The competition is divided into two geographical areas – North East and South West so that less money is wasted on travel. So let’s not waste any more words on drivel.
Up North and Out East
Falkirk v Stirling Albion
For the defence of any trophy it is nice to start at home and for the Bairns hosting local rivals the Binos ought to be a straight forward sweeping aside of lower league opposition and progression into the next round. Shouldn’t it be? Well without Farid El Alagui this year Falkirk will be looking to others to chip in with goals and new recruit Luke Taylor will be one of those expected to contribute. Andy Howarth and Luke Leahy will likely make their debuts and Falkirk have stumbled over Stirling in a cup tie before so will be cautious. The free-falling Binos will likely have Bradley Coyne in the squad whilst new boys Kieran McAnespie and David McClune look likely to miss out through injury. Further doubts surround Mark McCulloch and Shaun Fagan so the Stirling bus may be lighter than it ought to be. I do think Falkirk’s depth and understanding ought to be too much for the “other” new Third Division side and we shall see Steven Pressley’s team progress.
Montrose v Inverurie Loco Works
The introduction of a Highland league side is likely to send commentators like me scouring the internet making copious calls to find out anything about them! And so it should be as they are there on merit. Montrose, with new manager Stuart Garden, have not had a plain sailing pre season with some ups and downs and without Jamie Winter for this game, this could be tricky. They will include Paul Watson, Craig McLeish, David Gray and Martin Boyle in their squad but are wary. Inverurie will be missing Neil Gauld and Craig Ross though debuts are assured for Stuart McKay and Andrew Bagshaw. If you are looking for an upset – this could well be it!
Peterhead v East Fife
From current Highland League outfit to former Highland League outfit as Peterhead are looking to put last season’s disappointments behind them and show they have the wherewithal to get out the Third. Peterhead will not have Davie Ross or Stephen Maguire available though former international striker Robbie Winters is in line to face the Fifers. Marc McCallum, on loan from Dundee United should start. East Fife welcome Bob Malcolm and Collin Samuel to their squad line up as trialists whilst Andy Cook and David White shall be missing. Peterhead have spent time recruiting quality to their squad though this would have been a tricky tie for anyone. I think a home victory here could be less than surprising!
Elgin City v Arbroath
Elgin City are in trouble for this tie – they are missing Jamie Duff, Mark Nicolson and Paul Millar. All three were pivotal last year and their missing out is a huge loss to City. Stuart Leslie is also apparently a doubt. New faces Dennis Wyness and Sean Crichton along with Neil Duffy are in the squad and are likely to be called upon. Arbroath meanwhile will include Scott Robertson – an 11th signing of the close season – and Paul Sheerin thinks his squad has the mettle to progress and I cannot disagree with him.
Forfar Athletic v Dunfermline Athletic
The pain of losing their SPL status aside, this is a Dunfermline side that ought to come into this game fully confident they can progress. The disarray with which they have had to cope means it is far from assured. The Pars have new lads Josh Falkingham, Chris Kane, Andy Geggan, Alex Whittle and Stephen Husband in their squad and news coming out that Ian Murray will feature as a trialist. Forfar have been prolific during the pre season which is bad news for Jim Jeffries. Late fitness tests will be given to Ross Campbell and Martyn Fotheringham but Jeffries’ side ought to have the measure of the Loons.
Wick Academy v Raith Rovers
Wick are at full strength for the visit of Grant Murray’s team who report the same state of play! The Rovers will probably field their new signings – Eddie Malone, Greig Spence, Grant Anderson and Stuart Anderson. This is new boss, Murray’s first real test of competitive football and Wick have been extensively watched in preparation. Wick’s manager, David Kirkwood is a familiar face to Scottish football and therefore his side are clearly not to be under estimated. Having said that the first division side should have enough to see them through!
Cowdenbeath v Alloa Athletic
This for me is the tie of the round; Colin Cameron v Paul Hartley. Liam Cusack and Cameron will not feature for the Blue Brazil though Lewis Coult will play through the pain barrier. New signings Jamie Stevenson and Spaniard Ruben Garcia Rey will feature for them. For Alloa missing will be Darryl Meggat and Stephen Simmons whilst new recruits David Cox, Blair Munn and Martin Grehan are in the squad. This is a tough one to call and anther one where 90 minutes may not be enough. If forced I would go with Cowdenbeath but only just!
Down South and Up West
East Stirlingshire v Ayr United
Another new manager making his competitive debut has Mark Roberts taking his team up to Stenhousemuir’s artificial pitch to play East Stirling. This was a fixture some seasons ago that saw Ayr United lose 2-1 having been 1-0 up with 5 minutes to go. Paul Quinn will not feature for the home side though they will feature Richard Miller, David Greenhill, Craig Donaldson and Nathan Shepherd whilst youngster Jamie Glasgow will be used as a trialist. Ayr have been highly impressive pre season and will include David Winters as a trialist though new signings Ally Brown, Anthony Merenghi, Austin McCann, Darren Brownlie and Ryan McStay will also feature. I would hope, and expect that Ayr will avoid the banana skin of yore and progress.
Greenock Morton v Albion Rovers
Allan Moore v Todd Lumsden might not match David Haye v Derrick Chisora but these two were lecturing colleagues at college so this could be an interesting meeting of the two! Moore goes into this season hopeful that his career and that of the Greenock club take an upward trajectory. He has brought in a new goalkeeper in the shape of Derek Galston and another 11 new signings including the latest being Kevin Rutkiewitz who should make his home debut. Moore has been ruthless and the new Morton side have to be capable of getting past the Wee Rovers. Lumsden will include a host of new recruits including trialists David Crawford and Steven Howarth and Chris McCluskey, Connor Stevenson, Gordon Dick, Ryan Tiffany, Jason Crooks and Peter Innes. I believe that home advantage will win the day!
Berwick Rangers v Queens Park
Damien Gelty, fresh from Luxembourg will play for the Borderers in this all Third Division clash. Dougie Bryden will join him though Chris Townsley will miss out. The Berwick Rangers team will also welcome new faces in Dean Hoskins, Neil Janczyk, Dene Droudge and John Ferguson. The Spiders will be missing David Anderson and Jamie Brough as well as Ian Watt and Craig Smith so last season’s injury issues seem to just keep crawling on! Michael Keenan and Adam Monaghan as well as the youngsters will come in and I think this could be an away win for Speirs.
Dumbarton v Queen of the South
Dumbarton will be without their new signing Ross Forsyth and he will join Kevin Nicoll on the sidelines. The new first division side will hope they can show the old first division side why they are in the league above them. They are, however not without a number of other new faces as no fewer than 6 new players will be in his squad. The Doonhamers also have a large number of new people to bring to the Rock with Willie Gibson, Chris Mitchell and Mark Durnan available. Allan Johnston will also be fielding trialists as he prepares for the new season. This has the hallmarks of a really competitive cup tie and I would not be surprised if it took more than 90 minutes to separate them!
Hamilton Academical v Airdrie United
The Accies were beaten finalists last year and this is the tie of the West for me! Billy Reid welcomes Kevin Cuthbert, Jon McShane, Darian McKinnon and Ali Crawford is finally injury free. Martin Canning may well feature too – paperwork permitting. There will be no Alex Neil or Kieran Millar. Clearance for Marc Warren is awaited for Jimmy Boyle though he has also added Willie McLaren and Michael Hart to his squad. This is now an all First Division tie but I believe that Hamilton are far better prepared. Airdrie United – promoted on a technicality – don’t dare ask what it was! – should be less well able to deal with the home side and I expect the Accies in the next round.
Stranraer v Stenhousemuir
Recently promoted through the same technicality that Airdrie United benefited from – still don’t ask – Stranraer will host a team shocked by their former manager’s sudden departure. Stranraer will be without David McGregor as this is now an all Second Division clash. Mark Staunton comes in as cover. Stranraer will also include Ryan Borris, Lloyd Kinnaird Robert Love and Mick Dunlop. New Stenhousemuir manager, Martyn Corrigan looks like he will be without Stewart Kean though he should be well covered through new faces Darren Smith, Callum Reidford, Bryan Hodge, Craig Anderson and John Gemmell. Last season Stranraer lost 8-0 to Morton at this stage and I would expect that this season they manage to avoid the same margin but not the end result.
Annan Athletic v Livingston
There have been several changes in Harry Cairney’s approach to the new season. New faces are inevitable and Michael Daly – who has been banging them in for fun pre season – is one of Harry’s new recruits. There are no fewer than 10 others! It is also their first home game on their new artificial surface so the hope for the Galabank side is that they can play together and manage it on an unfamiliar surface too! Livingston welcome into the squad Anthony Andreu, Jordan Morton, Kevin McCann and David Luongo as they prepare for their first full season under the two Johns. It is a season that should promise much for the Livvi faithful and confidence is pretty high. It is a tie of interest but if the away side does not come away with a win then we shall all be scratching our heads.
Clyde v Partick Thistle
Broadwood’s new artificial surface is not ready so this will go to Recreation Park, Alloa. The nominal home side, Clyde are without John Kane and John Neil whilst Ryan McBeth and Stuart McColm should feature. Jackie McNamara will feature new faces Aaron Muirhead, Steven Lawless, Sean Welsh, James Craigen and Hugh Murray. This ought to be straightforward for Thistle but last year they showed how much of a hash they could make of Cup games. I think they have learnt from that experience and alien surface or not should go through.
And finally …
Brechin City v The Rangers FC
It has finally arrived – Rangers Football Club will make their competitive debut against Brechin live in front of the cameras – the BBC Alba ones. All eyes will be on what the shape of the visitors but Jim Weir’s side should get some hefty revenue from the fixture. Rangers should progress and they should be favourites to win the competition but you know something, stranger things have happened. This is particularly true when you come up against a side that beat Inverness Caledonian Thistle pre season. Rangers have had Brechin watched and whilst they ought to be too good for Weir’s side, Brechin have a fit Derek Carcary though the injuries that plagued last season seem to have struck again as Gerry McLauchlan, Craig Nelson, Alan Trouten and Johnny Stewart will not make it. New keeper Michael Andrews could make a highly interesting debut!