those other things away from the players.”
Any attempt to play up this one game as any more important than the others is similarly rebuffed by the Shire coach who is also rejecting the idea of seeing it as a ‘must-win’ fixture.
“Every game is important,” said John. “From that aspect nothing will change. Spartans have a lot of good, experienced players and they have proved that over their years in the Lowland League. They also have a number of players who have been at a higher level, so it shows what a good team they are.”
Spartans were the last team to beat Shire in the league at Ainslie Park back in September. The Shire coach is keen to avoid turning it into a ‘grudge match’ or a ‘revenge mission’ but he says the controversial manner of the 1-0 defeat still hurts.
“It was a hard one to take,” he said of the defeat to an injury-time penalty kick. “I didn’t think there was anything between the teams and it looked like a draw was going to be a fair result. We had a half-chance with Granty just before the penalty kick incident. But we will go again with a lot of confidence and belief that we can get the three points.”
One big bonus for the coach will be the return of club captain Derek Ure. He was forced to sit out last weekend’s 1-0 win over Edinburgh University through suspension but, with his one match ban duly served, he will be back and hoping to feature in Sunday’s match.
“He is such a big influence on the park for us,” said the coach. “On and off the ball he is a big player for us and it’s great he’s available for selection again.”
The coach and the players have been very grateful for the support given to them by the fans this season and especially over the last few weeks. They are once again asking that you come along to Sunday’s game and be the extra help they need.