Achieving a first victory of the season over Spartans may be Shire’s key motivation ahead of this weekend’s Lowland League Cup second round match at Ainslie Park.
The Edinburgh club won both league encounters this season, a factor in Shire’s inability to sustain a challenge to eventual champions East Kilbride, and coach John Sludden admitted in the run-up to this week’s game those failures were more than a minor disappointment to the Shire players.
With Sludden likely to have something close to a full-strength squad available this week, there could be a very keen edge to the encounter beyond simply extending the season by one more match and moving a step closer to reaching the League Cup final.
“I don’t think there will be a lot between the two teams and we are looking forward to a good cup-tie,” said the Shire coach. “The boys have been hurt by the question marks that were raised when we have played the teams at the top of the league.
“We failed to beat them in the two league games and that disappointed the players, so we have a chance to change that on Saturday and prove that we can beat Spartans.”
The team passed a similar challenge with flying colours two weeks ago when Shire at last scored victory over East Kilbride in the final league match of the season. Sludden says this weekend’s trip to Edinburgh presents the same kind of scenario which, he hopes, will lead to the same kind of outcome.
“It provided a wee incentive in that game,” he said of the 3-2 league victory over the table-toppers. “And we hope that will be the same again on Saturday.”
Shire still feel aggrieved at the 1-0 defeat at Spartans on their last trip to Ainslie Park in September. The outcome was decided by a disputed penalty kick goal in injury-time at the end of the match.
“There wasn’t much between the two teams that day,” said the Shire coach. “We had a couple of chances, as they did, and it was a penalty kick that decided it.”
The Ochilview reverse fixture ended in a more decisive 4-1 victory for Spartans, on the back of a second half display which was perhaps the best performance any team has managed against Shire this season, something John recognised.
“In the second half we let ourselves down but they deserved to win the game,” he observed.
Shire had a depleted squad to thank for getting the club into this weekend’s second round of the League Cup. They took just 12 players to Selkirk in last week’s first round and found themselves 2-0 down at the interval only for an Andy Rodgers double and a Jamie Glasgow strike in the second period to turn things around.
“At half-time we told them they had 45 minutes to change things and, fair play to them, they did that,” said John. “The first 30 minutes was really disappointing but we showed a lot of positive things in the second half which we hope to take on into this Saturday’s game.”
Club captain Derek Ure and defender Michael Oliver will be added to the squad after missing the Selkirk trip due to suspension and there are hopes as well that injured duo Kris Faulds and Liam Allison will be fit enough to be added.
The coach is adamant that everyone at the club wants to end the season on a high note and, for them, the objective is to do their best to get to the final on 20th May.
“Our aim is to get to the final stages of the cups. It will be another difficult hurdle on Saturday but we have to go there and show the kind of confidence that can get us a result and into the next round.”
The coach and the players would love to see another big away contingent at Ainslie Park. There was an encouraging travelling support at Selkirk last Saturday and it’s hoped there could be a big turn out this weekend to help the team. The Supporters Club will be organising transport and details can be obtained from Sandy Nimmo on 07803 708119.