One of the most exciting weekends in the Scottish footballing calendar lies in store for fans nationwide, as the top teams in the country prepare to enter the William Hill Scottish Cup at the Fourth Round stage.
The prospect of etching their name into Scottish Cup folklore will be a strong incentive for a number of prospective giant-killers, as each of the 32 teams remaining in the competition looks to take another step closer to May’s final at Hampden Park.
Indeed, one team in the draw has had a longer journey than most to reach this stage – in more ways than one. The only team remaining from preliminary qualifying, Auchinleck Talbot will be glad to have been drawn at home after a campaign which has seen them travel 1422 miles across Scotland to date. The junior side welcome local rivals Ayr United to Beechwood Park on Saturday, with the Honest Men looking to progress to the fifth round for the third year in succession (live on BBC One Scotland, kick-off 12.15pm).
Sportsound ‘On the road’ comes from Auchinleck Talbot social club this Thursday night 6:30-7:30pm ahead of @atfc1909 v @AyrUnitedFC @ScottishCup tie.— BBC Sportsound (@BBCSportsound) January 15, 2019
Ian McCall, Billy Dodds, Julie Fleeting & James Grady on the panel. All welcome.. pic.twitter.com/7tUXLxdSJ6
The Fourth Round gets underway on Friday night, as Jermain Defoe and his new Rangers team-mates travel to Central Park to take on Cowdenbeath under the Friday night lights (live on Premier Sports, kick-off 7.45pm). The Blue Brazil will be hoping for a better result than their previous encounter with the Ibrox side in the competition, having suffered a 5-1 defeat in the fourth round back in 2016.
Defending champions Celtic will likewise be hoping to avoid a cup upset this weekend, with Brendan Rodgers’s men welcoming Airdrieonians to Celtic Park in a repeat of the 1995 Scottish Cup final. The hosts are unbeaten in Scottish Cup Fourth Round ties since 2006, when they were famously knocked out by Clyde, underlining the scale of the challenge facing the Airdrie side when they meet on Saturday evening (live on Premier Sports, kick-off 5.15pm)
😍 @OliverBurke55 scored this beauty for @ScotlandNT last Summer in the @TournoiMRevello— Premier Sports 📺 (@PremierSportsTV) January 17, 2019
🏴🏆 @CelticFC's new #25 is in line to make his debut v Airdrieonians in the WIlliam Hill @ScottishCup this Saturday on Premier Sports 1 pic.twitter.com/iU8TAzbTko
Speaking of the 1995 competition, Scottish Cup aficionados will be fully aware of the history to recall ahead of Stenhousemuir’s trip to Pittodrie on Saturday. The Warriors produced a Scottish Cup shock for the ages by knocking out Aberdeen at this stage 24 years ago and – having eliminated local rivals Falkirk in round three – will be looking for another giant-killing this weekend.
Fans of the underdog will also be keeping a close eye on proceedings at Easter Road, as League Two outfit Elgin City travel south to take on 2016 champions Hibs. With the men from the north-east having scored 22 goals in their last four outings in the competition, they will be looking to present a stern test for their hosts on Saturday afternoon.
Elsewhere, Lowland League high-flyers East Kilbride – who have scored in 15 of their last 16 Scottish Cup ties – travel north to take on 2015 winners Inverness Caledonian Thistle, whilst Montrose’s clash with Dundee United at Links Park could prove to be one for the neutral; the hosts have recorded 19 goals in their last four Fourth Round ties, with the Tannadice outfit able to boast of 34 goals in their last seven fixtures at this stage.
At Rugby Park, Kilmarnock will be looking to kick-off their 150th anniversary in style when they welcome Forfar Athletic this weekend. Yet fans of both sides may want to temper their expectations of a high-scoring affair – the League One side have failed to score in the first-half of a Scottish Cup encounter since January 2016, whilst Kilmarnock’s last three ties at this stage have all ended 1-0.
Two more League One sides will have to overcome higher-ranked opponents if they are to maintain their cup runs this season – Stranraer travel to the Energy Check Stadium to take on Gary Caldwell’s Partick Thistle side for a place in the next round, with East Fife battling it out with Greenock Morton to be in the draw for the last 16.
It’s a similar story for two Championship’s promotion contenders, as they look to put one over on Premiership opposition to continue their impressive seasons thus far; Queen of the South, spearheaded by the free-scoring Stephen Dobbie, will hope to end the hopes of Dundee at Dens Park, whilst Ross County will need to keep Ross McCormack quiet if they are to progress at the expense of Motherwell.
The Simple Digital Arena will see the return of a cult hero this weekend, as former St Mirren midfielder Jim Goodwin returns as manager of Alloa Athletic. The Irish international – recently named SPFL Championship Manager of the Month – won’t be looking to do his old club any favours, however, as he looks to guide his side to the last 16 for the first time since 2013.
The dugout will also be the stage for a returning icon at Stark’s Park on Saturday, as former Raith Rovers striker Stevie Crawford takes charge of Dunfermline in the Scottish Cup for the first time since taking the reins at the East End Park outfit.
Miss our #TuesdayTeaser?— William Hill Scottish Cup (@ScottishCup) January 15, 2019
We've removed all of the text from the Fourth Round clubs' crests. You have two minutes to match them up.
The average score so far is 24% – think you can do better?
➡️ Give it a go: https://t.co/UadkdOSSKy #ScottishCup pic.twitter.com/zB9XMkmAFW
A brace of all-Premiership affairs round out proceedings for the Fourth Round; Hamilton Academical make the journey to McDiarmid Park to take on the 2014 Scottish Cup winners St Johnstone, whilst Hearts and Livingston take centre stage in the lone Sunday fixture at Tynecastle (live on BBC One Scotland, kick-off 2.30pm).
For full updates from across this weekend’s fixtures, follow @ScottishCup on Twitter. A full list of fixtures, including replay and postponement information, can be found here.
The draw for the William Hill Scottish Cup Fifth Round will be made following the conclusion of Hearts v Livingston on Sunday afternoon, with supporters able to watch live on BBC Scotland.