Bathgate manager Graeme expects a riveting cup clash

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Bathgate THISTLE have a pitch to be proud of – but manager Graeme Love admits the lush Creamery Park grass will not give his side an advantage when they host Musselburgh Athletic in the East of Scotland Cup tomorrow (2.30pm kick-off).

“Both sides like to play football and our pitch provides a good playing surface for that. So, home advantage may not be a factor. What will be a factor is the quality of the players on the field,” said former Hibs player Love.

When the two teams meet in the first round tomorrow, it will be the first part of a double-header, with the sides meeting again at the same venue next Saturday on Super League business. Love’s charges have put him in an upbeat mood for the tie. “I’m really pleased with the new faces coming into our squad,” he said.

“They are doing much better than I could have hoped for. The young lads coming in from the lower divisions have been terrific with their attitude. Players, too, like Ian McSween, who is coming back from a long injury, have impressed me.

“It’s a pity that one of the Super League clubs will be dropping out at the first time of asking but that’s football for you. We might want an easier option for the first round but you just have to get on with it. It’ll be a hard game, though, and probably a close one.”

While the league campaign is only three games old, Bathgate are unbeaten and their 1-1 draw against Bo’ness United, achieved courtesy of a McSween equaliser, has given them confidence.

“Bo’ness are a very strong team but we more than matched them. It was good end-to-end football and our boys coped well against the title holders,” said Love, who recently added Ryan Johnston from Linlithgow and has little in the way of injuries to concern him.

“Everyone is fit, although a couple have complained about knocks, but they should be all right. Phil McGrath is back in training now and when he’s fit it’ll bring us back up to strength.”

Naturally, Musselburgh manager David McGlynn will look to put a spoke in Bathgate’s wheels and Love is fully aware of the threat posed by the East Lothian outfit.

“David has done a terrific job since he took over,” said Love. “He’s put his own stamp on the team and when you see good players who have left Musselburgh, come back and re-sign it proves he’s doing something right.”

McGlynn, meanwhile is readying his troops for a tough encounter. He said: “It’ll be a very good game and could be a real classic cup tie. Super League sides are always hard to beat and Graeme has done a great job at Bathgate.

“When he came in he had a team of ageing players. He’s had to do a re-building job and he’s done it well.”

Musselburgh have a fine cup pedigree to draw on, all the more so since reaching last season’s Scottish Junior Cup final, where they lost 2-1 to Auchinleck.

“We’ve built up a reputation as a good cup side since I took over,” McGlynn continued.

“We’ve been in ten cup finals in the last six seasons, with the Scottish the pinnacle so far. We know the league is the main business week in, week out, but we enjoy cup football and I believe we have the players who show that.”

Musselburgh, who lost 3-1 to Kelty last weekend, have slight doubts over Chris Gordon and Grant Thomson.

“Last Saturday was a poor performance from us in the first half,” said McGlynn.

“We gave Kelty a three-goal lead at the break, but came back in the second half with a terrific display.

“We should have taken a share of the points but the Kelty keeper was outstanding.

“The players were all down at half time but after a talk they took the game to Kelty and they were hardly out of their half for the remaining 45 minutes. We’d love to get to the next round but if tomorrow’s game goes to penalties I wouldn’t be surprised.”