LINLITHGOW ROSE boss Mark Bradley believes the ‘magic of the cup’ can inspire his team to victory against Nairn County.
The East Super League champions take on Les Fridge’s Highland League outfit in the first round of the William Hill Scottish Cup at Prestonfield tomorrow.
Bradley tasted Scottish Cup action as captain of Rose in 2007-08 when they reached the fourth round and a clash with eventual finalists Queen of the South, and was also part of the Berwick Rangers team who took Rangers to a cup replay in 2002. He insists the prospect of creating such memories will be the main motivation for his players when they line up against the Highlanders.
Junior rivals Irvine Meadow and Auchinleck Talbot have enjoyed trips to Easter Road and Tynecastle respectively in recent seasons and Linlithgow will be hoping this is their year to go on a run, culminating with a stab at the big boys.
“I’ve been very fortunate to have played in the Scottish Cup a lot of times but days like drawing 0-0 at home to Rangers during my time at Berwick and taking them to a replay in front of 30,000 supporters are magic to footballers at any level,” said Bradley.
“Those memories are what I’ll be using to let our squad know what they can achieve, starting tomorrow. People talk about ‘the magic’ of having a good run in the Scottish Cup because it brings money into the club. The players feel different, though. ‘The magic’ is playing at a higher level than usual against players you have never played before and at places you can only dream about – Ibrox, Parkhead, Easter Road or Tynecastle.
“I was also privileged to lead Linlithgow out as captain when we played Queen of the South in the fourth round and, although they beat us, the magic was in the air that day.
“We took an incredible support to Dumfries in what was a crazy adventure from the start of that season.
“We have the chance to start something like that off tomorrow.”
Bradley is under no illusions, however, over the task facing his side. While Nairn have had an indifferent start to the season, they have invested heavily in their team for this season.
“Nairn have players who can hurt us,” he warned. “We’ve looked at them and done the proper homework to make sure our squad know what to expect.
“They will be just as focused as ourselves. We’ll give them the respect they deserve but play our own game. We will concentrate on what we can do to hurt them and let them try and deal with us.
“They have players with senior experience who know how to put the ball in the net but then so do we. We’ve picked up form in recent games and, against Sauchie last weekend, we played some of the best football we’ve played all season and kept a clean sheet. It looks like we could now be finding our best form at just the right time.”
Nairn manager Fridge, the ex-St Mirren and Inverness Caley Thistle goalkeeper, is expecting Linlithgow to come out all guns blazing. “Linlithgow will be up for this game,” he said. “They have had a taste of the Scottish a couple of times before and will want more. I have to make sure we don’t become a scalp on the CV of Mark Bradley. It’ll be a big game for both sides because of the financial implications but, hopefully it’ll be a good game of football for the supporters.
“I’ve played in many Scottish Cup ties and the excitement is still there even in the opening rounds. We’ll be wary of Linlithgow but worry more about how we will play.”
Rose winger Roddy MacLennan, meanwhile, is looking to wipe out the memory of Linlithgow’s last venture into the Scottish Cup three years ago. The Prestonfield men were drawn against Junior outfit Beath in the first round and suffered a disappointing 2-0 defeat.
MacLennan said: “We lost 2-0 away at Beith and I don’t want a result like that again. It was terrible and I’ll be telling the rest of the lads what it felt like.
“The excitement was building up throughout the week before the game but it felt flat the minute we walked out onto the pitch. When you work hard to get into the Scottish Cup you want something a bit more glamorous than a team you could have drawn in the Junior Cup. This time it’s different. We don’t know them and they don’t know us. We’ve got to believe we can win this one. I don’t want to be sitting in the house on Sunday thinking about what could have been – we’ve got to do it now.”