Scottish Cup latest: Buckie Thistle weigh up the size of their task against Championship full-timers Inverness Caledonian Thistle
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PLAYING to their strengths can help Buckie Thistle expose Caley Thistle weakness in next week’s big Scottish Cup clash.
That’s what Buckie boss Graeme Stewart is asking his men to do in the battle of the Jags at Victoria Park a week today.
In their first home match for more than a year, Stewart’s side take on full-time Championship opposition in Inverness, who won the Scottish Cup only six years ago.
Buckie have all the odds stacked against them, not only with the respective divisions that the two teams play at, but also in terms of match-fitness levels.
While the Highland League outfit hasn’t kicked a competitive ball since Boxing Day, and only resumed training at the weekend, full-time Caley have trained and played matches right through the year.
Yet Stewart hopes his side can close the quality gap by showing what they have to offer and how they can hurt their visitors on the day.
“We’ve not trained in two-and-a-half months, and they have been training full-time,” said Stewart.
“They will be fit as hell and organised, and the challenge is enormous for us.
“I’m already thinking about formations and systems, the players in our attacking third who I believe can hurt them.
“That’s got to be our focus, for the 30 per cent of time that we’ve got the ball we need to make it count because we know they will have a lot of possession.”
Inverness are struggling for form this season, and could find themselves caught up in a battle to avoid the relegation play-offs places if they don’t start picking up wins.
Their manager John Robertson is on indefinite leave due to personal family reasons, with former Rangers and Scotland winger Neil McCann handed interim charge.
Confidence could be low in the Caley camp, but Stewart doesn’t think their lowly league position is a factor when the teams meet next week.
“I’m not looking too much into their form. They are in the relegation zone of the Championship, which is still three or four levels above us, he said.”
“Full-time football makes a big difference, I know that from having played at that level myself and (assistant manager) Lewis MacKinnon knows it.
“Our players need to work hard, defend well and win our battles. They have got to stay in the game, which means they need to defend well, so game management is going to be important.
“We can’t afford to lose an early goal, and when we win the ball we’ve got to be a threat. We can’t just defend or we won’t get anything. We have to exploit some of their weaknesses, and if you don’t do that you are on a hiding to nothing.
“Defending is important, and we will concentrate on that, but when we get the ball we have to look to be doing something and getting some productivity from it.”
The winners will visit Premiership Ross County in round three.