Auchinleck boss ready for tough Scottish Cup challenge against Hearts

Auchinleck - Full time

Auchinleck Talbot become only the second Junior side to reach the fifth round of the Scottish Cup. (Photo credit: Auchinleck Talbot)

Following one of the biggest upsets in Scottish Cup history, Auchinleck Talbot manager, Tommy Sloan says his side are ready for the next challenge as they face off against Premiership club, Hearts in the fifth round.

The Junior Cup holders made history after becoming only the second side in the history of the competition to reach the fifth round.

It was confirmed yesterday that the fixture will take place 10 February with a 3:00pm kick off.

The Beechwood Park side are unbeaten in 14 matches, winning their last nine and while Sloan’s side will have a couple of games to play before they make the journey to Edinburgh, the Talbot manager says he’s delighted with how the season has gone so far. He said: “We’ve had great results. Great run in the Senior Cup. We’re still in the Junior Cup, touch wood.”

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Tommy Sloan and Andy Leishman embrace after historic win. (Photo credit: Auchinleck Talbot)

The Edinburgh side have hosted the Ayrshire Juniors before back in 2012 but were the visitors were narrowly beat 1-0 with the winning strike coming late in the game.

However, when Sloan’s side return to Tynecastle in two weeks time he’ll be bringing along three returning players with him from that previous Scottish Cup defeat against the Jambos.

One of which is goalkeeeper, Andy Leishman who himself saved a penalty during that match seven years ago. The Talbot boss said he’s hoping that his side could replicate the level of performance displayed on that day. He added: “Andy [Leishman] has survived from that team. Gordon Pope, who scored the goal that was disallowed that day. Steven White is another one.

“Andy had a great day that day, saved the penalty and made numerous saves if I can remember right. Hopefully that stands us in good stead and the confidence we take out the Ayr match will hopefully help us at Tynecastle that day.

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This will be the second time in seven years these sides have faced in the Scottish Cup. (Photo credit: Hayden Barry)

“I think we’ll carry a threat up there. I think we’ve got players who can score goals no matter where we go.

“If you can keep winning it’ll give you confidence going into any match. I think that was one of the keys to beating Ayr because they hadn’t won for four or five weeks.

“When we go to Tynecastle we’ll need every advantage we can get because they are one of the best sides in Scotland.

“It’s a huge task for us and we’ll need to take any advantage we can get at all but I think we have players that can cause them problems.”

All it took was a Craig McCracken header to separate Auchinleck from their fellow Ayrshire opposition. Sloan said he was very impressed in the manner his side conducted themselves on the day. He said: “The players handled it really well. It’s really important to play the way you always play. I was saying to them to ‘Don’t try anything different. What’s gained you success is the things you do week in, week out’ and it was important to stress that to the players.

“It was real impressive to me.”

Auchinleck are now the second Junior side in Scottish Cup history to reach the fifth round, following Irvine Meadow’s success reaching this stage of the competition back in 2010.

Sloan, who has spent almost 16 years at the club, said the win against Ayr was ‘sweeter’ due to the quality of the team but doesn’t believe that this is the biggest upset in the history of the Scottish Cup. He added: “We knew Ayr have got a really good strong support again. They’ve been doing really well under Ian McCall, which makes it all so much sweeter.

“I thought it was a wee bit unfortunate we drew them at that time. We could have played them in a different year and it wouldn’t have been as strong a side. It’s sweeter because it’s a really good Ayr United side we beat.”

“Personally I don’t see it as the biggest upset because I know the strength in the Junior league. There’s really good players in the Juniors and a lot of them go onto be senior players.”

Auchinleck’s victory last weekend has drawn attention from fans across the country onto not only the side he manages but onto the Scottish Junior scene as well. Something he says he’s glad has now been recognised.  He said: “What it does is it helps the profile of the club. It’s a huge thing winning the Junior Cup, it’s the main thing each Junior side will go for every year but now we’ve got the qualification for the Senior Cup, you’ve got to try and make the impression and help your club.

“We’ve shown that the Junior sides could go into the Scottish leagues and certainly hold their own.

“It certainly should help promote the Juniors and let’s hope it does.

“Whoever it may be, I’ll always support the Junior sides in the Senior Cup because it does promote our game and we need that. There’s an old fashioned belief that it’s kit and rush, there’s a lot of tackles and fouls, and it’s more like roller ball. It certainly isn’t nowadays. It’s a changed game since I played it.”

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