Bo’ness United left-back Stewart Devine believes the Super League champions are better equipped to challenge for the Scottish Junior Cup this season, but first they have to overcome the holders.
The BUs travel to Ayrshire to take on West Super League side Hurlford United in the fourth round of the competition tomorrow afternoon. Hurlford triumphed 3-0 in last year’s final against Glenafton at Kilmarnock’s Rugby Park ground to lift the trophy for the first time.
Bo’ness are well aware of the threat posed by the Ayrshire giants. The Newtown Park men lost 1-0 away to Hurlford’s rivals Irvine Meadow at the quarter-final stage last season, with Meadow exiting the cup 4-3 on aggregate to Hurlford in the semi-finals.
“I think we’ve got a stronger squad than we did last year,” said 31-year-old Devine. “We’ve got boys with a lot of pace up-front. Nicky Walker won’t play as he’s suspended, but we’ve got boys that can come on like wee Kieran [Anderson] as an impact player and he causes problems.
“Scott Pittman has done well in midfield since coming in, so we’ve got a lot of boys that can hurt teams, it’s just whether they can do it on the day or not.
“We’ll be going there looking to win. With the way Allan [McGonigal] sets up, we play the same way away from home as we would do at home. We’ll go there to win and we won’t be sitting in.”
Devine is first to admit that they didn’t perform on the day in their last visit to Ayrshire in March. Darren Gribben’s second-half penalty miss would have brought the tie level, but it wasn’t to be as Bo’ness’ bid to win the cup for the first time in 30 years ended at Meadow Park. “We didn’t turn up that day at all,” he said. “We missed a penalty in the second half and at that point we were on top.
“The last 20 minutes of that game were all one-way traffic and I think we did everything bar score. It was a strange game, we just didn’t seem to turn up.”
The former Stirling Albion defender is well aware of what the competition means for the supporters and the club. Players from the 1983/84 cup-winning side are still revered around the coastal town. Lex Shields was the hero at Ibrox as his two goals in a man-of-the-match performance downed Baillieston Juniors.
As a long-suffering supporter of Hibs, whose famous Scottish Cup jinx stretches over 100 years, Devine understands the hunger from the Bo’ness support to secure the junior equivalent.
“All the fans want to win the Scottish Cup – it is a big thing for the club,” he said. “The league is your bread and butter, but it’s good for the fans to win cups. I know what it’s like being a Hibs fan, with Hibs not winning the Scottish Cup for so long. I say the same thing being a Hibs fan – it’s always going to be our year.”
Manager Allan McGonigal believes his side will be facing junior football’s best forward line tomorrow.
Former St Mirren striker Stewart Kean, who notched a double in last season’s final, is one of the best-known players in the Blair Park squad and Bo’ness, without two of their central defenders through injury, know their task could hardly be more difficult.
He said: “They are a top team with top players and a top manager. It’ll be a real tough game. They’ve beaten everybody that’s come in their way.
“They are the favourites for the tie with it being on their own park. They are scoring goals and not losing a lot of goals.
“The Bo’ness supporters will be thinking we should be winning every game as they always do, but this is a difficult game. It will be even more difficult for us with the fact we’ll be missing [Stuart] Hunter, [Nicky] Walker and [Ross] Campbell. “Their forward line is the best in junior football at the moment, so our defence will definitely have to be switched on.”