Friday sees the start of what is my favourite weekend of the Scottish football season, the Scottish Cup fourth round. Some tasty ties to come this weekend and the potential for some cup shocks.
The weekend kicks off on Friday at Central Park as Steven Gerrard takes his Rangers side to Fife to face Gary Bollan’s Cowdenbeath. This has all the makings of an intriguing cup tie. A visit to Central Park might come as a bit of a culture shock to Steven Gerrard. An incredibly rustic ground (to say the least) with a very poor pitch is definitely going to be something new for the Rangers especially for new signing Jermaine Defoe who probably wouldn’t have imagined playing football in Cowdenbeath on a Friday night in the middle of stock car track. Naturally Rangers will go in to the game a huge favourites, the Ibrox side have improved massively under Steven Gerrard and the former Liverpool captain will hope the signings of the aforementioned Defoe and Steven Davis can help bring title number 55 to the blue side of Glasgow. Despite the obvious importance of winning a league title, a Scottish Cup win would be huge for Rangers and Gerrard. The first step in that cup journey might not be as straight forward as it looks on paper. The Cowdenbeath players will be bang up for this game and the possibility of pulling off a cup shock and that willingness to cause an upset along with the pitch, and the surroundings will cause Rangers some problems, and whilst i do expect Rangers to seal victory i wouldn’t be surprised if the scoreline is a lot closer than fans of the Ibrox side might expect. My Prediction: Cowdenbeath 0 Rangers 2.
The early kick off on Saturday is a fascinating one as junior side Auchinleck Talbot host Ayr United. This perhaps isn’t the Ayrshire derby that people might have expected to see in the Scottish cup this season, it is still every bit as intriguing. The Bot have beaten Highland league sides Wick Academy, Cove Rangers and Fraserburgh to reach the fourth round and meet and Ayr United side who despite having a fantastic first half of the season in the championship, have hit a bit of a stick spell in recent weeks. I do believe this match has real potential for a big cup shock and i think we are in for real treat in Ayrshire. My prediction: Auchinleck Talbot 1 Ayr United 1.
The real exciting thing about this fourth round draw is that there are only 2 ties featuring teams from the same league and these are all premiership ties.
St Johnstone host Hamilton at McDairmid Park. The saints will be favourites to progress based on league postion and having home advantage. In the previous meetings between the sides this season Saints have come out on top both times including a 4 nil drubbing of Accies at McDairmid. I think we will see a third St Johnstone victory in this fixture this season. My prediction: St Johnstone 2 Hamilton 1.
The final game on the weekend is at Tynecastle, where Hearts host Livingston. Livi have had a tremendous season whilst Hearts having had a great start to the season have really struggled after suffering a number of injuries to key players. This seasons fixtures between the two have been a nil nil draw at Tynecastle and a remarkable 5 nil vitory for Livi at the Tony Macaroni in december. Hearts have had a lot of those injuries clear up now and with Naismith and Ikpeazu back and availble for Hearts I think they will start to recover some of that early season form and I think they could have a decent chance of going all the way in the cup providing they get off to a good start on Sunday. My prediction: Hearts 2 Livingston 1.
As far as any other possible cup upsets go, for me there are 2 real standouts. Both feature struggling premiership sides hosting championship sides that have given a very good account of themselves this season.
Dundee host Queen of the South at Dens, in what is sure to be an interesting encounter as the Dee head into the game on the back of the winter break following a dreadful start to the season and Queen of the South go into the game having just smashed championship leaders Ross County 4 nil at Palmerston. I fancy the Dumfries side to progress in this one and further compile the misery on a Dundee side that have really struggled this season. My Prediction: Dundee 0 Queen of the South 2.
The other championship vs premiership game i think could potentially result in a cup upset is at The Simple Digital Arena in Paisley as Oran Kearney’s St Mirren host former saint, Jim Goodwin’s, Alloa side. St Mirren much like Dundee have had a poor season are still threatened by relgation. However Alloa are top of the form table in the championship and as the only part time side in the league are giving a very good account of themselves, they’re very well organised, hard to beat and dangerous on the counter, the perfect recipe for a cup shock. I do however think that St Mirren do have more to offer than Dundee and can see a replay being needed to split these 2 sides. My prediction St Mirren 1 Alloa 1.
Hibernian, Aberdeen and Kilmarnock all face what should be very comfortable ties in the fourth round.
Hibs host Elgin City at Easter Road and Neil Lennon will be expecting his side to be fit and firing for this one and will see it as a good chance to get his strikers back in form. My prediction Hibernian 4 Elgin City 1.
Steve Clarke’s Killie host Forfar at Rugby Park and you would expect the Ayrshire side to breeze through this one and for them hopefully this will be the start of a promising cup campaign. My prediction KIlmarnock 3 Forfar 1.
Aberdeen as well will be hoping they can reach yet another cup final under Derek McInnes and there campaign starts against Stenhousemuir at Pittodrie. This should be a fairly comfortable win for the Dons but like every lower league side coming up against premiership opposition, the Warriors will be determined to force a cup upset. My prediction Aberdeen 2 Stenhousemuir 0.
The big one for me this weekend is obviously the Fife derby at Starks Park as Raith Rovers host Dunfermline Athletic. I’ll be making the trip down
(6 and a half hours on 3 different trains) for this one and I cant wait! The renewed optimism amongst the Pars support following the management changes and the positives taken from the performance at Tannadice have been showcased by the size of the support thats said to be heading though to Starks Park for this one. The Pars have sold 2185 tickets as of Wednesday the 16th, with Raith having sold 2500 themselves so there is sure to be a decent crowd for this one. The Rovers are now in their second season in league one and have had a decent start to this campaign. Raith sit in 2nd place albeit they do find themselves 13 points behind runaway leaders Arbroath. The Kirkcaldy side will pose a serious threat to the Pars and with this being a local derby, the old cliche “the form book goes out the window” could mean that we are set for a very even contest. The Pars will be wary of the quality within the Rovers side with Nat Wedderburn and the on form Daniel Armstrong having played with the Pars last season. However Dunfermline should be confident heading in to this one, the Pars will be heading in to this one on the back of their first full week working under Stevie Crawford and Greg Shields and with a large away support behind them I would expect Dunfermline to step up in this one. Naturally im feeling confident heading in to this one and I expect the Pars to do the business and make sure that come Saturday night there will be no dancing on the streets of Raith! My prediction: Raith Rovers 1 Dunfermline Athletic 2.
The only Lowland team left in the competition, East Kilbride, face a long trip up to the Higlands to take on Inverness. EK are top of the lowland league and made their way to the 4th round after beating Spartans and Gala Fairydean Rovers. They take on an Inverness side who are sitting 5th in the championship after a season made up mainly of draws! Caley thistle have the least number of defeats in the championship however the 11 draws they have racked up this season has seen them fail to propel towards the top of the league. Like many matches this weekend there is yet again potential for a cup upset and I have a sneaky feeling East Kilbride might be able to get something at the Tulloch Caledonian Stadium. My prediction: Inverness 0 East Kilbride 0.
Elsewhere for the championship sides, Dundee United, Partick Thistle and Morton all have potentially tricky ties.
Dundee United travel to face Stewart Petrie’s Montrose. United head into this one on the back of an important victory over Dunfermline at Tannadice on Saturday and will hope to keep their momentum going in the cup up at Links Park. Montrose are settling in well in league one after winning league two last season however I think Dundee United will have just too much for The Gable Endies. My prediction: Montrose 0 Dundee United 2.
Gary Caldwell’s Partick Thistle host Stranraer at Firhill. Thistle have been dreadful this season in all honesty and despite only being appointed in October, Caldwell is already under pressure from the Thistle support. I do think however that there will be some Respite for Thistle as they should have too much quality for Stranraer and should just edge it. My prediction: Partick Thistle 1 Stranraer 0.
Morton make the trip to Methill to take on Darren Young’s East Fife at Bayview. Morton have had an up and down season and head in to this one off the back of a very poor performance and defeat away to Alloa. East Fife are doing well this season and sit 3rd in league one. Jonatan Johannson’s side I think could be in for a tought afternoon in Fife and I think this could be a possible cup shock. My prediction: East Fife 1 Morton 0.
Finally we come to the cup holders Celtic. The Hoops host Airdrieonians on Saturday evening and the Celtic fans will have the first opportunity to see new signings Oliver Burke and Timothy Weah. Fresh off the back of a winter break and Dubai, Celtic really should be putting Airdrie to the sword and I think they will do exactly that. My prediction: Celtic 6 Airdireonians 0.
So thats that then. Every Scottish Cup fourth round game previewed and predicted. I cant wait for it, always an intriguing weekend and hopefully there will be some shock, thrills and goals galore. Oh and a Pars win of course!