EIGHT years have passed since Whitehill Welfare last reached the William Hill Scottish Cup third round – but Ali Smith is confident the club can put an end to that barren run when they venture north this weekend.
Manager Jock Landells will take his Lowland League strugglers on a 380-mile round trip as they aim to shock League Two side Elgin City at Borough Briggs on Saturday.
The Rosewell outfit have progressed beyond the second-round stage of the historic competition just three times in their history, famously beating Fraserburgh in 1996 to set up a clash against giants Celtic, in which they suffered a 3-0 defeat.
Losses to Ross County and Montrose have hampered their progress in previous years, but attacking midfielder Smith reckons they can put their domestic woes behind them for the time being as they look to complete another memorable Cup upset.
Whitehill knocked out Edinburgh University in the previous round and 20-year-old Smith, formerly of Hibs and Cowdenbeath, said: “The boys are looking forward to facing an SPFL team and it will be a welcome distraction because we haven’t been doing too well in the league of late.
“It will be a good occasion for the club and the supporters, but we know Elgin are a good side with some quality players.
“It’s a very tough place to go and they’ve been doing reasonably well, judging by their recent results. I’m sure they’ll be high in confidence after beating Cowdenbeath last weekend.
“Our objective is to make sure we try and get something from the game. We’ve got a great group of lads here and we’re confident we will turn our poor start around.
“We didn’t play last weekend, so the gaffer organised a tough training session on Saturday morning and the boys have looked sharp since then. Jock (Landells) is a good motivator and his training has been a lot harder in the lead up to this game.
“I’m not looking forward to the journey up, but I know we’re capable of picking up a positive result. You just never know what can happen in Cup football – form seems to go out the window and hopefully that will be the case on Saturday.”
Smith opted to join Whitehill in the summer after falling out of favour at the Blue Brazil.
He stated: “I was full-time at Hibs for two years and played a lot of games for the under-20s then moved to Cowden for a season. After the change in manager, I never got much game-time, so it was an easy decision to come here.”
Boss Landells will be eager to hand a debut to teenage striker Marc Malloy after he completed a recent loan move from Berwick Rangers reserves in a deal which saw Welfare under-20s keeper Shea Dowie move permanently in the opposite direction.
Whitehill have struggled to find the net regularly this season and Landells will be hoping the youngster can help ease their troubles in front of goal.
He said: “Marc is a player I’ve had my eye on for a while. We have been looking to add another forward and although he is only 17 he has started the season extremely well.
“Marc has great energy, pace and has been scoring a lot recently. He’s highly-rated at Berwick and when the opportunity came along to sign him until January I was more than delighted to bring him to the club.”
Meanwhile, Spartans travel to face Lowland League rivals East Kilbride at K-Park in what will be the third meeting between the teams already this campaign.
The South Lanarkshire club have begun their search for a new manager after Brian Kerr’s short month-and-a-half spell in charge ended abruptly when he joined new Patrick Thistle boss Gary Caldwell as his assistant earlier this week.
Dougie Samuel’s side defeated Brechin City 4-1 in a closed-door friendly last Saturday and the Edinburgh club will be desperate to ignite their own Cup run by claiming their first win over Kilby this term.