Highlands and Islands side Sutherland are hoping to cause a cup upset when Falkirk travel north to Golspie for their third round Scottish Women’s Cup clash.
Sutherland are the lowest ranked team still in the competition, as they play their league football in the Highlands and Islands league, which is part of the recreational branch of Scottish Women’s Football (SWF).
The 2021 Highlands and Islands League Cup winners have been involved in the Scottish Cup since the preliminary rounds but face their biggest challenge yet in SWF Championship side Falkirk.
The challenge not only comes with the stature of their opponent as Sutherland have not played a competitive match of football since the first week of October, when they pipped Clachnacuddin to the League Cup trophy.
Covid-19 has hampered preparations for the cup tie with the game being pushed back from January 9 but Sutherland manager John Smith insists that his side are looking forward to the occasion and the opportunity to represent the Highlands.
He said: “It would be a massive, massive result for the club. There’s no question about it.
“We’re the sole survivors from the Highlands and Islands League, so we realise we’re representing the league.
“We hope we will give a good account of ourselves, but we’re under no illusion that Falkirk play in, probably, a more competitive league than what we play in ourselves.
“They’re still playing week in, week out so we know it’s a big challenge. We’ll be underdogs but every dog has its day.
“We will go out and try and perform like we know we can do.”
Up for the challenge
Falkirk currently sit 12th in the Championship South table out of the 17 teams, and have only won four of their games so far, losing eight.
Sutherland boss Smith has done as much homework as he can by watching Falkirk’s highlights online, and has full faith in his players capabilities to deal with what might be thrown at them over the 90 minutes.
Smith added: “I’ve got no question that on our day we can really perform to a good standard and hopefully acquit ourselves against Falkirk as well.
“We do keep an eye on their results, and know that so far they’ve played 12 and they’ve lost eight games.
“So, we know that when the opportunities come we will have to be clinical and our strikers will need to get the ball in the net.
“At the other end we will have to try keep them out with a good defensive performance.
“We’ll set up a team in a way that we hope can cope with what Falkirk are going to throw at us, but hopefully we can spring a surprise on them too.”
If Sutherland were to progress, they will travel to SWPL 2 side Stirling University in the fourth round.
Smith thinks that just being included in the draw with SWPL teams has been a ‘pinch me ‘moment for his players.
“I think quite a few of the girls watched the draw live and it sort of dawned on them the round that we’ve been drawn in,” Smith said.
“All the SWPL teams are involved now, the likes of Celtic, Glasgow City, Rangers, Hearts and Hibs, so I think that sinks home to us how far the team has come.
“We’re buzzing about that and the girls are looking forward to what might happen.”