Coach John Sludden has identified a desire to achieve a first victory this season over Spartans as one of the main motivators for Saturday’s Lowland League Cup second round match at Ainslie Park.
Two defeats in the league meetings of the teams harmed Shire’s chances of overtaking eventual champions East Kilbride – accounting for six lost points out of a gap of seven between the league winners and Shire, who ended the campaign as runners-up.
And the coach says no-one should underestimate that as a reason for his team seeking to advance to the semi-final stage of the end-of-season cup competition.
“What has hurt the boys his season has been the question marks that have been raised when we have played the teams at the top of the league,” said John. “We failed to beat them in the league this season and that’s something that disappointed the players. So, we have a wee chance of changing that on Saturday which gives us an opportunity to show that we are capable of beating the likes of Spartans.”
The coach will be encouraged by the response his players gave to the same kind of motivational message ahead of the final league game of the season when Shire eventually managed to beat East Kilbride at Ochilview.
There may have been nothing much at stake but the Shire players’ pride shone through to record a morale-boosting 3-2 victory and he would like to think the same sort of approach applies to this weekend’s match.
“We had a wee incentive [to beat East Kilbride] and it worked for them that day,” said John. “And we are certainly looking for the same again on Saturday. ”
Just as important to the coach and his thinking prior to the Spartans encounter is the need to keep the season going and extend the possibility of ending it with some silverware.
The loser at Ainslie Park will have played their final game of the season, while the victor will progress to a semi-final against either Stirling University or Gretna 2008.
“We have said before that we want to get to the final stages of the cups,” said John. “It will be another difficult hurdle on Saturday but we do have the confidence that can get us the result and get us into the next round.”
Shire will be boosted by the return of skipper Derek Ure and defender Michael Oliver from suspension and the coach is also hoping Kris Faulds and Liam Allison will have recovered from injury problems to participate.
“Hopefully Kris will get the all-clear and we will see how Liam is. But Derek and big Michael will come back into the set-up this Saturday and we will have a bigger squad this weekend,” said John.
Shire’s last visit to Ainslie Park ended in a controversial 1-0 defeat for Shire with Spartans claiming all three points by virtue of a hotly-disputed injury-time penalty. The return game at Ochilview in January was just as tight in the first period, but an outstanding display in the second half allowed Spartans to claim all three points.
“There wasn’t a lot in the first match,” said the Shire coach. “The same was true in the first half at Ochilview although we let ourselves down badly in the second half that day and Spartans deserved the win.
“But we are looking forward to Saturday’s game and hopefully we can get the right result this time.”
The coach and the players are hoping as many Shire supporters as possible will be able to come and cheer the team on Saturday. The Supporters Club will be organising transport and details can be obtained from Sandy Nimmo on 07803 708119. Please make an effort, if you can, to get to the game and cheer on the team.