Former Hibs kid Ryan Baptie hopes a bumper Prestonfield crowd can provide Linlithgow Rose with the backing required to make history in the William Hill Scottish Cup.
The Junior outfit’s reward for prevailing in their protracted third-round tie against Wick Academy is a home fixture against League One side Forfar Athletic on Saturday, a match which provides them with their best-ever chance to become the first Junior club to reach the last 16 of the national tournament.
For 20-year-old Baptie, who this week extended his loan deal from parent club Peterhead until the end of the season while also signing an extension to his contract with the Balmoor club, a fourth-round Scottish Cup tie is the perfect platform to showcase his talents.
The left-back certainly did that in style in Rose’s 5-1 replay victory over Wick last month, his 35-yard strike earning him plaudits from all over the country as footage of his goal went viral online, earning him a nomination for goal of the round.
“I never thought the reaction [to my goal] would be like it was. I never realised how far out I was until I actually watched it back. I thought it was a bit closer, but obviously I was quite far out,” said Baptie.
“I had a few tweets and a few tags on Facebook from people I didn’t know saying ‘well done’. It was definitely a good confidence-booster seeing your name out there and people mentioning things to you, even just my mates, and when I’ve been out people have been talking about it. Being a Scottish Cup game more people will come to it, people will be looking at the score more and seeing who is playing and how you’ve played. There will be a big crowd there on Saturday and hopefully an even bigger one than we had against Wick.”
A crowd of more than 1500 descended on the Royal Burgh to see Linlithgow dismantle Wick in their replay after the weather had threatened to wreck Rose’s entire season with the cup tie finally put to bed at the seventh time of asking after five call-offs.
Baptie insists seeing that level of support in the lead up to Christmas – Rose’s last competitive fixture before a two-week festive break – gave them a huge lift as they entered the field of play and he’s looking for a bigger crowd to turn out this weekend to send them into the fifth round.
He said: “There was a really big crowd there in the last round and that’s what you want at a club like Linlithgow. You want people to come and watch.
“It definitely helped us. Seeing a crowd there it gives you that extra lift. It’s not pressure. It’s just that extra push. When you score it’s a better atmosphere and it means more to people. We’re in this round of the Scottish Cup because we’re a good team, not because we’re a Junior team. It doesn’t matter that we’re Juniors. It’s a great opportunity for us to progress. Forfar will be strong, they’ve had a new manager [Gary Bollan] coming in so all their players will be wanting to prove something to him. They’ll be up for it and we will be as well. At the end of the day, we are the underdogs but, in ninety minutes, anything can happen.”
Baptie was cast aside by Hibs after their relegation to the Championship and it was an episode which hurt the youngster, who had been at Easter Road since the age of ten and was tipped to be the next talent to make the breakthrough to the first team. Being offered a two-year contract prior to Terry Butcher’s sacking only for it to be rebuked in the summer affected the former Craigmount High pupil more.
Following his release, he signed a two-year deal with Inverness but was let go just a year into his contract. The setback, though, has only made him more determined to make it as professional footballer.
“I was offered a two-year deal before Hibs got relegated. Then, I went on holiday and came back to a letter saying that my contract had been taken off me. I felt mistreated, but that’s gone now, I’ve got to get on with it and it’s up to me to do what I can now. I just need to keep pushing on, keep performing.
“Hopefully I’ll do well the rest of the season with Linlithgow and get back to Peterhead and get into the team.”