Exclusive: Injury crisis hits Bellshill Athletic's build-up to new West of Scotland League campaign
An injury crisis leaving Bellshill Athletic with only 11 fit players has led to this Saturday’s scheduled friendly at local rivals Thorniewood United being cancelled.
But Bellshill gaffer Derek Wilson is confident that he will have enough fit bodies to field a starting 11 and full substitutes’ bench for the West of Scotland League Conference A opener at Maryhill on Saturday , July 17, KO 2pm.
"It’s a variety of injuries the boys have been suffering from,” Wilson told the Times and Speaker.
“We couldn’t risk playing any more games in case anybody else got injured with the season starting this week.
"Hopefully we’ll get four of our injured lads back for the Maryhill game.
"If we get them back then we’ll have a strong team. We are looking to take full points out of Maryhill and then Lesmahagow at home in our second game (at Rockburn Park on Wednesday, July 21, KO 7.30pm).
"Realistically next season, we want to be up in the top three come the end of the season.
"But we just want to play away in the first part of the season and try and get in the top half of the table. We’ll be happy with that.”
Bellshill go into the new league campaign boosted by the fact that they recently finished top of the inaugural Breathing Space Cup mini league after winning four matches and drawing one overall against rivals Lesmahagow Juniors, Newmains United, Forth Wanderers and Royal Albert.
Breathing Space – Scotland’s mental health awareness organisation – support the event and their co-boss Paul Davies presented the trophy to Wilson and his players
"We were absolutely tremendous in the Breathing Space Cup,” Wilson said.
"Winning it was a great achievement. That’s the first trophy they’ve had as a team.
"It gives the Bellshill supporters something to cheer about as well because they’ve not had much to cheer about in the past few years. I’m really pleased.
"I thought it was a smashing tournament. We were playing teams that we know, we know the managers well and different things.
"It was the first year of that league and long may it continue because it’s going to be an annual thing.”
Bellshill go into the new campaign with Wilson having just signed two new players, winger Ross MacNeill and centre forward Paul Donaghy, both of whom he bossed at former club Carluke Rovers.
"Ross is just an old fashioned winger,” Wilson said. “He’s very fast and at the end of the day that's what we look at bringing in.
"Ross played with Rangers Boys Club and Motherwell Boys Club before his stint with me at Carluke. He’s actually my nephew.
"I had Paul up at Carluke as well. And when I went away from there he went to St Roch’s and he decided he wanted to join up with Bellshill.
"Paul has a wee injury just now so he’ll not be fully fit for the start of the season but we’re working on him with physios.”
Bellshill’s local rivals Thorniewood will also begin their West of Scotland League campaign this Saturday. They visit Ardeer Thistle, KO 2pm.
’Wood then host Renfrew in their second league match next Wednesday, KO 7.30pm.