Liam Allison may be fit enough to be added to the Shire squad this weekend as the team resumes its Lowland League season with a trip to face current champions East Kilbride at K Park.
If he does make a recovery from injury the utility man will not be the only player who will come back into contention for a starting place, despite Shire recording a 7-0 win in the team’s last outing.
Strikers Kevin Kelbie and Andy Rodgers, who did not feature at all in last week’s victory against Nithsdale Wanderers in the SFA South Region Challenge Cup, are in line to resume up front while other players who were rested for the cup-tie will hope to reclaim their places are Andy Grant, Connor Greene, and Graeme MacGregor.
One man who did start the Nithsdale Wanderers game, Jordan Tapping, won’t, however, be in the squad for the East Kilbride game because he’s suspended.
After a disappointing 3-1 away defeat at Stirling University in Shire’s last league outing, they have chosen a tough venue, and an even tougher set of opponents, to try to get the show up and running again.
East Kilbride had a free week last week due to the cup fixtures and a bye into the second round but they will be hoping to pick up from where they left off – a 4-1 away win at Gretna 2008 a fortnight ago.
The champions go into the Shire fixture in second place, five points behind current leaders BSC Glasgow but they know victory will reduce that gap to just two with BSC occupied by Scottish Cup business on Saturday.
The last time, and only previous occasion, Shire visited K Park, in September 2016, an early goal was enough to give the hosts a 1-0 victory in a very tight game.
“Fantastic for the players and fantastic for the club”, was coach John Sludden’s assessment of the debut performances of Shire teenagers Aidan McKeown and Chris McLaughlin in Saturday’s 7-0 win over Nithsdale Wanderers in the first round of the SFA South Region Challenge Cup.
While Chris’s 86th minute goal was the icing on the cake as far as his senior debut went, the contribution of Aidan at right-back was not overlooked either in the post-game analysis from the coach, who only brought both players in a few weeks ago.
It was certainly a step up for Chris who was playing under-17 football with Milton Amateurs last term and it represented a comeback for Aidan who had stopped playing football after a spell as part of the youth set-up at Hibernian.
“The two kids were great and it was finished off by Chris’s goal,” said the Shire coach. “They have been training with us for a few months and we have been keeping an eye on their progress,
“They have both done well and we thought this [game] was a good opportunity for them to make their debuts in the first team and I think they can be really proud of their performances.”
There was little doubt that both players got plenty out of the experience. For both playing in the adult seniors was a clear step up and they liked it so much they want another go as quickly as possible.
“It did come as a surprise,” said Chris of his inclusion in Saturday’s starting line-up. “But at the same time I had been working hard at training and hoping that I would get a chance. It was a great feeling and the next step now is to progress and get more experience in the team.”
Overall, the wide man had plenty to be pleased about. Before finishing off Simon White’s pass for the seventh goal he had played Paul Sludden through for Shire’s fourth goal. “It was good to get a goal and an assist,” he said. “I thought I came more into the game in the second half – we increased the tempo in the second half and we went out and did what we had to do to win the game.”
Chris says he hadn’t have any time to think about the build-up to his goal but he was determined not to miss out on a scoring opportunity. “I just saw the ball come through to me and when it got to my feet I knew I was through on the keeper one-on-one and I knew I just had to take my chance.
“Making my debut was an experience in itself but to grab a goal and an assist makes it ten times better.”
While Chris got the goal, Aidan had plenty to be pleased about as well. The young defender has participated in a number of closed-door games over the past few weeks and those who have watched the games have come away impressed enough to tell others to “keep an eye out” for the teenager.
His performance in the Nithsdale Wanderers encounter lived up to that early praise but it might never have happened if he had not reversed an earlier decision to simply stop playing the game.
“I started out with Milton and then went to Hibernian but I fell away from football for a while but I’m back enjoying it again,” said Aidan, who, after a spell neither playing or being involved in football, slowly started to find out that he was missing it.
“When you get up on a Saturday and there’s nothing to do you start to miss it,” he said. “I’ve got the bug back and back into it and you now don’t want it to stop again. I played for about six months last season then fell away.
“I lost all my fitness and that was hard to get back but I have worked hard and the rewards are in days like today.”
Both players are well aware that opportunities to break into the side on a regular basis will be down to more hard work and application. But neither look shy of a bit of hard work and Chris and Aidan certainly can’t wait to get another shot at it.
It was a case of “mission accomplished” for Shire head coach John Sludden as he reflected on the weekend 7-0 win over South of Scotland League Nithsdale Wanderers in the first round of the SFA South Region Challenge Cup at Ochilview.
The coach watched on from the sidelines as all of his major pre-game objectives were met by the team, who, despite taking 43 minutes to find a way past a determined set of opponents, took the game by the scruff of the neck in the second half, scoring six more goals including an eight minute hat-trick by Paul Sludden.
The most important thing was making it through to the next round of the cup. But other plus points for the coach were seven goals scored while keeping a clean sheet at the other end, and the performance of a much-changed team.
Teenagers Aidan McKeown and Chris McLaughlin came in for their competitive debuts and both made an impression, with Chris putting his mark on the day by scoring the team’s final goal.
“It was fantastic for the two young boys and fantastic for the club to have them come in and do so well, rounding off with Chris’s goal, which was a great finish,” said the coach. “They have been involved with the club for a few months and we have been keeping an eye on their progress.
“They have done really well and we thought this would be a great opportunity for them to make their debuts in the first team and I think they can be proud of their performances.”
The coach made a number of changes to his team. Andy Rodgers was forced to miss the game through suspension but regulars Kevin Kelbie, Connor Greene, Andy Grant and Graeme MacGregor were all rested. Nevertheless, the coach was happy with the display of the team which was selected.
“We scored seven goals, we kept a clean sheet and we gave some players 90 minutes under their belt,” he said. “So you have to feel it was a good exercise for us.
“We spoke about how we wanted to play everything at a high tempo and we did that for the first fifteen [minutes] but we should have been more clinical and we could have been three or four up in that period,” said the coach.
However, after that the coach felt the game went through a “lull” in which the Shire team failed to capitalise on the early initiative and that gave a willing Nithsdale Wanderers team the chance to grow in confidence.
“We let them dictate the pace of the game and we were disappointed that we did not have the urgency and we huffed and puffed a bit.” he said. “It was fortunate we got in at half-time 1-0 ahead. It was a good delivery and a good header from Jamie [McCormack],” he said of the 43rd minute goal which finally broke the deadlock.
The coach admitted there was plenty of discussion in the changing room at half-time about how to put things right. It worked as Shire sprinted into a 3-0 advantage on the hour mark. The coach says, with the game won at that point, the team could relax a bit and simply concentrate on playing football.
“Everything needed to be done sharper,” said John of the main message from the half-time team talk. “We did that and we got our reward and then we went on and we could enjoy the last 30 minutes of the game and you saw that in their play.”
A penalty after Steven Brisbane was fouled inside the box gave Paul Sludden the chance to make it 2-0 after 57 minutes and by the time the 65 minute mark was reached the striker had a hat-trick and the team were 4-0 in front with two more strikes.
McCormack made it 5-0, Sludden got the sixth with his second penalty of the day eleven minutes from the end and McLaughlin capped a great debut on the left wing with he seventh goal after 86 minutes.
“There were some good goals scored and we created lots of chances,” said the coach.
After a season so far which has seen Shire fail to pick up as many league points as everyone would have liked, the coach is hoping Saturday’s victory might give the club the boost it needs ahead of the resumption of Lowland League action away at East Kilbride this coming weekend.
“Hopefully they will come back in good spirits [to training] on Tuesday and it sets us up for next Saturday’s game,” he said.
Shire take a break from Lowland League action this weekend when South of Scotland League Nithsdale Wanderers are the visitors to Ochilview in the first round of the SFA South of Scotland Challenge Cup.
The team reached the semi-final of last season’s competition where Shire exited after a disappointing 3-2 defeat against Cumbernauld Colts at The Falkirk Stadium. One consequence of that defeat will impact on this weekend’s encounter – Andy Rodgers’ booking in the Colts game was his second of last season’s tournament leaving him to serve a one game ban against Saturday’s visitors from Sanquhar.
Other than Andy, coach John Sludden should have a full squad to choose from but will name his starting eleven late.
He will be hoping more than anything else to get a positive reaction from the Shire players after defeat in the team’s previous competitive outing at the hands of Stirling University last Friday.
Shire enjoyed their debut in the South Region Cup last season. The team got a bye at this stage twelve months ago before making their first entry with an away match against Mid Annandale at Lockerbie.
That 3-0 victory landed Shire a third round home match with Newton Stewart and the game itself had Shire fans reaching for the record book as the team won 9-0 with Rodgers contributing five of the goals himself.
The quarter-final paired Shire with East of Scotland League Tynecastle FC and it proved a tight affair with a late Paul Sludden goal taking the team though to the last four match up with Cumbernauld Colts.
Shire’s chances were hindered by conceding a first minute goal and, in the end, Colts were deserved winners but the run had brought some great memories along the way.
This season’s draw has brought Shire together with Nithsdale Wanderers from the South of Scotland League.
The Sanquhar-based team is maybe not one we are familiar with but the clubs did meet while both were members of the Scottish Football League in the mid-1920s with the last of these games in 1927.
Since they dropped out of the SFL in the 1920s Wanderers played in local competitions but disappeared completely in the 1960s before being revived in 2001 and have played in the South of Scotland League continuously since then.
They have not enjoyed the best of starts to their current campaign but there is no doubt they will be very much looking forward to the game and they will be determined opponents keen to cause a cup upset.
Saturday’s game at Ochilview will have a 3:00pm start with admission set at £8.00 for adults and £4.00 for concessions. Season ticket holders are reminded these are NOT valid for this game.
David Grant, one of the stars of Shire’s first-ever Lowland League season, has left the club this week to pursue a new life in Canada.
Our top league goalscorer in 2016/17 has been given a fantastic opportunity by his employer to establish a franchise on the other side of the Atlantic and he is headed across to Canada to start his new life in the next few days.
It is a brilliant chance for David to experience a new way of life and he goes with our best wishes.
Although everyone at Shire will be sad to come to terms with his absence in the team every week he has left us with some great memories and some terrific goals.
We would like to thank David for his fantastic contribution which included reaching scoring landmarks which had us reaching for the record books. We are sure he will enjoy his new venture and we wish him every success with Box Soccer in Canada.
Coach John Sludden has added to his player pool by completing the signing of two young trialists who have both shown up well in recent matches.
17 year-old defender Aiden McKeown was previously part of Hibernian’s youth academy while midfielder Chris McLaughlin joins Shire from Bannockburn-based amateur side, Milton FC.
Both players have been training with the club for some time and have featured as trialists on the substitutes bench in a few of Shire’s Lowland League games already this season, as well as playing a full part in some of the recent closed-door friendlies.
They have now signed deals to keep them at the club at least until the end of the season. Everyone at the club would like to welcome Aiden and Chris to Shire and we will all watch their football development with interest.
Shire are back in Lowland League action after a week long break when the team takes on Stirling University at The Falkirk Stadium on Friday evening (kick-off 7:45pm).
It is the first outing for John Sludden’s team since the 2-0 victory against Vale of Leithen on 26th August and is a chance for Shire to extend an unbeaten Lowland League run to six games.
The head coach was heartened by the win, and the display, at Innerleithen in Shire’s last public appearance which brought a frustrating sequence of three successive draws to an end.
“I thought there were a number of real positives,” he said. “We played with a good tempo, the passing was good and we got real width to our play, which is something we asked the boys to do.”
But John knows the task facing Shire against the Airthrey students is likely to require an even further step up in standard. Friday’s opponents sit in third place in the league table having collected five more points than their visitors, although the students have played two more games.
An indication of the size of Shire’s task was underlined by Stirling University’s last result.
While the postponement of Shire’s planned Saturday engagement with Spartans left them idle, Stirling University became just one of a handful of teams over the last couple of years to stop East Kilbride winning at home with the sides sharing a 1-1 draw at K Park.
“It will be a big test for us,” said John. “They are good team as they proved with their result on Saturday. They are fit and well-organised ans they also have the advantage of training every day.
“The two games we played against them last season were both good matches and we are hoping Friday’s will be just as good,” he said.
Shire last faced the Stirling students at Falkirk Stadium back in January on another Friday evening and the team eventually emerged with a hard-fought but deserved 2-0 victory.
“We go into every game with the aim of winning it,” said John. “It doesn’t matter if we are playing the team at the top or one near the bottom. We approach both in a positive manner.”
For a second successive match Shire will wear the second choice red and black kit with Stirling University in their normal green strips. An away game so close to home is an ideal opportunity for many Shire followers who are not regulars at away games to see the team play away from Ochilview and the coaches and the players would greatly appreciate a big and vocal support for a very important match.
Shire’s scheduled Lowland League game for this weekend against Spartans may have been postponed to a later date but that doesn’t mean time off for the players or coaching staff.
The team was left with a blank fixture date this coming Saturday after Spartans were re-instated in the IRN-BRU Cup following Albion Rovers’ disqualification, but coach John Sludden is planning a full training schedule and is also hoping to play a friendly match as well.
“We will just have a normal week,” said John. “We also want to get a friendly against a league team. There are a few, like us, who are out of the IRN-BRU Cup and who have no scheduled league match.
“There has been contact with a number of teams and we are hopeful of getting something sorted out,” he said.
The coach was happy with last week’s 2-0 away victory at Vale of Leithen, a result which brought to an end a frustrating run of three successive draws.
“There were a number of positives,” said John. “We played with a real tempo, our passing game was better and we got real width to our play, which was something we asked the boys to do.”
Shire’s next competitive game will be on Friday 8th September when the team takes on Stirling University at the Falkirk Stadium in our latest Lowland League outing. Kick-off is 7:45pm.