Coach John Sludden says this weekend’s final Lowland League opponents of the season, East Kilbride, are “worthy champions” but he would still like to beat them when they come to Ochilview on Saturday.
East Kilbride clinched the title almost three weeks ago after a superb run of results and were presented with the championship trophy at last weekend’s 2-0 victory over Spartans.
John did not hide the disappointment that his team had missed out on a goal he had set the players in the summer, but praised East Kilbride for their achievement. They will now go into the pyramid play-off against the winners of the Highland League.
“They are worthy champions,” said John. “They had a fantastic start. It doesn’t matter what level you play at it was a great run and it set them up for the season and they just continued on from there.
“They were very consistent throughout the season and it was very hard for the rest of us to try and catch up. During the course of the season you maybe expect teams will have a wee dip but they didn’t and they are worthy champions.”
Nevertheless, John says he believes his players have what it takes to challenge East Kilbride in this weekend’s league curtain call. He says it’s right to expect his team to want to challenge themselves against the best.
“I think we have a wee incentive to do well,” he said. “It would be good for the confidence if we were to get a result against the league champions, especially going into the League Cup so that’s what we are all aiming for.
“There’s nothing at stake I suppose but it does get you three more points but it means no more than that.”
He is keen to get back to winning ways. Shire have now gone back-to-back matches without a victory for the first time since October after Saturday’s away draw at Dalbeattie was preceded by the disappointing cup defeat at the hands of Cumbernauld Colts.
John understands the importance of not letting that negative run go any further, although he accepted that the Dalbeattie scoreline probably reflected the state of the game quite well.
“A draw was a fair result,” said the coach. “Although the boys showed a good togetherness in coming back from 2-0 down to draw level and then create chances to go ahead. But it just wasn’t to be.”
One handicap for Saturday’s East Kilbride game will be the absence of club captain Derek Ure through suspension. He was sent-off close to the end of the Dalbeattie game and has been given a two game ban as a consequence.
“It was a soft sending-off and he is a very important player for us,” said the head coach. “However, it sends out a message to the other guys that here is a chance for you to come in and stake a claim.
“It’s happened before over the course of a season and we will be looking for guys who are thinking this could be my chance.”
The coach also revealed he will give Liam Allison every chance to prove his fitness ahead of the East Kilbride clash. The utility player lasted just 28 minutes at Dalbeattie before pulling up with a leg knock.
He has been receiving treatment and a decision on whether or not he will be part of the squad will be made much closer to Saturday’s kick-off time.