Gala Fairydean Rovers will be Shire’s penultimate Lowland League visitors at Ochilview this season when the teams clash on Saturday.
It will be the new club’s first-ever away game against Shire, although predecessor club Gala Fairydean did play a Scottish Cup-tie at Firs Park in 1988/89 season, losing 1-0.
Memories of the reverse fixture earlier in the campaign at Netherdale in December will dominate the pre-match build-up for obvious seasons – Shire’s 10-1 win was the biggest in the league this term and the biggest ever away win in the short history of the Lowland League
Shire coach John Sludden says the memory of that game will be more important to Saturday’s visitors, who will want to put matters right at the second time of asking and who will be keen to put in a much better display.
“It was a great day for us but it’s gone now,” said John. “But there’s no doubt they will still be hurting from it and they will want to set the record straight. We can’t ignore that and we will not take them, or the game, lightly.”
The coach has spent part of the week trying to banish any thoughts from his players’ minds that the outcome of the Netherdale game will mean they can disregard their opponents’, and he’s asking fans to be mindful that winning 10-1 three months ago against this weekend’s opponents guarantees nothing when they meet again at Ochilview.
“We got off to a good start down there and that helped us and we will look to get on the front foot early at home,” said John. “If we can do that then I’m confident that we can collect the three points.”
Shire had a morale-boosting 3-0 victory over Whitehill Welfare in last Saturday’s Lowland League outing at Ochilview, their first home win of 2017 which brought to an end a run of three Ochilview games without a win.
The coach was delighted not only with the result but also the performance of the team, despite being unable to call on the services of three of his most consistent players who were all suspended.
Paul Sludden remains banned for the Gala match but Connor Greene and Andy Rodgers will once again be available for selection. The coach will decide late on his team for the game as one or two players are nursing knocks, but he admits he will not hesitate to change last Saturday’s winning formation if he thinks it will provide a better chance to win the Gala match.
“The players understand that,” he said. “And the good thing is there are no petted lips in the dressing room. There’s a great team spirit and they all help each other and that has served us well so far.”
It will be Rovers’ second trip to Falkirk in just seven days. Last Saturday they faced Stirling University at the Falkirk Stadium but went home disappointed at losing the encounter to the only goal of the game which was scored by the students deep into injury-time at the end of the match.
That defeat aside, Rovers have been in good form since the turn of the year and have recorded victories over Vale of Leithen and Preston Athletic.
They also picked up a point in a 1-1 draw against Selkirk, who had beaten the Netherdale men 7-1 in the reverse fixture earlier in the season, which again should underline the Shire coach’s comments about the first meeting bearing little influence on the outcome this weekend.
The match referee is David Munro and Shire will don their usual black and white hoops. Everyone at the club would love to see a big home support turn out to get right behind the Shire team. If you can, please make the effort to come along and cheer on the players.