Cove Rangers will need all their battling qualities when they venture into the lion’s den at Auchinleck Talbot’s Beechwood Park in the Scottish Cup second round replay this afternoon.
The reigning Highland League champions are assured of a hostile reception from the Scottish Junior Cup holders and their supporters but ‘Blues’ manager John Sheran knows what to expect.
Sheran said: “Everybody is looking forward to the experience of going down there and playing. We’ve been told by everyone that it’s a fairly intimidating place to go and that in itself has given the boys a bit of fuel to get the motivation levels up even higher.
“We expect to have goalkeeper Stuart McKenzie, Daniel Park, Harry Milne and Jordan MacRae, all of whom missed the first game last weekend, back in the squad for the trip to Auchinleck, but it’s probably a week too early for Ryan Strachan and Paul McManus is a couple of weeks away.
“We are playing against an extremely street-wise and capable team, and they showed that last week they play slightly different to us in that they are more direct, but we restricted the number of opportunities they had.
“Every game is different, they’ve had a look at us and we’ve now had a look at them, and provided we can get the ball down and play football then I’m confident we can go on and win the game, but we have to match their effort and commitment before we have the chance to play.”
Sheran went on to admit that a trip to Auchinleck compares favourably with the reward on offer for the winner‘s this afternoon.
A trip to Bellslea Park to face Fraserburgh in the third round awaits, which would ensure at least one Highland League side remains in the competition into the new year.
Sheran said: “You play football to be involved in big events played in front of good crowds. A trip to Auchinleck is no different say to going to Bellslea Park in Fraserburgh around the festive season. Ironically that is the prize on offer should we win this afternoon.
“Atmospheres like that motivate my players and they motivate me as well. We can’t wait to get stuck in about them and all being well, it’s ourselves who will be heading to the Broch in the last weekend of November.”
Mitch Megginson put the Highland League champions ahead at Balmoral Stadium in the first game, with Graham Wilson’s second-half penalty ensuring the tie would go to a replay.
Cove made it to the fifth round of last year’s tournament, where they were beaten by Championship side Falkirk.