New League cup format will give Stenny ‘competitive pre-season’

Stenhousemuir play their first match in the new-look Betfred Cup format on Tuesday night when they welcome newly promoted fellow League One outfit Queen’s Park to Ochilview.

With five teams in the group - Partick Thistle, Queen of the South and Airdrie are Stenny’s other opponents - the Warriors are the side to miss out on the opening round of fixtures on Saturday.

But that will allow boss Brown Ferguson the chance to check out his future opponents ahead of their opening match. Thistle visit Airdrie in the opening match on Friday with the two ‘Queens’ clashing on Saturday.

Ferguson admits that no-one is quite sure what to expect from the new League Cup format drawn matches will end in a penalty shootout with the winners gaining an extra point -, but insists that his priority remains making sure his players are ready for the start of their league schedule.

He said: “They’re trying something different and it will be interesting to see how it works out but I’m viewing it as a competitive pre-season.

“It would be nice to be in a position to go through to the next stage but with a Premiership side, a Championship team and two other League One clubs we know how difficult that’s going to be.

“We’ll take it game by game and while we’re looking forward to getting back into competitive action the main thing is to make sure the players are fit and up to speed for out first league game against Brechin.

“Queen’s Park have lost a few players from last season - including Vinnie Berry to us - but they are always renowned as a side who like to get on the ball and play and I was impressed with them when I watched them in the play-offs.”

With games coming on Saturdays and midweek in quick succession Ferguson is also aware of the dangers of injury from putting too much of a strain on players so early.

He said: “We’ve only been back for three weeks and like all teams we’re always at risk of picking up injuries and niggles as the players build their fitness up so it’s important that we manage the squad properly.”