Kevin Swain pulled off a string of fine saves to earn Spartans a point away to East Kilbride last Saturday, but the goalkeeper expects an even busier afternoon when his team host League One leaders Morton in the William Hill Scottish Cup tomorrow.
Jim Duffy’s Ton visit Ainslie Park and Swain knows the fourth-round match represents a step up in quality from the previous round where League Two strugglers Clyde were the Capital club’s victims.
This is actually the second meeting of the sides this term following a Petrofac Training Cup clash in July which Morton won 1-0. Swain believes tomorrow’s opponents have improved since then.
“From what I’ve seen of Morton, they seem to be a really good team,” said former Lothian Thistle Hutchison Vale stopper Swain.
“I do expect to be quite busy tomorrow. We played them in the Petrofac Cup and they were a good team then as well.
“They’ve added quite a few new players so they’ll be even stronger than they were then, but I think we’ve improved as well.
“We’ve gelled pretty well since then – it was quite early on in the season when we played them.
“The gaffer’s brought in quite a few new players – Grinchy [Craig Stevenson], Herdy [Michael Herd] and players like that. We’re also defending a lot better so we’ve definitely improved.”
While clearly a massive game for the whole club, Swain ranks tomorrow’s encounter as the biggest he’s ever played in.
He admitted: “This will be my biggest game. This is the first season I’ve played in the Scottish Cup. We’ve played East Kilbride twice, Clyde and now this one, so it’s only my fourth game and it’s certainly one to look forward to. I’ve been wishing it was Saturday the next day all week!”
Swain revealed there is something in a change of mood around the club in the build-up to Scottish Cup games as Dougie Samuel strives to give his players that extra edge in order to overcome often higher-ranked opposition. The goalkeeper also relishes testing himself against more experienced and generally better strikers than he is used to facing.
“It’s definitely a bit of a different approach. The gaffer works on more specific things. Obviously he’s watched them a few times and he knows what to do with the players.
“Myself and Ross Gilpin, the goalkeeping coach, are working away hard, as we do most weeks anyway.
“They’ve got a couple of good strikers – the boy [Andy] Barrowman especially. These games bring out the best in everybody I think – it’ll be a really good test for myself and the rest of the players in the team.”
Having reached the fourth round as a non-league club, you could argue the North Edinburgh outfit having nothing to lose this weekend. While there will be a determination to do well from Samuel’s side, Swain believes they can enjoy the occasion given their long-term priority lies in winning promotion from the Lowland League to the SPFL.
He added: “Every round is a bonus. I think quite a lot of people wrote us of when we got Clyde in the last round. It’s good to get away from the Lowland League as we can relax a wee bit when we play in the Scottish – not too much, obviously. Our main aim is to win the Lowland League this year, but in the cup we don’t set targets.”