Spartans manager Dougie Samuel admits his players will embrace an unfamiliar proposition tomorrow as they enter tomorrow’s William Hill Scottish Cup second-round clash with Albion Rovers at Cliftonhill as underdogs.
The Ainslie Park outfit have so far risen to the challenge of the inaugural season of the Lowland League, where they sit one point off the top, having played one match fewer than leaders Vale of Leithen. Tipped by many to be crowned league champions come May next year, Samuel admits it is comforting that his side are, on this occasion, deemed second-best before a ball is even kicked.
He said: “The match tomorrow will probably be the first one this season, apart from the Queen of the South game (in the Ramsdens Cup), where there isn’t any real pressure on us, other than the pressure we put on ourselves to perform.
“I think we can go there and enjoy the sense of occasion as well, but make no mistake about it, we’re going there to try and win the football match.
“It’s an opportunity for us to take stock of where we’re at in regards to the progress that we are making towards becoming what will hopefully be a football league club one day.
“I think what’s interesting about tomorrow is you’ve got Whitehill, ourselves, Dalbeattie and Preston all playing against league opposition, where we will be looking for an indicator of how much work lies ahead if we want to get to that level.”
Spartans’ League Two opponents Albion haven’t fared particularly well as of late, with James Ward’s side having lost ten of their last 14 home games, including their last three in a row. They did, however, pull off a fine result upset the form book two weeks ago as they collected all three points in a 4-1 rout over league leaders East Stirling at Ochilview.
Samuel is in no mood to take much notice of recent form, as he knows the Coatbridge side test themselves against a higher calibre of opposition on a weekly basis.
“You’ve only got to look at the result against East Stirling a couple of weeks ago to know they are no fools,” Samuel emphasised. “We’ve had them watched since the draw was made and I’ve spoken to one or two managers that I know in their league who have said it is going to be a really tough game. But, equally, they’ve said that if we play at our potential then we’ve got a chance of beating them.
“I don’t think Albion Rovers will be approaching the match fearing Spartans. They will go into the game believing that they are favourites and if they play at their best then they should win. I’ll be asking my players to stay focused, stick to the gameplan and go out and express themselves and if we do all that, then whatever the result is at 4.45, you can be proud of yourself. We’ve got a few players out, but I am confident with the guys who are fit and ready to give it their all.”