Spartans striker Paul Sludden has gone from the subs’ bench at Ochilview to the verge of the William Hill Scottish Cup quarter-finals as he aims to fire his new club past Berwick Rangers in tomorrow’s fifth-round tie at Ainslie Park.
Dougie Samuel’s men are aiming to make history by becoming the first non-league club to reach the quarter-finals since Eyemouth United 55 years ago. The Fishermen defeated Cowdenbeath 3-0 in 1960 to set up a tie with eventual finalists Kilmarnock.
Sludden netted a brace in Saturday’s win over Gretna and will be hoping he can add to his first two goals for the club tomorrow. The on-loan Stenhousemuir man revealed that the prospect of being involved in such a big game was a factor in his decision to make the temporary switch to North Edinburgh.
“The club’s been buzzing” said the former Stirling Uni striker. “Don’t get me wrong, week after week you’re focused on league games but we’ve all been looking forward to it this week. It’s going to be great – it’s a big occasion for the club, and for us to be where we are is huge. I’ve just come into it and it was something that got me interested to come here in the first place.
“It’s strange how it worked out. I was at Stenny and found myself not playing in games or not even in the squad and then something like this comes around. Things maybe happen for a reason at times and hopefully it can work in our favour tomorrow and I can hopefully have an impact on the game.”
Manager Dougie Samuel is under no illusions about how his Spartans side will have to perform if they want to progress further.
Having already dispatched league opposition in the form of Clyde and Morton in previous rounds, many may be expecting Spartans to repeat the trick and book a last-eight spot at the expense of Colin Cameron’s Wee Gers, but Samuel is adamant who the favourites will be.
“We need to play well – if Berwick bring their A game then they’ll win” said the Ainslie Park boss. “If Berwick are slightly off it and we bring our A game as we showed against Clyde and Morton, we’ve got a chance of progressing.”
Samuel revealed he’s been doing some extra preparatory work with his players this week ahead of what will be, for many of them, the biggest game of their careers to date.
“We’ve spent a little bit more time preparing for the game in terms of studying the opposition and video analysis: because we had a wee bit more time we created some time for that purpose. Outside of that it’s been the usual template for us and just trying to prepare the players as best we can.”
The two sides will be somewhat familiar with each other, having met in a pre-season friendly – also at Ainslie Park – with the visitors running out 0-3 victors. Samuel believes both teams have strengthened since then, but is hoping a defensive suspension can work in their favour.
“They’ve made one or two signings since then, but big [Jonny] Fairbairn, the centre half, was sent off on Saturday with a straight red so that’ll mean they need to change their back four. We’ve watched them a couple of times and I know they’ve watched us a couple of times. It’ll come down to how many guys on the day can win their personal battle and you maybe get a wee break in front of goal – certainly we’ll need to finish better than we did on Saturday.”