John Robertson is wary Caley Thistle could see the tables turned on them in the Scottish Cup against Highland League opponents Buckie Thistle.
The Caley Jags have traditionally been one of the competition’s biggest giant-killers but come Saturday at Victoria Park, they will be the scalp in the crosshairs of a lower-league side.
Buckie are managed by Graeme Stewart, who was a young player at Inverness during Robertson’s first spell in charge. His assistant Lewis MacKinnon is also a former Caley Thistle trainee, as is club captain Kevin Fraser who Robertson tried to re-sign when they were relegated to the Championship in 2017.
It is one of the more eye-catching Scottish Cup ties, with a Highland League team at home to higher opposition, and it is a prospect the Caley Thistle boss insists his side must be aware of.
Robertson said: “We watch all the Highland League teams as we look for players that could have the potential to step up. We tend to watch the top half – we look at them in case there’s players that could pop up.
“It’s a real banana skin. It’s the perfect draw for Buckie – they’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain. Over the years in the Scottish Cup Inverness have been the hunters, looking for scalps. We become the hunted; Buckie will fancy their chances and see an opportunity to cause a real upset.
“In terms of travel it’s not too bad as we could have found ourselves heading down to Annan or Stranraer. Buckie is about an hour-and-fifteen minutes away. We’ll give Buckie the same respect we give Hearts, Dunfermline and the rest of the teams in our league.
“We have to finish the tie on the day at Victoria Park. If you’re a Buckie player right now, you’re licking your lips. There’s an opportunity to make Scottish Cup headlines and we need to make sure we’re not on the end of it.”
Buckie have young goalkeeper Martin MacKinnon on loan from the Caley Jags, however despite wishes from the Championship club for him to feature, competition rules do not permit loan players to play against their parent clubs.
MacKinnon joined Buckie last month and played in the 3-0 win over Albion Rovers in the first round. He has previously played in the Highland League for Fort William.
Robertson added: “As soon as the draw came out we discussed it. Our thoughts were he could play, as he’s out there for a reason, to get experience and play in big games. Why would you deny the lad an opportunity to play in the Scottish Cup?
Can’t beat a clean sheet 🟢⚪️ https://t.co/dPu3Z3WlU6
— Martin MacKinnon (@mmackinnon33) December 27, 2020
“He kept a clean sheet in the last round against Albion Rovers and we would have had a chat to Martin, to make sure he was comfortable (with playing against his parent club). But the rules unfortunately say he can’t be involved at all.
“Non-permanent loans are not allowed to play against their parent clubs, so Martin will have to miss out on this one. We wouldn’t have had any problem. People may have said ‘what if goes to penalties and he’s the hero for Buckie?’ – if it went that far then that’s down to our failings, not his.”