Midfielder Lewis Barr says Penicuik Athletic are determined to prove the supposed gap in quality between the East and West leagues doesn’t exist when they host Kirkintilloch Rob Roy in the last 16 of the Scottish Junior Cup tomorrow
The former East Fife youngster is fully aware of what the competition means to his club and revealed there is a belief simmering within their Penicuik Park dressing-room that they can go all the way this season.
To do so, they’ll first have to battle past west top-flight leaders Rob Roy and book a place in the quarter finals. The last East Region club to win the trophy was Linlithgow Rose back in 2010, and Barr and his team-mates are eager to bring the cup to Midlothian.
“Coming in to the Juniors you quickly realise what the Scottish Cup means to everyone,” said Barr. “It’s a really tough tie we’ve got but I think it’s bonus that we’re at home. East v West gives it a bit more spice – I don’t think there’s a hatred but there’s definitely a rivalry. When you get a west team there is added motivation. They’ll be wanting to prove what people say is true that the west leagues are stronger and we’ll be wanting to prove that it’s not true.
“We know how tough it is going to be – you look at all the top teams in the west and their history in the Scottish Cup – but we hold absolutely no fear and I think we’ve proved that throughout the season. The team is just looking forward to it. It’s a chance for us to prove ourselves in front of what will be a big crowd. I hope the people of Penicuik get out and support us and I hope we don’t let them down.
“They’ll fancy it as well and it’s probably the tie of the round. I’d rather watch it than all this English Premier League rubbish.
“You always want to go one further and there is a real belief in our team. You look around the dressing-room and everyone’s got the belief that we can win it, never mind just getting to the quarter-finals. We need to take care of tomorrow first but I think you’ve always got to have that belief that you can go all the way.”
Barr believes manager Johnny Harvey has taken Penicuik to “a new level” since taking the reins in the summer. Harvey’s men are riding high in the Super League – sat fourth, they are on course for their highest-ever finish in the top flight and are still firing on all fronts in the cup competitions. It is former Cuikie boss Craig Meikle who Barr will forever be indebted too, however. The 22-year-old opted for Penicuik over Kelty Hearts after cutting short his ties with East Fife in June 2015 after becoming frustrated with the lack of first-team opportunities in his second full season under then boss Gary Naysmith.
He points to Meikle as being responsible for rekindling his love for the game and reckons their Fife and Lothians Cup triumph at the end of last season provided them with motivation for success in this campaign.
“I became a bit disillusioned with football. I got a bit fed up towards the end at East Fife and didn’t have any interest, to be honest. Craig Meikle and Tam Courts [Kelty boss] phoned me, so it was nice to have people wanting me again – it sort of reignites your fire a bit.
“Meikle kept phoning and phoning and his persistence paid off. Within a couple of weeks at Penicuik, my love for the game came back and it obviously helps when you’re playing. Ever since then, it’s been going up for me. I’ve really enjoyed it.
“Craig was part of the reason I started enjoying football because I pretty much played every week. I know the league campaign wasn’t great but we did win a cup and we beat our rivals Bonnyrigg in the final. Then, a few weeks later, you get phoned and told he was resigning. It was a big shock for me, I didn’t expect it at all. That happened so you think ‘this could be a tough season’ with so many changes, but I think it’s gone up from here. I think we’ve improved and Johnny has taken us to a new level.”
Elsewhere, Linlithgow Rose head west to take on Maryhill as they look to give their season a much-needed boost. Super League champions Bonnyrigg Rose are in action at Super First Division outfit Petershill.