BY MARK GODFREY
After their superb, battling display in the first game, Stranraer must rejoin the fight against Premiership rivals Inverness Caledonian Thistle in the fifth round replay of the Scottish Cup. The victors will earn the right to play the exciting young Dundee United side at home in the quarter-finals.
The men from the south west were good for their share of the spoils just over a week ago and a repeat performance could bring one of the biggest Scottish Cup shocks in years. The Highlanders will hope to pull their fingers out following a seemingly sluggish outing at Stair Park where they ran into a determined back four – including left-back and one of the stand-out performers, Mark Docherty.
The Stranraer left-back spoke to The Football Pink ahead of Tuesday night’s replay.
TFP: When you were warming up for the Inverness game how were the nerves? They looked physically imposing……
MD: I don’t really get nervous anymore to be honest. I’ve played football for a long time now, and we have got good experience in the team so nerves don’t really play a part for the boys. However, in terms of the size of the Inverness players, a few boys commented on it but that just made us more determined to go out and show them that we were a match for them and I think we did that.
TFP: It seemed very early on that you were going to match them. How soon did the team realise they could push ICT all the way?
MD: I think the way we started the game was very important in terms of the rest of the game. We almost scored a great goal with our first attack with some great play down the right hand side which ended up with Sean Winter being unlucky not to score and put us in front. We will have to start the game well up there too and stay in the game as long as we can to give ourselves the best possible chance of getting through the tie.
TFP: Inverness seemed to target your wing in particular. Do you think they singled you out as a weak link?
MD: I’m not sure, you will have to ask John Hughes that one!! However, I do think a lot of our good play came from our left hand side with myself and Andy Stirling linking up well which also lead to our first goal.
TFP: What did the manager say to you in the dressing room at half time?
MD: The gaffer was very positive and encouraging with his half-time team-talk. That probably changed due to us scoring the penalty right on half time. He told us to be brave and to take the game to them in the second half, to try and push for that winning goal and go and cause an upset against a top 4 Premier League team.
TFP: Where do you think Stranraer were winning their head-to-head battles on the day?
MD: Collectively, we worked really hard and the boys put in a great shift and I think we took a lot of plaudits from the game. But it means nothing if we go to Inverness on Tuesday night and let ourselves down. We have got to go there with a real belief and desire to progress into the quarter-finals and what an achievement it will be for the club if we can do it.
TFP: Having gone ahead were you disappointed to only draw or were you happy that you were able to take it to a replay?
MD: Before the game if you had said we would take Inverness to a replay then of course we would have taken it. However, reflecting back on the game now and going 2-1 up, we see it as a disappointment not holding out. The timing of the second goal for them being so soon after we scored for me as a defender was a real blow. We will go on Tuesday night and give it our best shot and see were that takes us.
TFP: Do you think pitch and weather conditions helped you and do you think it will be a leveller in the replay given the weather has been so bad lately?
MD: Its an old cliché, but the pitch and the conditions are the same for both teams. At this time of the year, it’s about getting the sleeves rolled up and working as hard as we can for the full 90 minutes. Inverness will definitely be favourites and rightly so, but we will be ready if they have an off day to try and capitalise on it and to try and progress in the Cup.
TFP: It’s going to be harder in the replay and they’re likely to buck their ideas up. Do you realistically give yourselves a chance of winning?
MD: Anything is possible in a game of football. No one probably gave us a chance against Ross County earlier on in the season, against Rangers at Ibrox on Boxing Day or in the first game against an Inverness team who are also in the League Cup final. But we managed to get a positive result in these games too so we will work as hard as we can and hopefully its enough to progress to play Dundee United at Stair Park.
TFP: If you pull this off, you’ve got another home tie against Dundee United in the quarters where you’ll face Ryan ‘Messi’ Gauld. Have you seen much of him and the rest of their exciting youngsters?
MD: Gauld is a player who has been in the spotlight a lot this season and deservedly so, he looks like a top prospect with a big future in the game. But they have 10 other players, who, on their day, can hurt you too; the likes of Mackay-Steven, Armstrong and the big striker Ciftci are all players who will pose a threat to any defence in Scotland. Yes, I’ve seen them a few times this season and of course they’re also a top side from the Premier League, but we will not get ahead of ourselves. We’ve got a very difficult game on Tuesday night to look forward to first before we think of the next round.
TFP: Who are Inverness’s danger men in the replay and who do you think is your potential match winner?
MD: I think Billy McKay will have to be watched closely, he didn’t get many chances at our place but the one real chance he had, he scored, so we will have to limit him to as few chances as we can. Going forward, we have players who can hurt teams; Jamie Longworth has 20 goals this season – which is a great achievement – and if he gets the right service then I’m sure he can deliver for us. That will be down to our wide players to go and get crosses into the box and create chances for our strikers.
Unfortunately, we aren’t able to attend the replay, but we wish Mark and his team mates all the best for Tuesday’s game and hope to see them again for the quarter-finals.