Goal-getters Newton Heath on a cup quest

NEWTON HEATH will aim to become just the second Edinburgh side to reach the fifth round of the Foster's Scottish Sunday Amateur Trophy this weekend when the Edinburgh and District Sunday Amateur FA outfit, weather permitting, face a crack Aberdeen side.

Heath and Great Western are scheduled to finally go head to head on Sunday in the north-east after the tie, initially due to take place in the Capital, was postponed on three occasions. Under Scottish Amateur FA regulations, the home side is afforded three attempts at hosting a cup tie before the game is then switched.

The prize awaiting the winners of the weekend crunch tie is an away trip to Sandymount AFC of the Glasgow Sunday Amateur League, scheduled for seven days later.

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Another team from the Glasgow league, Budhill, fell victim to a sterling performance in the fourth round by Currie, the only Edinburgh and District side thus far that will contest the fifth round. There, they will play host to either Dundee Social or Tower AFC. West Lothian side Tower will face their Tayside rivals this weekend having last season beaten them in the quarter-final of the national tournament before losing to Gantry in the semi-finals.

Great Western, like Newton Heath, sit top of their division, the Aberdeen Sunday Amateur Football League, with ten wins. Although they have conceded the lowest number of goals of any team in their league, Western have suffered two defeats from 12 so far this campaign.

They spend their weekends attempting to overcome the likes of Grampian Police, Cove Revolution and FC Gilcomston, while the exotically-named Malibu and La Lombarda also compete in the same north-east league.

On the subject of team names, Newton Heath, of course, was the monicker bestowed on the club that went on to become famous as Manchester United. But, the Capital outfit will be hoping to avoid the fate of their erstwhile namesakes who crashed to League 1 side Leeds United in the FA Cup earlier this season.

On the opening day of the season, as Heath had to fight for a 4-3 win over Sporting Chesser, there was little sign of the ruthlessness of a team that has now racked up a goal difference of plus 61.

In the second round of league fixtures, though, they sounded alarm bells among potential rivals by trouncing Iona Hibernian 16-1. Since then they have inflicted an 18-0 mauling on Edinburgh United and a victory over the current occupants of second place in the league, Liberton United, by 10-2. Led by founder and manager Dean Philp, Heath's remarkable feat of such impressive form and advancement in the Scottish Cup has all been achieved as a second-tier club, with a side packed with former amateur and junior stars looking for promotion to the Premier Division amid their cup exploits.

"We've kind of surprised ourselves this season," says Philp. "I used to play for Hearts under-18s, then played Junior. I re-grouped some old friends who no longer play pro or Junior, guys who've played at a high standard. It was all about finding the right players at the right time.

"We have Jay Hutchison in midfield who used to play for Cowdenbeath, and Mark Dawson and Gary Stewart are another two guys who have played amateur or Junior. Our centre-backs, Andy Keith and Stephen Finnie, have been immense this season, and James Reilly is our top scorer with 36 goals."

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Despite such a strong backbone, Heath's season hasn't gone without the odd blip. But, manager Philp has researched Sunday's opponents thoroughly in an effort to avoid defeat.

"To be honest, we've had a few scares this season," he says.

"We were getting beaten by Corstorphine 2-0 with 19 minutes to go, but won 4-2. We set out at the start of the season knowing the best teams were promoted last year – so our ambition was to win the league.

"We didn't expect to get this far in the Scottish. We've done a lot of research on Great Western's website, the players they have and the formations they're used to. Aberdeen teams aren't as good as Edinburgh teams, but you never know who you're playing against.

"They must be a good team if they've got this far, and we'll have to concentrate on our own game on Sunday."

Philp wished to thank the club's main sponsors, Diane's Pool Hall, for their immeasurable support this season.