Shire shrug off Scottish Cup underdogs tag

Shire head coach Craig Tully
Shire head coach Craig Tully

Craig Tully accepts that many people will be looking at Shire’s Scottish Cup trip to Whitehill Welfare on Saturday as a potential upset but says it won’t affect their preparations for the game.

The Shire chief admits their Lowland League opponents, who have only lost once this season - and that in a pre-season friendly - will be brimming with confidence and hopeful of claiming an SPFL scalp; but that won’t stop him and his players believing in victory and a place in the next round of the competition.

Tully says that the expectation of many that Shire will succumb to a team from outwith the league is something the club will always have to deal with.

“It’s probably true that every time Shire draw a non-league team in the cup some people will mark the game down as a likely shock result,” he said.

“But we can’t allow that to get in the way of how we prepare for this game.

“They are a team we have to respect and we know that they will be up for the game. We will go about our job quietly and remain respectful to our opponents.”

Tully cannot be accused of being under-prepared for the first ever competitive meeting of the two teams in the small Midlothian former mining community of Rosewell. He knows how well they have done in their own competitions this season and he has also sent spies to watch Whitehill Welfare play in each of their games since the cup draw was made.

“I have had a couple of quite detailed reports on them and that will help us with our preparations. But it will only help us so much, because we have to concentrate more on what we do and not get caught up in what our opponents will do.”

Shire are experienced hands at making Scottish Cup ventures into the unknown and, for a team often earmarked by pundits for ejection at the hands of non-league teams, they have a pretty decent record in this kind of encounter.

However, they have had historically a tougher time eliminating teams from what was the East of Scotland League, now the Lowland League, than against sides from the supposedly stronger Highland League.

Those with longer memories still recoil at cup exits at the hands of Edinburgh City and Spartans.

There have also been some tight squeezes even in victory against the likes of Gala Fairydean, Dalbeattie Star and Vale of Leithen.

However, Shire are in decent league form having won two of their last three and were impressive in beating pre-season promotion favourites Albion Rovers at Coatbridge on Saturday.

The Shire coach will again be without Chris Townsley, Nathan Shepherd and Paul McMullan, although there is good news on the latter who is set to return to training next week.

With a limited squad to choose from, the Shire coach is more or less in the position of having to name the same players who travelled to Coatbridge last weekend, although, as usual, he will delay naming a starting eleven until just before kick-off.