Amateur football: Nine Lothian sides go in search of cup glory

Lothians amateur football clubs have been handed a tough series of draws in the Scottish (Saturday) Amateur Cup fourth round.

Nine sides from the Lothian and Edinburgh Amateur FA will compete for a place in the latter stages of the national competition when games finally get underway following the freezing weather. The local participants most hopeful of a game this weekend will be Tollcross Thistle and Edinburgh South Vics, who are scheduled to play on Saughton's artificial surface against Kilsyth and Glasgow Nazarene respectively.

The 3G pitch there has been out of action during the past three weeks due to the sheer volume of snow lying on it, however temperatures are forecast to rise above freezing towards the end of the week, meaning there's an outside chance the field could be playable. While snow may melt on grass surfaces elsewhere in the Capital, it is anticipated that waterlogging of natural pitches will occur as a consequence.

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Tollcross's opponents Kilsyth and Milton, who will face-off with LEAFA Premier 1 league leaders Whitson Star, are the two teams who will provide the sternest test for Edinburgh sides. Kilsyth hail from the Central Scottish League, which has provided six of the last nine Scottish Cup winners, while Milton play in a strong Caledonian League setup.

Alan McKay, manager of Tollcross, is wary of the threat of Kilsyth, who contest games against the cream of Scottish amateur football week in, week out.

"In their league, they're third or fourth bottom at the moment, but are playing in the highest quality league in Scotland," said McKay. "They're up against the likes of Drumchapel, Harestanes and Eddlewood, and when you're competing with those teams regularly, you must be good."

Indeed, Eddlewood beat Drumchapel in last season's national final, a fact that serves as stark warning to the challenge facing McKay's side. But then, Tollcross, who play in LEAFA's third tier, have become accustomed to giantkilling feats this season.

"We've played (Premier 1 sides] Dalkeith MW and Seaforth Highlanders already this year and beaten them both," explained McKay. "We beat the likes of Granton Vale last year, too. We hope to get to the Premier Division within the next couple of years, and I think we've got the quality to do it. We've shown we're a decent attraction. We signed Stewart O'Neill from Lothian Thistle, who finished second in the (senior] East of Scotland league last season, and we're set to sign John Lawson from Craigroyston. Everyone gets a fair crack of the whip, and we have a good balance that works."

Pressed on his thoughts on the prospects of Edinburgh teams in the "Scottish", McKay sees a bright future."I would fancy Uphall to win and would expect Granton Vale to go away and do well. We just want the teams from our association to do well - it improves the reputation of LEAFA," he said.

The competition is still at a relatively early stage - there are still another four rounds to play before the quarter-finals - but excitement is building at Redhall Star, where Keith Kinnaird has led his team to second behind Whitson in the Premier Division 1 table. The Slateford-based side is still awaiting its next-round opponent, with Dunfermline City or Bervie Caledonian to contest a replay in the north-east after a 3-3 draw in Fife. For Kinnaird, it's irrelevant who his side faces.

"Away days are nice, but costs play a major part now," he said. "Everybody's struggling, from youth football up. I'm not interested who we get, but finance-wise Dunfermline is just over the water and it's cheaper for everybody. We played Whitson, they deserved to win, and I rate them very highly. I fancy them and Uphall, who are always there or thereabouts, to do well. Tollcross are another good side - they're young, fit and a good football-playing side. Broughton put us out a cup earlier this season, and I think they'll all do very well, too.".

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LEAFA secretary David Ramage said: "It's unusual for us to have as many teams in the fourth round. It's been a while since one of our teams won a regional competitions, and it would be nice to build on Newtongrange's South of Scotland Cup win last season."

Fixtures: Alyth AFC v Livingston AFC, Uphall Station v East Kilbride or Inverclyde, Sandys v Baillieston Thistle, Milton v Whitson Star, Kennoway v Broughton, Dunfermline City or Bervie Caledonian v Redhall Star, Tollcross Thistle v Kilsyth AFC, Wishaw HSFP v Granton Vale, Edinburgh South Vics v Glasgow Nazarene.