By Jordan Robertson.
Auchinleck Talbot midfielder Mark Shankland admits he is aware of the danger Kelty Hearts may pose when both sides meet tonight, but he insists he is not worried.
Talbot make the trip to Fife to face Kelty in the Scottish Cup First Round and the Junior side will be facing a Kelty side filled with players who have played SPFL football.
Despite being a Lowland League side, Kelty, who are led by ex-Rangers midfielder Barry Ferguson, signed a raft of players from the SPFL in the summer including Dylan Easton, Thomas Reilly and Nathan Austin and the latter has enjoyed an excellent start to his career in the maroon.
Austin, who has played for East Fife, Falkirk and Inverness has scored 16 goals in just 7 league games this term and he is a player that Talbot will definitely be focusing on.
Austin and co have enjoyed a good start to their league campaign and currently sit second in the Lowland League, with a game in hand over leaders Bonnyrigg Rose.
The Fifers have scored a whopping 40 goals and only conceded three, but midfielder Shankland has said his Talbot team-mates are relaxed heading into the game.
He said: “We are confident going into the game.
“We’ve not been beat this season and not been beat in a wee while so we are confident.”
Shankland admits he and his team mates are well aware of the strength of the Kelty squad, however he is adamant that Talbot can secure a positive result.
He stated: “We know what threat they can pose but we’ve got players that have played at a higher level as well and have played in some big matches.
“Obviously we are aware of them (Kelty) and of the players that have played at a high level but we are fairly confident that we have players that can hurt them.”
Talbot, who are managed by Tommy Sloan are no strangers to cup competitions and they recorded a famous Scottish Cup victory last season.
The Junior side were huge underdogs when they faced an in-form Ayr United side in the Fourth Round in January. However, they managed to come away with a 1-0 victory and they will be looking to emulate the success again tonight.
“The Ayr game is on the back of our minds because we know we can go out and beat a team like Ayr who are a better side” said Shankland.
He added: “Because we know we can do it against teams like Ayr, Cove Rangers and the Highland League teams then this game will be no different and we can go toe to toe with them.”
It will be a tough task for the Junior side, who currently lie 9th in the West Region Premiership, to overcome Barry Ferguson’s men but it is evident that Shankland and his team-mates have faith in their own ability.
The game takes place at New Central Park tonight at 19:05 (BST) and will be broadcast live on BBC Scotland.
Link to audio interview: