It is Scottish Cup time this weekend, and there are plenty of interesting ties to look forward to. Despite being a disappointing season in Scottish Football, the Cup can also provide some romance and it is clear from the ties that are plenty of good opportunities for underdogs teams like Raith Rovers and Kilmarnock.
Raith Rovers Vs Dundee:
Who would have thought that supposedly little Raith would make it this far in the Cup? A shock 1-0 win at Aberdeen in the last round thanks to a Gregory Tade goal has booked them a place at this stage.
Raith’s past credentials in cup competitions however can not come into question. The Kirkcaldy side famously won the Scottish League Cup back in 1994 beating Celtic in the final on penalties. There followed the Rovers fine run in Europe which also saw them a goal up against Bayern Munich at the German sides own ground. However since the mid-90’s, it has all been downhill for Raith and now surely they don’t have a better chance to reach Hampden than this stage. For a side who are mid table in the Scottish First Division, they are big underdogs against Dundee, banked by their owner Callum Melville’s millions, and favourites for promotion to the SPL.
Dundee certainly have a team to boat as well with young striker Leigh Griffiths, one of the hotshots of the division as well as former Scotland players, Rab Douglas and Brian Kerr. However being big favourites might be a huge burden on Dundee. They have also drawn with Raith in the two league encounters this season. As it is a Cup match, both teams will be going for it for different ways. Raith know that a cup win could help them get out of debt, a problem that has beset the club over the last decade with Dundee hoping it adds to a perfect season. In the end the match is too close to call and I favour a draw
Hibernian Vs Ross County:
Hibernian have not won the cup since 1906. It is well known for the club to also reach this stage in the cup and then play badly, and get knocked out. Remarkably, this is the first time these two teams have ever met in competitive action, this of course being due to Ross County only gaining league status in 1994, having originally being a highland team.
Hibernian have had an easy route to this stage having played lower league teams. However there is no doubt this will be another tough match, and again being favourites will be another big equation against John Hughes’s team. Once again, Hibernian will be relying on the strikers of Stokes, Riordan and Nish.
Ross County don’t have any stars in their team, but this may come to their advantage. They have performed well in the First Division this year, currently occupying third spot. They thumped Stirling Albion 9-0 in the last round to reach this stage. They are also some solid performers in the team such as Michael Gardyne and Richard Brittain but I don’t believe it will be enough with my prediction being Hibernian get a close win.
Prediction: 2-0 to Hibernian
Kilmarnock Vs Celtic
Who can forget Robbie Keane’s first match in Celtic colours in February, away at Rugby Park? A famous 1-0 win to Kilmarnock courtesy of a Chris Maguire goal certainly showed Keane that this wasn’t going to be an easy ride.
Unfortuanely the odds are clearly stacked against the home side for a number of reasons. Firstly, this is Celtic’s biggest game of the season because they are all out of other competitions. They need to win the Scottish Cup to show the fans that they still have the hunger to at least pick up some silverware in what was has been a turbulent and changing time for Tony Mowbray. In addition, perhaps a less relevant stat is that Kilmarnock have not won a game against Celtic in the Scottish Cup since 1978.
It was also the first time that Kilmarnock had beaten Celtic in any competition, in nine years back in February. It would take another miraculous effort, to win once more. Chris Maguire is cup tied and despite having decent players, Kevin Kyle fit once again and the former Hearts and Aberdeen stalwart, Scott Severin, I certainly fancy Celtic for this one.
Prediction: 2-1 to Celtic
Rangers Vs Dundee United
A 7-1 win defeat against Rangers for United back in December will still be in the minds of the players who will be keen to erase that memory.
It was tough on United, in what has been a good season for the club. Currently third place in the SPL, the club have continued as normal despite the loss of Craig Levein with manager, Peter Houston overseeing a run of just 2 defeats in 12 matches. The team has also brought the return to form of forgotten defender, Andy Webster as well as bringing through good youth such as Paul Dixon and striker, David Goodwillie.
However Rangers who are in superb form at the moment, despite all the financial problems should be too strong for them. With home advantage, they also occupy the strongest striking partnership in Scotland with Kris Boyd and Kenny Miller. Steven Whittaker, has also chipped in with his fair share of goals and the three will all be danger men this season. For a club that at the start of the season were deemed to be in crisis, and performing perilously in Europe, the change in fortunes has been incredible. The club have not lost a domestic game since November.
Weirdly, for a club that met regularly in cup competitions in the 1980’s when United were a force under Jim Mclean, the club have only met twice in the cup in the last twenty years. The last meeting between the two clubs was back in 2001 when a David Hannah goal gave United a shock 1-0 win against Dick Advocatt’s expensively foreign team who lost the treble that season to Celtic. Of course the only the other time these two teams have met back in this period was back in the 1994 final, when a Craig Brewster goal gave Dundee United a famous 1-0 win over Walter Smith’s nine in a row team.
Dundee United have the capacity to shock fancied Rangers teams but even right now, I would say Rangers will win this match, though it will be a close game.
Prediction: 2-1 to Rangers