CLACH hope to have several key players back this weekend as they aim to recover from their bruising 6-0 defeat at Brora Rangers.
Iain Polworth’s squad travelled to Dudgeon Park on Saturday minus eight regulars – keeper John Campbell, midfielders Blair Lawrie, Duncan Jones, Scott MacLean and Paul Smith and strike trio Daniel Maclennan, Stuart Leslie and Iain Penwright.
The Merkinchers had been on a nine-game unbeaten run in the Highland League, with their defeat to Stirling University in the William Hill Scottish Cup their only off day in a couple of months.
However, being without so many first-team players missing against one of the main title contenders this was clearly always going to be a mountain to climb.
Former Ross County starlet Steven Ross scored four times, with two Dale Gillespie penalties taking the match well beyond reach of the visitors.
From the nine out last weekend, only MacLean and Leslie are expected to still be out, which is a massive boost for boss Iain Polworth, who felt that the timing of the goals was certainly crucial as to the shift in the balance of control against Brora.
He explained: "To miss that number of real quality, starting 11, players was too much. If you take nine regulars out of any side they would also be struggling.
"We frustrated Brora and held out until they scored on 35 minutes. We had hoped to get in at half-time just 1-0 down, regroup and go again, but we conceded another goal right on half-time.
"When that happens you then think you will go out and try and find a way back into it, but we lost two more early goals in the second half, so taking the half-time interval out of it, we conceded three goals in about five minutes. All credit to the young lads who came in though, they got valuable experience and we will dust ourselves down and move on to Deveronvale this weekend."
Clach have won five, drawn five and lost five in the league this season and Polworth will be keen to see off Vale at Grant Street Park on Saturday.
Vale are third from bottom, although their last outing saw them win 2-1 at Fort William a fortnight ago.
Lossiemouth, Turriff United and Wick Academy are just above Clach by two points, so a home win could see the Lilywhites move up from ninth position.