Livingstonâ€™s Braidwood Motor Company Stadium plays host on Sunday 2nd June to the Emirates Scottish Junior Cup Final between Auchinleck Talbot from Ayrshire and the West Lothian based club Linlithgow Rose. The game pits the two best non-league teams in Scotland against each other. Not only will the winner take home the silverware on Sunday, but they can also lay claim to the title of top dogs in the Junior game.
Both clubs had superb league campaigns. Auchinleck Talbot strolled to the West of Scotland Super League Premier Division championship having won 20 of their 22 fixtures, drawing the other two and finishing 23 points clear of runners-up, Petershill, while in the East Region Super League, Linlithgow Rose have only failed to take maximum points on three occasions and, like their opponents, avoided defeat.
Auchinleck will be looking to go one better than last year when they lost the final to Shotts Bon Accord. This would give them their fourth Junior Cup in seven years. Linlithgow also have an enviable recent record in the competition having picked up the trophy three times this century, the last time being in 2010. Linlithgow manager, Mark Bradley, has led his team on a 50 game unbeaten run in all competitions, and in his first full season in charge is hopeful of a league and cup double. He told The Daily Record, â€œObviously you need a bit of luck from time to time but I canâ€™t praise the players and coaching staff enough for going 50 games without defeat. Itâ€™s not often the Final turns out this way but you have the East Super League Champions playing the West Super League Champions, so it genuinely will be a battle of the giants.â€ His opposite number, Tommy Sloan, will be attempting to achieve the same feat after he guided Talbot to their first Premier Division win since 2006.
Such is the interest in these two giants of the Scottish Junior football scene, it is anticipated that the 10,000 capacity Almondvale Stadium in Livingston will be close to full with the BBC also providing live television coverage. Both sets of players will have the chance to write themselves into Junior football history with victory, but they will also have the opportunity to put themselves in the shop window on the national scale. Clubs from the Scottish League will be looking closely for talent to pluck from the non-league ranks to follow in the path of recent full-time converts such as John Boyle, who played in last yearâ€™s final for Auchinleck before switching to SFL club Airdrie United.
This Cup Final is both as big and as tough to predict as it gets in Junior football. Linlithgow are known for their slick passing style and attacking prowess, while Auchinleck will rely on their teamwork and tight defence to try and nullify the threat posed by the team going for an incredible 51st game without defeat. The game is live on BBC Alba from 4pm on Sunday.