Year of the giant-killer: Could this be Stenhousemuir's time again - and what else to expect in Scottish Cup third round
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Brora Rangers are, justifiably and deservedly, taking the headlines for their giant-killing in dispatching Hearts from the competition on Tuesday night. Nine years ago, the sides who will meet at Ochilview on Saturday were involved in their own cup upset, when holders Kilmarnock lost, at home, in the first defence of their Communities League Cup trophy.
Kevin McGoldrick was the Warriors assistant manager then, and will be again during his second spell at the club – nine years from the Rugby Park triumph.
"In terms of giant-killing and shock results, Stenhousemuir has a bit of a reputation for it,” McGoldrick said. “They famously beat Aberdeen in the Scottish Cup and then we knocked Kilmarnock out of the League Cup in 2012 when they were the holders. I think it was their first game in the competition since winning it the previous season.
"It is a free hit for us now, as it was for us then. We’re playing twice a week to catch up on games and our league is our priority at the moment – Kilmarnock might be the same, trying to get up the table – but it’s not a game we’re going to complain about, playing a Premiership team.
"It’s a game where you can’t carry passengers – everyone has to be on their game. It needs to be a team effort like it was in 2012, and you need a little bit of luck. It’s not a case of ‘enjoy the occasion’ either. It’s a great draw but without our fans it’s no occasion and we’ll still be looking to win, as we would every game.”
Since the recent resumption of the League Two and Scottish Cup, Stenhousemuir have been on form – another similarity to 2012.
"We’d had an unbeaten start to the season,” recalled Brown Ferguson, who put Stenhousemuir in front with a penalty before John Gemmell’s header. “Playing the cup holders never really played into our psyche – it was simply a Premier League team, away, that was enough for us. The storylines afterwards helped us realise what we had achieved – not just a big team away from home, but we were a part-time team knocking the cup holders out.
“It was a 75 or 80-minute performance when we were, I'm not saying dominant, but comfortable in the game and playing well with a good shape and structure. Kilmarnock were struggling to get things going, but they did have chances. One [Jude Winchester] scooped over the bar from four yards with the score 1-0, little moments like that lifted us probably as much as it made them worry and we saw out a late onslaught.
"Situations when you knock out a team several divisions above are few and far between. I don't think many slept that night and we actually lost 4-0 at home to Forfar on the Saturday, the come down after the high of midweek.
"But it was a great memory to look back on and what you’re in the game for.”
Even a repeat would struggle to knock Brora from the cup-shock pedestal of season 2020-21. The reaction, and fall-out, from Hearts’ ignominious exit will serve as reminder to all of the perils of one-off games and knock-out competition.
"They will be under more pressure than we are,” McGoldrick added. “I don't think defeat to Stenhousemuir would help their case so they will be well warned to be professional and knock us out the cup. The pressure will be on Kilmarnock but we’ll have our own – self-pressure we place on ourselves to go out and win every game.”
What are the other ties and where could the shocks come?
The Scottish Cup third round includes only one all Premiership tie – Hamilton v St Mirren – leaving the door open for more lower league opposition to spring a surprise in the remaining fixtures.
The top two in the Premiership play the leaders of League One when Falkirk head to Celtic Park and Rangers host Cove Rangers in two televised games which should run according to the formbook.
Fortmartine United v Motherwell has the biggest gulf in the league ladder – 36 clubs and three divisions separate the fourth placed Highland League team from Graham Alexander’s charges – while new Aberdeen, fresh from appointing Stephen Glass, will be aiming to get his tenure off to a flyer on Clydeside at Dumbarton. Hibs don’t have it easy on the road at Queen of the South and Livingston will be wary of Raith Rovers on John McGlynn’s return to West Lothian.
But if there’s potential to shock, here are three third round fixtures with the ties tightly poised …
Dundee v St Johnstone
A Tayside derby pits Betfred Cup winners St Johnstone against their rivals at Dens Park. Callum Davidson’s side have already proven their credentials this season with a top six finish, but a Dundee side boasting maverick minds like Jason Cummings and Charlie Adam cannot be ruled out.
Dundee United v Partick Thistle
Ian McCall returns to Tannadice and has the inside track on former forward Lawrence Shankland. United have blown hot and cold this season and that unpredictability and insider knowledge has all the ingredients for an upset.
Ross County v Inverness CT
Another derby with local bragging rights at stake – John Hughes is another manager facing his former team under the lights on Friday night. The Staggies have one eye on hauling themselves out of the relegation mire in the Premiership while Neil McCann has steered Caley to three consecutive wins in their last three away games.
Remaining fixtures to be played on Saturday, April 3: Brora Rangers v Stranraer, Ayr United v Clyde, East Fife v Morton, Forfar Athletic v Edinburgh City, Fraserburgh v Montrose