By Ronan Alexander
It’s Round One of the William Hill Scottish Cup this weekend and the time where dreams of non-league clubs having a fairytale run in the competition begin to become reality.
The constantly improving Lowland League have 13 clubs competing in the first round of the tournament and Chairman George Fraser is eager to see how far the club’s from Scotland’s fifth tier can go.
He said: “The league at the moment is flying high and has a burgeoning reputation.
“Two or three years ago East Kilbride met Celtic and the exposure the Lowland League got was fantastic. So for a club to get that far, it would be great for us and help our cause in putting pressure on the SPFL to show we are able to compete and get automatic promotion places.”
The fixtures get underway this evening in front of BBC Scotland cameras as Kelty Hearts face junior giants Auchinleck Talbot at New Central Park with a 19:05 kick-off.
Kelty, managed by Rangers legend Barry Ferguson, sit second in the Lowland League, one point behind Bonnyrigg Rose but have a game in hand. Former Inverness striker Nathan Austin joined the Jambos during the summer and has already netted 16 goals in seven matches.
However, their visitors are last season’s giant killers Auchinleck Talbot who made it to the fifth round where they lost out 4-0 to Hearts at Tynecastle after defeating Ayr United 1-0 thanks to a late Craig McCracken header. Talbot are unbeaten so far this season in the Scottish Junior West Premiership and it promises to be a memorable night at New Central Park with 1,300 tickets already sold.
Fraser added: “It’s a proverbial clash of the lower league big guns and whoever comes out on top will have earned it.
“Kelty have invested well and have a lot of good pedigree players and Auchinleck have the pedigree of knocking out Ayr United last year.”
Full interview with George Fraser:
The competition has a huge meaning to clubs at this level and the prize money on offer is crucial to keeping team’s running.
Fraser said: “It’s massive. There’s the financial aspect as clubs get rewarded for their progress.
“The exposure is also important as clubs can gain commercial deals and sponsors are more likely to be interested in sponsoring a club when they see them playing in the national competition.”
There are a number of other standout ties including table toppers Bonnyrigg Rose who make the trip North to Fraserburgh who currently sit second in the Highland League and are unbeaten in their first nine games.
Fraser added: “There’s a friendly rivalry between the Highland and Lowland League to see who can get the most teams through and last season I think we came out on top and want our league to do well.”
Fort William have grabbed the headlines in recent months with their own unique fairytale story at their picturesque Claggan Park and the club picked up their first league victory in 882 days when they defeated Clachnacuddin 1-0 earlier this month. This weekend they welcome Vale of Leithen who are bottom of the Lowland League after losing all eight games so far.
Full fixture list involving Lowland League clubs:
KELTY HEARTS v Auchinleck Talbot
Buckie Thistle v CIVIL SERVICE SROLLERS
Fort William v VALE OF LEITHEN
Keith v UNIVERSITY OF STIRLING
CUMBERNAULD COLTS v Penicuik Athletic
CALEDONIAN BRAVES v Rothes
GRETNA 2008 v Hill of Beath Hawthorn
Broxburn Athletic v EAST STIRLINGSHIRE
DALBEATTIE STAR v GALA FAIRYDEAN ROVERS
Fraserburgh v BONNYRIGG ROSE
EDINBURGH UNIVERSITY v Lochee United
SPARTANS v Deveronvale