Linfield clash a great challenge, says Spartans chief Graham

Linfield manager David Healy will bring his team to Ainslie Park on Saturday, September 2
Linfield manager David Healy will bring his team to Ainslie Park on Saturday, September 2
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Spartans chairman Craig Graham says a home tie against Northern Ireland champions Linfield in the second round of the Irn-Bru Cup will be well worth the wait.

The Ainslie Park side host their Belfast-based opponents next Saturday after first-round conquerors Albion Rovers were found guilty of fielding ineligible player Liam McGuigan at Cliftonhill last Tuesday, the Lanarkshire side having prevailed 5-4 on penalties following a goalless 120 minutes.

After a disciplinary hearing was held yesterday, the SPFL reinstated Dougie Samuel’s men.

And, having been forced on the road at this stage of the compeition in recent seasons, Graham insists the arrival of David Healy’s side to north Edinburgh will more than make up for a long-awaited home fixture.

“We’ve been a bit unlucky in this tournament in that we’ve had five away games; Morton, Queen of the South, Stranraer, Berwick Rangers and now Albion Rovers so I felt we were due a home draw,” Graham explained.

“It’s always a great atmosphere when Ainslie Park is packed. For the players and the coaching staff, it’s a fantastic challenge.

“I would imagine Linfield will compare to the top-end of the Championship or bottom of the Premiership so we know how big a task it is going to be. I wouldn’t rate our chances that highly of causing an upset but you just never know.”

Spartans suffered expulsion from the Scottish Cup almost six years ago when former striker Keith McLeod started in the 2-0 second-round win at Culter despite being ineligible to play.

“I was always optimistic (of being reinstated into the Irn-Bru Cup) and, given we’d previously been knocked out the cup for playing an ineligible player, we were quite confident but sympathetic at the same time,” Graham explained.

“We had been in dialogue with Linfield before our place in the next round was even confirmed so things are progressing well.

“But we’ve still got an important league game at Cumbernauld Colts tonight to focus on before we can even start thinking about what lies ahead.”