By Ben Kearney @BenKearney0 (Header Image Credit: Ian Cairns)
Connor Shields admits his road to regular full-time football has not been straightforward – but the Queen of the South forward is only looking up, after his recent goalscoring form propelled him to top of the pecking order at Palmerston Park.
Stephen Dobbie’s injury gave Shields an opportunity to move to a central role and the former Sunderland starlet has grabbed the opportunity with both hands – scoring 7 in the last 5 outings, including both goals at the weekend against Arbroath.
“I’ve mainly been playing down the wing this season, but for me my position is a forward. Dobbs (Stephen Dobbie) has been a big miss for us but it’s given me a chance to claim his spot.” said Shields.
The Doonhamers’ have turned around their season, picking up two vital wins before taking a point this weekend. After picking up an unexpected win away to Raith Rovers with 16-year-old Charlie Cowie in goals, Shields then scored a last minute goal for another win, at home against Ayr United the following weekend.
Shields admitted “We were disappointed with this weekend as it was a chance to really pull away from the bottom spots, when you go two goals up at home, you expect to see out the game. The Raith game really brought us together, it was a special win under the circumstances.”
With a bumper Scottish Cup tie against Hibernian, managed by his ex-Wearside boss Jack Ross looming, Shields believes the side are in a good place despite a poor start to the campaign and they can cause a shock.
“It was a difficult start, but the gaffer (Allan Johnstone) has believed in us. We have got a good mix, young guys like James (Maxwell) and Euan (East) with a point to prove and the older heads to get us through games. We have a lot of belief.
He added “The Hibs match is obviously an interesting one for me. With Jack (Ross) in charge, it is a chance for me to show him what I can do after my time down south. I came back to training early and he gave me a chance but he didn’t think I was ready. He wanted me to go out on loan to play first team football and I did respect that.”
After a scintillating start to his senior career at Albion Rovers, Shields was head-hunted by the Black Cats, who initially wanted Shields to play in the Under-23s side with a view to moving up into the first team fold. Loan moves to Alloa Athletic and Aldershot Town gave the 23-year-old an arduous footballing upbringing.
“It wasn’t easy, but I was desperate to play full-time football. I was always wanting to learn and the National League with Aldershot was completely different to up here. Playing under Jim Goodwin at Alloa gave me a full season of Championship football which really helped me progress.” commented Shields.
Coatbridge born Shields admits playing for his local team was an experience he’ll never forget, with the Wee Rovers unforgettable Jekyll and Hyde season seeing them drop to League 1 after an impressive start. Alan Trouten’s partnership with Shields was lauded as the most deadly in the lower leagues.
“I was brought into the first team by Brian (Kerr) who also was my coach at the Under 20’s side. We brought in Joao Victoria as first choice striker, but I just hit this run with Trouts, it was incredible, the side scored 20 goals in the first nine league games.
He added “I was gutted they went down in the end, the match at East Fife floored us mentally. We lost something from that game and just couldn’t buy a win after it. Brian wanted me to come back on loan when I left and I think that would have been best for both clubs – but it wasn’t to be.”