Sunday, November 20, 2011

Yesterday's sixteen Scottish Cup ties proved not to be happy hunting grounds for seven of the nine non league sides remaining in the tournament.

As we discussed on Tuesday, year upon year, the FA Cup still has an alluring quality around it, something seriously missing with its Scottish counterpart.

We've pondered in AFTN before as to why the Scottish Cup just never gives off such mystique.

Yesterday's ties basically showed you why.

Whereas the gap between non league and league opponents in England seems to narrow every season, in Scotland, the difference in quality between Scottish League clubs and most non league teams is massive.

Somewhat strangely, but also somewhat expectantly, the smallest gap is between the league sides and the top Junior outfits, demonstrated once again by the only two non league teams remaining coming from the Junior ranks.

All four of the Junior teams admitted to the Cup this season had made it to the Third Round.

Bo'ness United fell 3-0 at home to Division Two leaders Cowdenbeath, whilst Irvine Meadow were on the end of a 6-0 hammering from Division One high flyers Livingston.

Ayrshire Cup specialists, Auchinleck Talbot, were the only non league winners of the round, seeing off fellow non leaguers Vale of Leithen 3-1 at Beechwood Park.

The last of the four Junior teams, Culter from the SJFA North Superleague, were in the Third Round by default, having been reinstated by the SFA when Spartans were thrown out for fielding an ineligible player in their 2-0 Second Round victory.

They certainly made the most of their second chance, holding Division One strugglers Partick Thistle to a 1-1 draw in Peterculter.

The Junior teams apart, the non league sides have struggled once again this season in the competition.

In the Second Round, only Deveronvale ousted a League side, beating Berwick Rangers 4-0 at home. Two other sides, Fraserburgh and Buckie Thistle, took their Third Division opponents to a reply, but both fell short.

From East Fife's point of view, that was great news. Yesterday's Third Round Cup opponents, East Stirling, had dispatched Buckie 4-2 in their replay, and probably gave the Fife a much easier tie than the Highland Leaguers would have provided.

East Fife's 5-0 victory yesterday was five going on around 15. The Shire were one of the worst teams we've had at Bayview in a long time. Great for us, as we now find ourselves in Tuesday's draw and looking forward to hopefully another major Cup run.

The Fife's big win was great, but nothing compared to Airdrie United's embarrassing 11-0 demolition of East of Scotland side Gala Fairydean.

This was more than a league side steamrollering over their non league opponents. This was showing just how lacking in depth the Scottish non league set-up is.

Gala were one of the stronger non leaguers in this year's Cup. They had already banged in some goals themselves, thrashing fellow borders side Hawick Royal Albert 8-1 in the first round and Highland League outfit Golspie Sutherland 5-2 in round two.

I thought we'd seen the last of such hammerings being dished out by League teams at this round of the competition. They were commonplace when I was a lad.

Fluke result? Or another sign that if Scottish football is to develop and grow, we need to have a strong non league system producing quality young players to come through the ranks through a properly organised pyramid system?

East Fife have never lost to non league opposition in the Scottish Cup in their entire history. Many have tried, all have failed.

Let's just hope that we avoid Auchinleck Talbot in the fourth round to keep that record intact.

The Ayrshire men are going to be the team many want to avoid.

At least one side is keeping the non league magic alive in this season's Scottish Cup.

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