CIVIL SERVICE STROLLERS manager Alex Cunningham has challenged his players to “rise to the big occasion” ahead of tomorrow’s Scottish Cup first preliminary round tie with Newton Stewart at Marine Drive.
A second preliminary round tie with Junior Super League winners Kelty Hearts awaits the victors, and Cunningham knows his side have to play to their strengths.
“It’s a totally different challenge for a lot of the boys,” he said. “Quite a few of the players – some of whom I brought in from Spartans EOS – have never experienced the Scottish Cup, so that gives them all the motivation to make a name for themselves.”
“We’ve certainly got goals in the team as has been shown with the results we’ve had so far. Defensively, we’ll need to be compact and tight,” added Cunningham, who will be missing his centre-half pairing of Barry Milven and Jonathan Watson for tomorrow’s clash.
The former Spartans EOS manager admits he knows very little about their South of Scotland League opponents.
“I was hoping to watch Newton Stewart play this week but their match was postponed so I wasn’t able to,” he said. “By all accounts, they are a strong, physical outfit who’ve played in this competition before and know what is at stake.
“We’ve had to step the training up this week for such a big game. We have the sponsors involved so the occasion in itself is massive. If you can get through the qualifying rounds it increases the chances of drawing a big name when the first round starts. But nobody is thinking about Kelty Hearts.
“The reward is there for the players if they really want it and judging by the buzz on the training ground this week, we know we have a chance to progress.”
Cunningham will also be missing striker Kyle Boggie for tomorrow’s clash and, although Scott Clapperton is making steady progress from a pre-season injury, he is expected to remain sidelined.
Strollers captain Stuart Burnside is pleased his team-mates do not have a long journey to tackle in the competition this season, but is also unsure about the challenge Newton Stewart will offer.
“Last season, we knew Wigtown were South of Scotland League Champions but Newton Stewart are a different proposition. We were delighted to get a home tie. We did a lot of travelling in the Scottish Cup last season to Wigtown and then Forres, so playing in front of our own crowd will help.”
Tomorrow’s clash kicks off at 3.00pm with entrance £5 for adults and £3 concessions.