Coach John Sludden is hopeful his Shire squad will be at almost full strength for the first-ever Lowland League trip to Hawick Royal Albert on Saturday, with only Drew Ramsay missing through suspension.
The match has an unusual 7pm kick-off due to its inclusion in the annual Scottish Groundhop Day, with the crowd at Albert Park likely to be boosted well beyond what might have been expected by visitors from across the UK attending as part of a trek across grounds in the Lowland and East of Scotland Leagues.
The coach will be less concerned with the late start than making sure his team gets back to winning ways in the league. The last Lowland League outing was a disappointing 3-3 draw at Cumbernauld Colts three weeks ago.
He is hoping, rather, they pick up from where Shire left off a fortnight ago in booking a semi-final spot in the SFA South Region Challenge Cup when they defeated East of Scotland League Tynecastle 3-2.
That game was a fortnight ago and although Shire have had no competitive game since, they did face SPFL League 1 Peterhead in a closed-door friendly on Tuesday evening.
“It was a useful exercise,” said John of the narrow 2-1 defeat. “It gave everyone some game time and that will do us all good going into Saturday’s game at Hawick.”
The coach was boosted by the participation of Liam Allison in the midweek friendly. The utility man has been sidelined by injury and has not started the last two game although he may come back into contention.
Also included for the Hawick trip will be club captain Derek Ure who missed the Tynecastle victory due to suspension. However, one player will be missing – it’s Drew Ramsay’s turn to sit out a game after picking up his sixth yellow card of the season against Cumbernauld Colts in the last league game thus incurring a one game ban.
The reverse fixture at Ochilview in August produced a Shire win, their first-ever home Lowland League victory.
But Shire were the first to accept that day the 3-1 victory had not been straightforward and they expect Saturday’s game will be every bit as difficult, especially in light of Hawick’s recent performances.
The hosts have played twice while Shire have been idle since the Tynecastle victory – they won 4-3 at home against Cumbernauld Colts last Saturday and it took a late goal on Tuesday night for leaders East Kilbride to score a 2-1 win over them at K Park on Tuesday evening.
“We know it will be difficult,” said John. “The players should know that by now. But if we get off to a good start then I would be confident that we have the players who can get the result we want.”
Albert are currently second from bottom in the league table but they are more than capable of beating teams higher up the table, as they have proven on several occasions already this season.
They also caused perhaps the biggest shock of the second round of this season’s Scottish Cup when they won 3-2 away at SPFL League 2 Berwick Rangers.
There is no doubt Shire will be in for a tough evening under lights at Hawick and our hosts should also have their biggest home crowd of the season there for the game. We would love to see as many Shire fans as possible make the trip to cheer on the team. The Supporters Club is running a bus and you can book your seat by giving Sandy Nimmo a call on 07803 708119. Please make the effort to go if you are able, it would be appreciated by everyone.