THIS weekend is one of the most anticipated in the Scottish Football calendar as the top flight clubs enter the fourth round of the Scottish Cup.
It’s that time of year when lower division clubs dream of pulling off a giant killing act to write their name into Scottish Football folklore, whilst the top clubs seek to take their first steps in the road to Hampden.
The fourth round draw, which used to be the third round before the tournament expanded in 2007/08, has thrown in some intriguing ties that will capture the imagination of the Scottish Cup.
Take Bonnyrigg Rose, a Lowland League side whose playing squad mainly contain Hearts fans, come up against holders – yes holders – Hibs, with the added bonus of the game being moved to Tynecastle. If Bonnyrigg were to pull off the impossible, it would literally be a dream come true for their players in beating the Hibees at the home of their boyhood heroes, and would be the most humiliating defeat in Neil Lennon’s managerial career.
Another club looking to pull off one of the greatest upsets in Scottish Cup history are Albion Rovers as they face runaway Premiership leaders Celtic. The men from Coatbridge were 20 minutes away from victory at Rangers, then in League One, three years so they’ll be eager to claim what would be, undoubtedly, a bigger scalp against Brendan Rodgers formidable machine that’s won all but one domestic game all campaign. Darren Young’s men will be hoping the Hoops are majorly ring rusty from their winter break if they are to do what Clyde famously done to them in 2006.
Up in the North East, Elgin City will be confident of claiming a Premiership victim as they entertain strugglers Inverness Caledonian Thistle. Richie Foran’s men haven’t won since September whist Elgin have had a solid season, which sees them fighting for promotion in League Two. It has the ingredients of a potential upset and Caley, who won the Cup in 2015 and have dished out a few giant-killing acts themselves, will need to dig deep to avoid receiving a banana skin of their own.
The other non-League side, Formartine United, travel south to Glasgow to face a Partick Thistle side, who picked up some good form just before the winter break. They’ll be relishing the opportunity to pit their wits against a top flight side and will be aiming to write their name into Scottish Cup folklore by getting a result at Firhill.
The other two stand out ties in the fourth round draw sees the all Premiership tie between Rangers and Motherwell at Ibrox whilst Championship side Raith Rovers entertain Hearts.
Last seasons finalists will be desperate to go one better this season and will be looking to use their home form, where they’ve only lost once this season, to their advantage against a Motherwell side who’s form has been mixed throughout the campaign. However, Mark McGhee’s men will take heart from the fact they ended an 18 year Ibrox hoodoo by sweeping Rangers aside in the Premiership playoff match 18 months ago and will be eager for a repeat this Saturday.
Meanwhile in Kirkcaldy, ex-Jambos manager Gary Locke will be seeking to add to Ian Cathro’s early woes by dumping his old club out the cup, and gain some kind of revenge for being ousted in 2014. Hearts will be hoping that victory is an omen for them as the last four winners of the Scottish Cup have beaten Raith en route to glory.
The Scottish Cup will no doubt throw some shocks along the way until the Final in May and there is a big possibility that at least one will come this weekend.
This is where the Road to Hampden starts for real!