Edinburgh City boss Gary Jardine has billed tomorrow’s William Hill Scottish Cup third-round tie against Brora Rangers at Meadowbank as their biggest test of the season so far.
The Lowland and Highland League leaders go head-to-head in a potential dress-rehearsal for an end-of-season play-off.
At the end of this term, the winners of the respective leagues will face off, with the winner taking on the bottom side in League Two for a place in the SPFL.
Both City and Brora have only dropped four points each so far this term and Jardine is expecting a stern examination tomorrow.
“It’s certainly our most difficult game of the season,” he conceded. “It’s another step up in quality for us. We’ve played most of the teams in our league and found some of them difficult, Auchlinleck was a real step up in class and Saturday will be yet another step up.”
The positions of the two sides in their respective leagues have lead to this clash being presented as a yardstick of each division’s quality – something Jardine accepts was inevitable, and highlighted the profile their opponents have built this season following off-field investment: “It’s the one thing anybody who’s spoken to me about the game has mentioned – there’s quite a few people excited about it in Edinburgh as well. Brora, in all but league and name, are probably a First Division side with the kind if players and budget they’ve got.
“They’ve guys who less than 12 or 18 months ago were playing in the SPL, never mind lower leagues. They recently signed Stewart Kettlewell who had 27 starts for Ross County last year. We are both top of our leagues but with the quality in their side, I don’t know if it’s really an even keel.”
Despite that, the Meadowbank side need only cast their minds back to their 2-1 third round win over Auchinleck Talbot – another outfit that were fancied to dispatch of the Capital club.
“I think I’m making the exact same comparison to that game,” said Jardine. “Nobody gave us a chance there, but we played the best the Juniors had to offer and the boys put in a fantastic performance on the day. We didn’t play our best football, but showed the qualities of the other side of the game that were required.”