South Scene with John McNaught

Justin Nicoll weaves his way through the Dalbeattie defence before trying a shot.
Justin Nicoll weaves his way through the Dalbeattie defence before trying a shot.

THE second round of this season’s SFA Regional Challenge Cup takes place this weekend, with four ties being played in the South Section.

The tie of the round would appear to be at Meadow Park where Threave Rovers host East of Scotland Premier League side Gretna 2008. Promoted this season to the East Premier League, Gretna 2008 are doing very well against some stiff opposition and the Castle Douglas side will have to be at their very best to see of the challenge from the Raydale Parks side.

Threave were short of players last Saturday against Wigtown but manager Dave McVittie is upbeat that he will have a full squad available to him for this cup match.

Although Threave play Ayrshire Junior side Auchinleck Talbot in the second round of the William Hill Scottish Cup the following Saturday, they will have to put that match to one side and concentrate on this cup tie as a young, fit Gretna side are expected to push them all the way. This contest looks so close that it may well take more than the regulation 90 minutes to decide who progresses.

Newton Stewart will have it all to do in their match against Glasgow University at Blairmount, as university sides are usually able to field very strong teams. Newton Stewart enjoyed a very good start to the season but in their previous two matches – against Huntly in the Scottish Cup and Abbey Vale in the South of Scotland League – they have conceded 10 goals with only two in reply, so they will have to shore up their defence to give themselves any chance of making it through to round three.

On their day the Newton youngsters are more than capable of holding their own with any team at Blairmount and they are expected to make sure that, if the university team does win the tie, they have to work their socks off to secure their victory.

Two South teams meet at St Mary’s Park, where St Cuthbert Wanderers have Abbey Vale as their guests. Saints will start as favourites to win this tie but until last Saturday’s defeat, at Stair Park against Stranraer, the New Abbey side were enjoying an extremely good run of form. By all accounts Vale were quite a few regular players short last time out and, if they hit form on the day, the home side could be in for a tough time.

Crichton take their place in the second round against Heston by virtue of their first round defeat against Wigtown and Bladnoch being overturned. With the scoreline at 4-4, the winner was found in a penalty shoot-out with Wigtown coming out on top. However, the rules state that extra time should have been played and, although the controlling body decided that the game should be replayed, Wigtown withdrew from the competition.

This contest also looks like a close one, with extra time being a distinct possiblity, although recent form this season would suggest Heston Rovers are the likelier of the two to eventually progress from the tie. Crichton, on the other hand, have not played to their potential so far this season and, having been given a second chance in this competition, will be keen to take advantage and turn the corner.

There are also three South of Scotland League matches scheduled to be played, with Dalbeattie Star looking to go back to the top of the pile with a home match against Wigtown and Bladnoch.