BY MARK GODFREY
As the reflected lights of Catania shimmered brightly across the becalmed waters of the Mediterranean and the steady plume of volcanic steam rose high into the night air from the recently active Mount Etna, my thoughts turned to the less glamorous surrounds of the Dumfries and Galloway Riviera.
Tuesday night saw our latest Scottish Cup charges, Stranraer, take on Clyde in the fourth round replay against Clyde. After a 1-1 draw in Cumbernauld, the League 1 side had a second bite at the cherry and the reward of the Premiership’s current ‘best of the rest’, Inverness Caledonian Thistle, in the fifth round on February 8th.
The 454 who passed through the Stair Park turnstiles endured a goalless first half but had their patience rewarded in the second.
It was the visitors who drew first blood when Kevin Watt put the Bully Wee in front in the 54th minute. However, their joy would be short-lived.
A quick double strike on the hour by Stranraer’s Mark Docherty and Frank McKeown (whose day job as a firefighter saw him in active duty at the recent helicopter tragedy at the Clutha bar in Glasgow) lifted the home crowd’s spirits and the result was sealed in the last few minutes by another two goal blast – this time from top scorer Jamie Longworth and Martin Grehan.
Having missed the replay due to work commitments in Sicily, I have made myself a promise to attend the Caley Thistle tie in early February and hopefully be present at a famous giant-killing. Inverness, who recently appointed John Hughes as the successor to Terry Butcher, will be an extremely tough proposition for Stephen Aitken’s boys. The Highland side are lying second in the top tier at the time of writing, just about hanging onto the coat tails of the inevitable champions, Celtic.
Hughes has inherited a very competent and consistent side put together by the now Hibernian boss and even accounting for the 255 mile trip from the far north to the south west of Scotland, they will be overwhelming favourites to earn a quarter-final berth.
But in cup football, we all know that the proverbial form book can be propelled through the equally proverbial window and in the build-up to the game, The Football Pink will bring you news and coverage from Stranraer as they prepare to give Caley Thistle the fright of their footballing lives.
And, with any luck, I’ll have to concoct a headline to rival Inverness’ own memorable cup-upset exploits when they knocked Celtic out of the Cup back in 2000, which, coincidentally, happened on February 8th – the same date as the game with Stranraer.