BONNYRIGG ROSE manager Max Christie insists Stirling University will start tomorrow’s William Hill Scottish Cup clash as favourites – despite East Juniors teams holding the edge over their Seniors rivals in recent seasons.
The second-round tie has shades of the first time Junior sides were invited into the Scottish Cup. Linlithgow Rose, the Super League champions, were drawn at home to East of Scotland League champions, Spartans, in 2007-08. In a cracking game in front of a packed Prestonfield, Rose prevailed 4-1.
The respective league winners go head-to head again at the university campus tomorrow with the students – led by former Hibs player and ex-Falkirk boss Eddie May – looking to become the first Seniors side to oust an East Juniors team from the competition.
However, Bonnyrigg boss Christie admitted: “I’ve watched Stirling twice and they are a side who play football the way it should be played.
“They have great spirit and a winning mentality. They will no doubt start the game as favourites, so we’ll have to be at our best if we are to beat them.
“Eddie May has been to see us and probably believes his side will win the game because we haven’t hit top form yet.”
Having seen his team handle several big matches during recent seasons, Christie is confident his players won’t let him down tomorrow.
“Our squad have been in some great games in the past couple of seasons,” he said. “Last year we beat Irvine Meadow, Ashfield and took Auchinleck Talbot close in the Junior Cup. We then had to travel to Carnoustie in the last game of the season to win the title and we did.
“The players showed great character and guts and we need to do that again tomorrow.
“We’ll need high levels of concentration against a side who will be expecting to win. We need big performances from big players like Sean Grady and Alex King among others.
“We have Andy Carlin and Paul Shields both out for the game but goalkeeper Michael Burgess is a more than capable deputy.
“We know it’ll be a tough game for us not only because they play football but they probably train more than most teams.
“This is their first time in the William Hill Scottish Cup, whereas we had some experience before being knocked out by Fraserburgh in 2009. We’ll have a good support with us and hopefully come away with a win for them.”
Bonnyrigg striker Grady is relishing the game but admitted: “It’s probably the tie we didn’t want. Stirling won most of the competitions they were in last season and are a side in form. But our away form is better than at home so we’ll go into this game with a lot of confidence.
“I missed almost all of the pre-season with an injury carried over from last season and it’s only now that my fitness is getting back to what it should be. I feel the more games Kris Renton and I play together the better it will be.
“It’s a work in progress and the longer the season goes the better it will become. Hopefully we hit top form tomorrow.”
Fellow striker Ross Archibald has played in the East of Scotland League with Spartans and knows the threat posed by the students.
“I’ve played against University sides in the past and know what to expect,” he said. “They get a good squad of players for a few years and then the players graduate and leave the manager the job of gathering another squad. This time it’s different because Stirling University have a sports scholarship degree and the players come from all over Britain.
“I believe the keeper comes from Middlesbrough and other players from Oldham and the likes. I know they have Chris Geddes who is a really good player having played with him at Brechin. He also played in the Junior ranks with Broxburn and Fauldhouse so he will know what Bonnyrigg can do.
“It will be a tough test for us but we’ve played big teams in the past and risen to the occasion and we can do it again.
“We have players who have played in the Scottish Cup before and experienced the atmosphere and I’m not sure Stirling have the same. They will be fit and technically good, but we’ve got players who can do the job for us. It’ll be a good game and one we can definitely win.”