Shire will travel to Selkirk this weekend to make the club’s debut in the first round of the Scottish Lowland League Cup.
The tournament is a straight knock-out affair which means that for the loser the game will represent their final competitive fixture of the season. The match will be played to a finish with extra-time and shots from the penalty mark, if necessary, in the event of a draw after 90 minutes.
Coach John Sludden will be missing club captain Derek Ure, serving the second of a two game ban for a red card against Dalbeattie Star a fortnight ago, and on-loan Michael Oliver, who is banned after picking up a suspension from last season’s competition while with Cumbernauld Colts.
Pre-game talk will inevitably focus on Shire’s last trip to Yarrow Park back in September which ended in an extraordinary 7-4 defeat.
Coach John Sludden, looking forward to the return visit, says it was a day few connected with the club will forget in a hurry, but for all the wrong reasons.
“I think that was a big wake up call for everyone at the club,” said John. “We know exactly what we can expect at Selkirk on Saturday this time round and we know it will be a real cup-tie.
“We have to make sure we match their enthusiasm right from the word go. Fair play to Selkirk, they deserved their victory that day and, regardless of the result, we made a lot of friends down there that do and we will look forward to seeing them again.”
Shire did at least get the better of Selkirk in the reverse league fixture at Ochilview in November, when Paul Sludden bagged a hat-trick in a 5-0 victory.
At that stage of the campaign Selkirk were still locked in a battle with Preston Athletic to avoid the wooden spoon. But a good start to 2017 saw them put daylight between themselves and the Prestonpans side.
There even seemed a point where they might climb higher and a home draw with eventual champions East Kilbride, followed by an away victory at Cumbernauld Colts, narrowed the gap to the teams immediately ahead of them.
But Selkirk concluded the league season in disappointing form, taking just one point from their last four games and even suffering defeat at the hands of bottom side Preston Athletic. That sequence meant they had to settle for a next-to-last league placing.
Shire enter the game having scored a confidence-boosting 3-2 home victory over East Kilbride in the team’s final Lowland League match of the season last Saturday.
Coach Sludden has previously said that no-one at the club is taking the cups as a sideshow. They proved that by reaching the semi-final of the SFA South Region Challenge Cup and there was no hiding the disappointment at missing out on a place in the final following a 3-2 defeat against Cumbernauld Colts.
The coach says this latest competition is a chance to end the season on a positive note. “We certainly want to go as far as we can,” said John. “We were disappointed at losing in the semi-final of the other cup and we want to see if we can get to the final of this one.”
The coach and the players would love to see as many Shire supporters as possible at Yarrow Park. Contact Sandy Nimmo on 07803 708119 to find out details of fan transport to this game.