Shire will travel to Dalbeattie Star’s Islecroft Stadium for the penultimate Lowland League match determined to round off the season on a high note.
Coach John Sludden is hoping to take a full squad south for the club’s first visit to Dalbeattie since a 2-1 Scottish Cup victory there in 1998/99 season, and also with the hope of extending an unbeaten run in league matches to seven games.
It will be the team’s first outing since the disappointing 3-2 defeat in the semi-final of the SFA South Region Challenge Cup against Cumbernauld Colts and the coach wants to see a positive reaction to that reverse.
“There is still plenty to play for,” he said. “We want to end the league on a high and win our last two games which should get us in the right frame of mind for the one cup left,” he said. Shire will enter the first round of the Lowland League Cup with an away tie at Selkirk once the league season is over on 29th April.
The team’s last league outing was a convincing 7-1 away win against Preston Athletic on 1st April, a result which combined with others elsewhere confirmed that Shire would end the season in second place.
The aim now is to close the final gap to champions-elect East Kilbride to as few points as possible, although the coach understands that the game against Dalbeattie Star will be far from straightforward for his team.
“Every game is tough in this league,” said John. “Even now every team we play still wants to beat us simply because of where we have come from.”
It was certainly tough for Shire in the reverse fixture against this weekend’s opponents. It required a goal from Connor Greene deep into injury-time at the end of the 90 minutes to snatch a 2-1 victory in one of the closest, and most keenly-contested matches they have played at Ochilview this season.
Star have not played a competitive game since 25th March but they have been keeping up to speed with some friendly games and recently competed well against promotion-chasing SPFL League 2 side Annan Athletic before going down to a 2-0 defeat.
They should have two of their top players, Iain Anderson, who has scored eight times this season, and Lewis Sloan, available this time around – both men missed out on the Ochilview clash in November – and they will be a much tougher proposition on their home turf.
Dalbeattie will also have a cause to play for. They still have an outside shot of making fourth place at season’s end which would guarantee a place in next season’s IRN-BRU Cup but need to end with a couple of wins to even have a chance of unseating Stirling University.
It all promises to provide a great afternoon’s action. Shire will wear their change yellow and blue colours for the game which will be refereed by Craig King. The coaches and players would love to see as many Shire fans as possible make the trip to Dumfriesshire, contact Sandy Nimmo on 07803 708119 for details of supporter transport.