Brora Rangers ask for reports on Hearts as manager reveals nightmare preparation
Brora Rangers have contacted Scottish Championship clubs asking for an insight on Hearts ahead of tonight’s Scottish Cup second-round tie.
The Highland League club play their first competitive match in ten weeks when they host the Edinburgh club at Dudgeon Park for the right to meet Stranraer in the third round.
Manager Steven Mackay has conducted an extensive search for information on Robbie Neilson’s side, requesting reports from clubs they previously faced this season.
Mackay is concerned about the fitness of his players against full-time opponents following the Highland League’s Covid-enforced shutdown. Brora have managed only one friendly and a handful of training sessions since their last Scottish Cup tie against Camelon on January 11.
“We’ve contacted clubs in the same league as Hearts and asked for reports on them. We’re trying to get a report from their game at Arbroath on Saturday and we have watched clips of them,” said Mackay.
“We are aware of their squad but it’s difficult to know what team Robbie will go with. Irrespective, it’s going to be a massive challenge for us. Technically, Hearts are all superior players but I think fitness is going to be a massive factor.
“Our boys are relatively fit for the level we compete at but Hearts are full-time and train every day. They’ve been playing in a competitive league all season. That will make the task really difficult for us.”
Many of the Brora squad will be working in day jobs in and around the Inverness area until late afternoon prior to kick-off against Hearts.
“Some guys are working at a desk, others are on the tools as joiners, electricians and plumbers,” explained Mackay. “They will do their day’s work and then travel up to Brora.
“It's tough but that’s the world we are in and we are used to it. It would have been great if the game fell on a weekend because the boys could have rested up on the Friday and prepared as best as possible.”
The most difficult part of preparing for Tuesday’s tie has been the long lay-off imposed on all leagues below the SPFL Championship in January as Covid cases rose.
The situation is now more stable and Highland League teams resumed training earlier this month after testing players for the virus.
Brora are still seriously disadvantaged as they welcome Hearts. They managed a friendly against Buckie Thistle – who face Inverness in the Scottish Cup on Tuesday – at the weekend.
“We’ve been pretty limited to be honest. We got the nod to resume training on the basis that the players tested negative. Our first training session was on March 9,” said Mackay.
“We’ve trained Tuesday and Thursday for the last two weeks and at the weekend we played a friendly against Buckie Thistle, who are also still in the Scottish Cup.
“They are in the same position as us. We won 3-1 but there was no great tempo to it. I think both teams had an eye on Tuesday.”