MOTHERWELL will be the first top-flight opponents for Rangers since they were relaunched in the Irn-Bru Third Division after the teams were paired together in the Scottish Communities League Cup third round.
The Clydesdale Bank Premier League leaders will visit Ibrox on September 25-26. Celtic were drawn out just before Rangers, at home to Raith Rovers, the team that shocked them in the 1994 final. Rangers have beaten East Fife and Falkirk on their way to the third round, with Motherwell entering at this stage along with their fellow European qualifiers.
The seeded draw paired the eight SPL teams remaining in the tournament with lower-league clubs. Queen of the South have another home tie, against Dundee United, after beating Hibernian at Palmerston. Stenhousemuir have been rewarded for beating holders Kilmarnock with a home game against Inverness.
Queen’s Park, conquerors of Dundee, face another Tayside club in St Johnstone, while Hearts have a home clash against Livingston. St Mirren host Hamilton while Aberdeen face a trip to Fife to take on Dunfermline.
Motherwell defender Simon Ramsden was thrilled to see his side paired with Rangers after resigning himself to the fact he would not have a chance to play at Ibrox this season. The defender and his family are Sunderland fans but have also followed the results of the Govan side since both clubs faced each other when he was a child.
The 30-year-old joined the Steelmen in the summer, when Rangers were consigned to liquidation and voted into the Irn-Bru Third Division after losing their status as a top-flight club.
“When I signed here, I was well aware that I wouldn’t be playing at Ibrox this season,” said Ramsden. “I was looking forward to the big games, like when we play Celtic, when we played Panathinaikos in the Champions League. From a personal point of view, I’m very excited. As a player, you want to test yourself at grounds like Ibrox and Parkhead. It’s something I’m looking forward to and I’m sure the club and the fans are as well.”
However, Ramsden is well aware that Motherwell have been drawn against the toughest of the unseeded teams. “That’s the other side to it. We know if we want to go as far as we can in the competition, there would have been easier draws,” he said.
“But we’ve drawn Rangers now and it’s a game that we need to prepare for because it’s going to be a tough ask. Their home form has been very good this season. Even though they are a few divisions below us, the squad and the players they have brought in are very good. We are under no illusions, we are going to be in for a tough task. After what has happened, they will be well up for this and will want to prove a point.” With Motherwell sitting top of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League and Rangers playing in the bottom tier, it is tricky to determine a favourite.
Ramsden said: “The strange thing about this game is, in previous seasons, we would have been seen as the massive underdogs. It’s sort of swung around a little bit and we’re the SPL side now so maybe the onus might be on us.”
The draw in full:
Celtic v Raith Rovers
Rangers v Motherwell
St Mirren v Hamilton
Queen of the South v Dundee United
Hearts v Livingston
Dunfermline Athletic v Aberdeen
St Johnstone v Queen’s Park
Stenhousemuir v Inverness CT
All third round matches will be played on Tuesday 25th or Wednesday 26th September.