Ayr United manager Ian McCall today returns to Firhill for the first time since leaving in 2011 as his side take on Partick Thistle in the Betfred Cup. And he insists that there will be no friendly carve-up in Group E like there was in the World Cup of 1982.
This weekend marks the conclusion of the group stages of the Betfred Cup. The eight group winners and the four best-placed runners-up will join Celtic, Aberdeen, Rangers and Hibernian in the last 16.
“A goalless draw would take both Thistle and ourselves through,” McCall explained. “However we will not be colluding in the manner Germany and Austria did to produce a 1-0 Germany win that ensured both countries and not Algeria got through the group stages 36 years ago.
“Even though Thistle are a marvellous club and the manager and his staff are great people, we will be going there to win.”
Partick striker Miles Storey echoed McCall’s sentiments and hinted that both teams will be eager to finish the group phase in first place. “The two of us are on nine points so it really is all to play for,” he said.
In the other Group E game Morton will look to secure third place when they host Albion Rovers.
Forfar manager Jim Weir reckons that a shock could happen in Group B if his Loons can play at the top of their game against St Johnstone.
A win would see Weir’s side win the group. “If we play at our very best and St Johnstone are off their game then we have a chance,” he said.
Perth manager Tommy Wright said: “We know that all we need is a draw but we want to win.”
East Fife and Falkirk end their campaigns with a battle to avoid finishing bottom of the group.
Rampant Dunfermline can wrap up Group D by securing at least a draw with visitors Stirling Albion, however after winning 7-1 at Brechin in midweek the Pars are unlikely to play for a point.
Boss Allan Johnston said: “Stirling will make things difficult but we have the quality to break them down.”
Dundee are looking to defeat Brechin and take advantage of any stumble from Dunfermline, with the added incentive of a handsome win potentially leading to securing one of the best four runners-up places.
Manager Neil McCann said: “We know that we have to win and hopefully we can do that by enough goals to get through.”
Only idle Spartans are out of the running in Group H. There is a slim possibility of Queen’s Park qualifying but the Hampden side would need to win 3-0 at Kilmarnock and also hope that Dumbarton win a penalty shootout at St Mirren.
Any win puts Kilmarnock in the last 16, with a draw ending Dumbarton’s hopes unless they succeed by more than six goals in Paisley.
A penalty kick bonus-point victory would put Killie out of the reach of Saints provided Alan Stubbs’ men do not enjoy a 6-0 success over Dumbarton, but a defeat or a draw with no bonus opens the door for St Mirren.
Rugby Park assistant boss Alex Dyer said: “Our message to the players is a simple one –just win.”
Alloa go into the final round of games at the top of Group A and a point from visitors Ross County would see the Wasps stay there. Manager Jim Goodwin said: “We will look to win the game as I do not want us to have any negative thoughts and changing the way we have been playing.”
A win for County would send the Dingwall men through, while Dundee United’s troubled campaign ends only with a battle to avoid bottom place at Elgin City.
Airdrie manager Stephen Findlay is anticipating a Livingston win at Berwick Rangers to secure the Lions qualification from Group H, however he knows that the Diamonds could book their place as a best runners-up by winning at Hamilton.
Findlay said: “We have to get to the nine-point mark and see what happens elsewhere.”