Friday, January 07, 2011

Scottish Cup Fourth Round Preview

Three days of Scottish Cup action to look forward to. Much talk of "cupsets" but probably not many actual upsets. And, I'd wager, a mention or two for Berwick Rangers, the most famous of Davids in Scottish football's gallery of Goliath-slayers.

Pitch inspections at a few of these games and snow falling as I write so things could be subject to change. Again.

Kick off times and weather updates can be found on the BBC site.

Threave Rovers v Stenhousemuir
And still we wait for this third round replay to be played. A pitch inspection will be needed before we know for sure. I'm not hopeful.

Fascinating Scottish Cup fact: Stenhousemuir manager Davie Irons was playing for Threave in the first game between these two, at the age of 49.

Berwick Rangers v Celtic
No surprise that this one came out of the draw. Not when we're constantly being told that Rangers v Celtic playing all the time is the only way the Scottish game can make money. It's a little known fact that Berwick Rangers beat Celtic's Old Firm rivals in a game here in the 1960s. Shame such a massive achievement for Berwick has been all but forgotten. A famous Glasgow double on Sunday. Don't bank on it. At least Celtic will finally find out what playing in England is like.

Hibs v Ayr United
To lose a derby is never good. But at least Hibs showed some ability to defend, to fight and to allow them to be organised into something resembling a cohesive unit against Hearts. That is hardly world beating stuff. But it might be enough to save them this season. A cup run would be much welcomed in Leith. I can't see that happening but they should have enough to get past Ayr tomorrow. Mind you, I said that when Franck Sauzee led Hibs into a League Cup semi final against the same opposition in 2002. Will I be wrong again?

Dundee v Motherwell
A defiant Dundee are a potential stumbling block for new Motherwell boss Stuart McCall. It's not been an easy few weeks for the SPL side. It's been an arduous, torturous, tormenting few months for the Dark Blues. A cup run might not cure all the ills at Dens Park but it would offer some comfort. And some cash. If I was going to point a game where I can see a shock coming this might be it. Home win.

Dundee United v Ross County
A re-run of last year's final. Fair to say that neither side have quite shown the form of last season. An opportunity for some revenge for Ross County against the ogres that smashed their fairytale dreams. Yes, it's an opportunity. Whether they can take advantage of it or not is another matter. I'll be keeping an eye on this one. I'm not expecting it to happen. But a shock wouldn’t completely shock me.

Aberdeen v East Fife
Is the Craig Brown revolution at Pittodrie for real? A win tomorrow won't be proof of that. But it will at least spare him the sort of embarrassing failure that has haunted some of his predecessors. There's nae way I can see the Dons losing this. No way at all. But I've been wrong before.

Rangers v Kilmarnock
The big Monday night game. A traditional kick off time for this oldest of tournaments. Rangers were woeful in the Old Firm game last Sunday. Against a Kilmarnock team that inspired gushing tributes in this week's Scottish football podcast they'll need to improve. Samaras did for the champions last weekend. Can Sammon do for them now? Stranger things have happened. But we've all been at this lark too long to write Rangers off. Killie might just secure a replay though.

Hearts v St Johnstone
Newly re-established as the third force in Scottish football will Hearts see this year as their chance to win the Scottish Cup. A second triumph for Jim Jefferies? There's a chance, friends, there is a chance. An all SPL clash on Sunday might not be the fixtures Jefferies would have wanted but recent form still heavily favours the home side. And who am I to question recent form. Home win.

Inverness v Elgin
No sooner do I anoint Terry Butcher as manager of the year and Inverness as team of the year than they start losing. I spread my miserable luck around. And now a Scottish Cup clash against not too distant neighbours Elgin. An intriguing clash but one the SPL side should negotiate easily enough. Home win.

East Stirling v Buckie Thistle
It’s the Highland League champions against the second worst team in the Scottish Football League on Sunday. This game could become the rallying call of the pyramid system supporting masses. Stirling haven’t played since they beat Spartans 2-1 in the last round. Which might be better preparation than Buckie have enjoyed after being smashed 7-0 by Deveronvale last Monday. An intriguing one this though, one to keep an eye or ear out for.

Montrose v Dunfermline
Dunfermline’s experience of artificial pitches might not be great but the First Division leaders should still have enough against Montrose. The Pars will have really felt the away defeat to Raith last week but maybe not as much as Montrose felt the 5-0 tanking by the Red Lichties of Arbroath on Sunday. Away win.

Morton v Airdrie
Morton haven’t played since the 14th of December while Airdrie came through a tough old tie against Beith 4-3 on Tuesday afternoon. Which is the better preparation? It’s second bottom of the First against sixth in the Second. Could be a tight one.

Falkirk v Partick Thistle
An all First Division clash. Neither team will be delighted by the way their seasons have gone so far but Falkirk are ten points better off in the league and the feedback suggests that all is not well at Thistle right now. Even-stevens between the two so far though with both teams enjoying 1-0 wins at Firhill. A close one? Could be a replay required.

Queen of the South v Brechin
An away defeat to Dunfermline in the middle of December is Queen of the South’s only game since they beat Cowdenbeath on the 13th of November. That the preparation for these cup games hasn’t been ideal for many clubs is becoming increasingly obvious. Brechin, second in the Second Division, finally got round to dispatching Annan in their third round replay on Tuesday evening. They’ve scored five in each of their last two games so any rustiness in the Queens defence might well be exposed here.

St Mirren v Peterhead
Eighth in the Second Division, Peterhead’s head last two games have ended with a 5-0 defeat to Brechin and a 5-1 win over Airdrie. You pick the form from those two results. St Mirren themselves search forlornly for the gift of consistency and are still not picking up enough points to be comfortable. Could be a testing afternoon tomorrow but I think the SPL side will get through.

Hamilton v Alloa
Less affected by the weather than many SFL clubs in the last few weeks, Alloa have been free scoring with 13 goals in their last five games. Two wins, two draws and a defeat in that sequence suggests that the defence might be struggling a bit. By contrast Hamilton have scored only one goal in their last five games, their only points coming in goalless draws. You would still expect the SPL side to be stronger. But a black and gold striped banana skin lying in wait?

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