Strain out to up­set ‘best non-league team in Scot­land’

Evening Times - - SPORT - BY JIM O’DON­NELL

FOL­LOW­ERS of Auchin­leck Tal­bot can be ex­cused for find­ing this sea­son to be a bit­ter­sweet un­der­tak­ing in the wake of the side’s won­der­ful Wil­liam Hill Scot­tish Cup ex­ploits.

On the one hand, they have de­lighted in vic­to­ries over Banks O’Dee, Wig­town & Blad­noch, Wick Academy and Cove Rangers that have set up a third-round tie away to yet an­other High­land League out­fit, Fraser­burgh later this month.

But on the other rests the real­i­sa­tion that ev­ery cup tri­umph is si­mul­ta­ne­ously adding to a back­log of Ju­nior fix­tures which has Tal­bot sit­ting in a lowly ninth po­si­tion in the Premier­ship stand­ings hav­ing play­ing five games fewer than league lead­ers Hurl­ford United.

Tommy Sloan’s men are a model of con­sis­tency and surely the one team ca­pa­ble of clos­ing the 17-point gap, how­ever it’s a huge ask for a 19-man squad that also re­tains a burn­ing am­bi­tion to do well in the Ju­nior game’s two most pres­ti­gious cup com­pe­ti­tions – the Ardagh Group West of Scot­land Cup and the Macron Scot­tish Ju­nior Cup.

Tal­bot are the reign­ing Scot­tish hold­ers and are strongly fan­cied to clinch a place in this sea­son’s last 16 af­ter this week’s Evening Times-staged fourth-round draw landed them with a Cas­tle Park meet­ing against Blan­tyre Vics, how­ever an ar­guably stiffer test of con­sid­er­able mag­ni­tude awaits in the West where Wil­lie Lyle and Co will be out to get the bet­ter of ri­vals Kil­win­ning Rangers at Abbey Park to­day.

Buffs boss Chris Strain is urg­ing his play­ers to rack up back-to-back up­sets af­ter in­flict­ing a first league de­feat on Hurl­ford last week but a num­ber of se­lec­tion woes are con­spir­ing to pre­vent him nam­ing the same line-up.

Play­maker Liam McGuin­ness is a def­i­nite non-starter af­ter be­ing un­veiled as Kil­birnie Lade­side’s new team man­ager in mid­week while ver­sa­tile de­fen­sive ace Tommy Mait­land is miss­ing through work com­mit­ments with sum­mer sign­ing Garry Flem­ing bat­tling to over­come a ham­string strain.

Strain ad­mit­ted: “Auchin­leck have al­ways been a for­mi­da­ble force but right now they are of­fi­cially the best non-league team in Scot­land.

“Cove were reck­oned to be the best af­ter go­ing all the way to a League Two play-off game last sea­son only to lose out against Cowdenbeath so Tal­bot have now taken their ti­tle.

“They have al­ready beaten us twice this sea­son but both games were close­fought af­fairs and we are ca­pa­ble of get­ting one over on them by play­ing to the same stan­dards as we did against Hurl­ford.

“There’s no such thing as easy pick­ings when you play Tal­bot but if my play­ers are in the mood then we can be a match for any­one.”

West Re­gion of­fi­cials have re­vealed the West of Scot­land Cup sec­ond-round draw will be tak­ing place at Port­land Park to­day im­me­di­ately af­ter Troon’s tie with Royal Al­bert and with Ardagh group direc­tor of op­er­a­tions Gra­ham Shep­herd and for­mer Scot­land man­ager Craig Brown tasked with pulling the 32 sur­viv­ing names from the hat.

‘‘ If my play­ers are in the mood we can match any­one

Kil­win­ning Rangers man­ager Chris Strain

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.