Shire face up to leaders Annan

East Stirlingshire face table toppers Annan
East Stirlingshire face table toppers Annan

East Stirlingshire come out of an enforced two week lay-off with possibly the toughest assignment available when they travel to League 2 leaders Annan Athletic this weekend.

Craig Tully’s men have not played since their 3-1 victory over Montrose at Ochilview on 21st November and keeping them fresh and game-ready has become a concern given the importance of Saturday’s match.

The break has also hampered Shire in that they cannot get a one game suspension for defender Reece Donaldson worked off, which means he will miss the trip to Galabank.

“We have been training regularly over the past few weeks and that training has been good,” said Tully this week. “But the boys are very keen to get back to playing games. That’s what they train to do so it can be frustrating for them to do all the training and not use it on a Saturday.”

Shire will come off a two week break and into a match against the league’s in-form team. Tully had Annan watched as they advanced to the next round of the Scottish Cup with a midweek win over Inverurie Locos, but he says his players should not fear anything.

“We are on a good run of results ourselves,” he said. “They guys should be feeling confident and they certainly should be keen to start playing again. There’s no doubt it will be a difficult game for us but we know we can beat them because we have already done it this season.”

The last meeting of the teams, back at Ochilview in the early part of the season, ended in a 3-1 Shire triumph on a day when Tully’s men turned in one of their best displays of the season so far.

“We played really well that day and, to be honest, we could have scored more,” said the Shire boss. “We need to take that into Saturday. It’s all very well pointing out to Annan’s good record recently but no team in this league is unbeatable. Things are tight and anyone can beat anyone else on their day.”

One thing Shire need to overcome is their terrible form on the road. While their record at Ochilview is one of the best in the league, Shire have picked up just one point away from home in seven games this season, which is the primary reason why they find themselves sitting perilously close to the bottom of the League 2 table.

“If our away form was anything like our home then we would be sitting well clear at the top of the league,” he said. !”We have thought long and hard about why that should be the case and why we can’t seem to get results on the road.

“We have examined our preparation to see if that holds any clues and we may try different things to see if that can make a difference. But we need, somehow, to get this winless run away from home ended and it would be nice to do it on Saturday.”

His selection options remain the same as they would have been had last weekend’s game against Clyde not been postponed. Aron Lynas is once again available to be included after serving a one game ban, which gives Tully an extra option from the Montrose match.

However, he will be missing Donaldson and long-term injury victim Billy Vidler who may need an operation on a knee injury picked up in September.