IRVINE Meadow go for their third trophy of the season when they take on Ashfield in the Cup Winners Cup Final at Newlandsfield on Thursday night.
But manager Chris Strain is in desperate straits as he tries to cobble together a team which can win the end of season showpiece final for the fourth time.
The Irvine outfit have suffered an unprecedented injury crisis in the final part of the season and it has only worsened in recent weeks as one player after another has joined the ever-increasing queue for Dunky Black’s treatment table.
“We’ve been forced to send the same old faces out week after week and they’re either already playing through bad injuries or picking up fresh ones because they can’t get a break,” admitted Strain.
“I’ll just about be able to put 11 payers out on Thursday and maybe have a couple on the bench, but just how fit some of them will be I really don’t know.
“We’re in a very bad position, so bad that I’ve been forced to play Chris McGowan in our last couple of games even though he has hamstring problems in both legs.
“He’ll line up again in the final and all we can do is hope that players like him don’t break down or pick up fresh knocks.”
This is a repeat of the West of Scotland Cup Final which Meadow won 2-0 largely due to a fabulous goalkeeping performance from Michael Wardrope.
Both teams have a win apiece in the league so it looks like another close encounter could be on the cards at Newlandsfield.
Strain’s hand is further weakened by the fact that Stevie Miller and Dumbarton-bound Garry Fleming are on holiday, but the return of his son Chris, and striker Richie Barr who scored a terrific goal in that West Cup Final dispels some of the gloom.
“Yes, we’ve had hard games against Ashfield this season but for all our problems we’re not afraid of them,” said the Meadow manager.
“We’ve got a terrific record in this competition and it would be nice to win it for a fourth time and end the season with another trophy on the sideboard.
“Newlandsfield’s a bit of a happy hunting ground for Irvine Meadow and hopefully that will continue this week.”
Strain has long been an admirer of some of the Ashfield players and has added one of them to his own squad.
Lining up at Meadow Park next season is Robert Halliday who can play left back or on the left side of midfield and Strain is also talking to other signing prospects as well as several of his own squad.
But there could be movement in the other direction with midfielder David McGeowne on his way to Kilbirnie Ladeside and former captain Chris Robertson is reported to be thinking over an offer from Cumnock.