STUART HUNTER reckons a recent ‘Coach Trip’ could spell trouble for Whitehill Welfare when they visit Bo’ness tomorrow in the Scottish Cup.
The big defender watched as his new Bo’ness boss Paul Ronald make wholesale changes following his summer arrival at Newtown Park.
He feared it might take a bit of time for his new team-mates to settle in and generate the sort of spirit that had helped Bo’ness secure back-to-back Super League titles.
But Hunter admitted he’s been delighted to have been proved wrong – both on and off the park.
Bo’ness won 4-0 at Fort William in the last round of the SFA Scottish Cup then beat local rivals Linlithgow 2-1 the following week in the Junior version. They’re also unbeaten in the Super League, with the only blip for Ronald and his charges having been an East of Scotland Cup defeat at Haddington.
The home dressing-room was a happy place after the win over Linlithgow, as was the coach trip on the way back down the road from Fort William.
“There were 22 players on the bus coming back from that game,” recalled Hunter. “We had the music playing and had a few drinks to celebrate as well – it was a great laugh.
“Everyone is looking forward to training and we all want to be involved in the run of big games we’re playing at the moment. The team spirit is great and hopefully we’ve set our stall out as we are fighting on quite a few fronts this season.”
Hunter, who moved to Bo’ness from Bathgate, admitted the victory over Linlithgow had been sweet for the players who have survived from last season.
“No-one wanted to draw Lithgae in the first round of the Scottish Cup,” he admitted. “I played in the games against them last season and they gave us a bit of a doing in one of the games as well as beating us in a Cup Final.
“It is nice to get one over them. To win at Fort William one week then follow it up with a win over Lithgae was fantastic. We’re unbeaten in the league as well and it’s been a great start to the season considering that we’ve got so many new faces.
“The manager and his assistant, Willie Wilson, have come in and done a great job. The training is lively and the new boys have settled in great.
“The one thing about the manager and ‘Woos’ is that they are very articulate about what they want to happen.
“They have brought a great level of professionalism to the club, from making sure we are wearing the same kit to doing the same warm up.
“The manager comes across well in the dressing-room and there’s no doubt the players are responding to that.”
Whitehill know all about Bo’ness, having sent representatives to West Lothian to watch the game against Linlithgow and also against St Andrews United last weekend.
“Every game is a big one for us at the moment,” admitted Hunter. “When we were drawn against Whitehill we definitely looked at this as an opportunity to go through.
“I’d imagine they are about the same level as us, but the big advantage we have is a home tie. Every single week is a big one at the moment.”
Bo’ness, who beat Queen’s Park at the same stage a year ago, are strong favourites, but Ronald is warning his side not to read too much into any odds being quoted.
“It’s a tough game for us and will be along the lines of the Linlithgow tie a couple of weeks ago,” he said. “We have seven players down with injuries and I don’t know who will be fit for Saturday until after training.
“What I do know is that all the players are itching to play in this one, not just for the club, but to experience the Scottish Cup themselves.”
Whitehill manager Rab Paget, pictured, reckons his side will have to “box clever” if they want to come out on top tomorrow.
“We’ve watched them twice and they have their strengths and weaknesses so it’s up to us to exploit them,” he said.
“There will be a big crowd on Saturday, much bigger than we’re used to and hopefully our young players will be inspired rather than overawed by the game.
“We knew Bo’ness would send someone along to see us so we changed our style in the last two games to throw them and for Saturday’s game we’ll be back to our normal line up. I hope it doesn’t backfire on us.”