Saturday’s Opponents – Preston Athletic

Shire will make their first-ever competitive visit to Prestonpans this weekend to face Preston Athletic in their latest Lowland League outing of the season.

Their opponents will be playing their first match since having to confront the reality of finishing bottom of the table and with that the likelihood of relegation to the East of Scotland League – something that was confirmed last Friday evening when they lost 2-0 at home to Cumbernauld Colts.

Despite all of this, coach John Sludden does not think this weekend’s trip will be straightforward or that the team and its followers can roll up to Pennypit Park and assume they will win.

“They are at the bottom of the league and I suppose there will be some people who just expect us to take three or four goals off them,” he said. “We have to ignore that and make sure our mindset is correct.

“We will be working hard in training this week to make sure everyone is in the right frame of mind. The most important thing is to get three points and it doesn’t matter what position your opponents are in the league.

“Every game this season has been like a cup final for our opponents and this weekend that might be even more so given the position they are in.”

The teams met at Ochilview in the reverse fixture in November and Shire won 6-2 that day, largely thanks to four goals from David Grant. But the visitors were in the game a 3-2 well into the second period and gave Shire plenty of food for thought that day.

David Grant finds the back of the net against Preston Athletic at Ochilview in November.
David Grant finds the back of the net against Preston Athletic at Ochilview in November.

Since that day, though, times have been hard for The Panners. A week after losing six goals to Shire they went down 8-3 to BSC Glasgow at The Recs, and, although they staged a mini-revival with back-to-back victories against Hawick Royal Albert and Dalbeattie Star on successive Saturdays in December, points have been hard to come by since.

In fact, impossible. Since the win over Dalbeattie Star at Islecroft Stadium on 17th December they have lost nine consecutive Lowland League matches although, over the course of that run, they have had chances to claim some points.

They were just edged out 4-3 by Civil Service Strollers as they aimed to make it three wins in a row. Against Gala Fairydean Rovers they found themselves 3-0 down but levelled things at 3-3 before an injury-time goal gave Rovers a 4-3 win, and there was another high scoring affair against Stirling University but that ended in a 5-3 defeat.

All of which points to the fact that Saturday’s opponents know where the opposition goal is and they have proven they can punish even the best teams at the back. The Shire coach knows this and is urging his players to take that on board as they aim to finish the season on a high.

“There is still a lot to play for,” said John. “We need to keep standards high and that’s the message we will be getting across to the players.”

The coach and the players would love to see as many Shire fans as possible at Pennypit Park on Saturday. The Supporters Club is running a bus and if you want to book your seat then give Sandy Nimmo a call on 07803 708119. Admission prices are £5.00 adults and £3.00 concessions, so if you can please make the effort to go along and support the team.