ARBROATH boss Paul Sheerin is warning his players to keep their feet on the ground if they want to win the league championship.
The Lichties are sitting pretty at the top of Division Three with a five-point gap and a game in hand over their nearest challengers but he still believes it is too early to think about silverware.
The boss told HeraldSport: “We have given ourselves an opportunity to bring the league championship trophy to Gayfield, although Stewart [Petrie] and I are playing it down as much as we can. At every opportunity I am stressing to the players that if they think they have done enough to win silverware, then they will come unstuck.
“They have to take each game as it comes. I know that is a bit cliched but it is very true at the moment. They have to do that or they will end up coming unstuck. I don’t want them thinking that our name is on the trophy already, and it is far from that to be honest.
“I was unfortunate enough to be involved in a league race with Gretna three or four years ago when I played for St Johnstone. It came down to the last day and virtually the last kick of the ball and it cost us the title. I know that there are twists and turns to come.”
However, the manager was happy enough with a point from Saturday’s home match against Stranraer after losing his centre-back to injury then having his goalkeeper sent off.
He said: “I felt the players did well under the circumstances with the club captain and the regular centre-half not available, then McManus goes off injured and you are left to juggle the whole pack. Kieran McAnespie, a natural left-back had to play centre-back and I had to play left-back. Then with Darren Hill being sent off I thought it was a reasonable point for us in the end.”
Mr Sheerin believes that Darren Hill was in the box when he flicked the ball away. He explained: “I didn’t think it was a sending off and said as much to the referee. Darren’s first thought after he had cleared the ball was to get back to his goal. He did not think he had done anything wrong.”
The manager conceded that the match tomorrow (Saturday) against Albion Rovers at Cliftonhill will be the proverbial ‘six pointer’. He went on: “If we win it will open up a nine-point gap but if they win, the gap will be down to three points and they will think they are in with a great chance of winning the league again.”
Allan McManus, who came off the park on Saturday with a hamstring injury, could be fit for tomorrow’s outing to Coatbridge. Mr Sheerin added: “We will train tonight, the physio will get a good look at him and we will find out more on that.
“We are not too bad in defence. Stewart Malcolm missed last week when he was touch and go, so hopefully he will be available. Craig Wedderburn will be back after suspension, so there are a couple coming into contention.
He said that the team will be without ‘keeper Darren Hill who will be suspended after his ordering off, but stressed that 18-year-old Daryl Burns will fit in well. He continued: “Daryl has been sitting on the bench all season waiting his chance so now is the opportunity for him to shine.
“He is a big lad, deals with crosses well and is a good shot-stopper. Daryl will be fine!”
He went on: “It is important that we take care of our end. If we can go there and get a win - certainly not lose - we will be happy. As I have said for most of the season if you can pick up points on the road and win your home games then it will give you a good opportunity. It is more important that we do not lose the game, though they are probably thinking that they have to win it.
Speaking about Tuesday’s results when bottom team Clyde beat Annan 2-0, Berwick and Stranraer fought out a 3-3 draw and Queen’s Park beat Montrose 1-0, the manager said he could not have asked for any better.
He continued: “Annan I am sure would have been desperate to win and go two points behind us. If that had happened it would have put a bit more pressure on us for Saturday. You don’t want to be pushed into any error where the opposition can have a chance to finish so although we don’t want to lose the game, if we do then we will still be top of the league at teatime on Saturday.”