At the weekend the William Hill Scottish Cup Second Round took place ahead of tomorrow’s draw at 6pm at Cappielow.
Over the course of this season’s competition, Scottish football fanatic David Stoker will be attending a match every round, giving his thoughts on the day overall and the magic of the cup.
On Saturday he took the look road north to Buckie as they took on Gretna 2008 10 years on from when Gretna played in the Final against Hearts.
Follow David on Twitter @davidstoker_lfc as he embarks on #davesfootballtravels. ?
The Road to Hampden Blog – Round Two
It was about halfway up the A9 when I began to wonder if choosing Buckie Thistle's game with Gretna 2008 was the right decision for the latest step on my Road to Hampden.
By then, I was already wearied by the combination of roadworks, speed cameras and slow moving HGVs. At the very least, I was kicking myself for not taking the alternative route to the Moray coast via Aberdeen.
Alas, things got better after a pitstop at Aviemore and the frustration of the main road to Inverness gave way to a more enjoyable drive through Speyside, where the combination of rolling hills and whisky distilleries was picture postcard pretty. There was even the rare sight of a steam train chugging along close to the road to add some misty nostalgia.
Buckie was reached eventually, though time was short for a look around before the match action at Victoria Park. Fortunately, Buckie isn't a town that takes long to see.
There was a festive feel – the Christmas lights are up already – though a Twitter follower suggested that the slower pace of life in this part of the world means that they may not have been taken down after last year!
Buckie's quiet town centre betrayed little indication of Scottish Cup fever, though official Buckie Thistle merchandise can be had from the premises of the club's main sponsor, Sandy's Carpets.
There was certainly a bigger buzz up at Victoria Park, where a steady stream of punters filed through the imposing granite supporters' entrance next to the stand, handing over tenners for the £8 admission fee and being quickly relieved of their £2 change for the half time draw.
Inside, the place was a hive of activity – a trailer doubled up as a makeshift club shop and the hospitality suite and marquee behind one goal seemed to be doing a roaring trade.
The queue at Annie's Pie Shop was also lengthy, which came as no surprise after sampling their steak pie – for research purposes only, you understand.
By kick-off time, there were maybe 600 fans dotted around the ground; the biggest and noisiest concentration stood under the cover opposite the stand, a big cavernous shed that echoed their encouragement for the home side.
“When the Jags go steamin' in,” was the ditty; a minor adaptation to the shout heard normally at Pittodrie.
With a nip in the air and sagging clouds offering the threat of a shower, it felt like a proper Scottish Cup afternoon. The scene was set.
As if to placate the vociferous elements of their support, Buckie adopted a high octane approach to the game from the very beginning but they were hit with a sucker punch in Gretna's first real attack – Richard Murray rose highest in the box to direct a long throw into the net.
I hadn't seen much evidence of a visiting support inside the ground and the tumbleweed reaction to the ninth minute opening goal reminded me of the time Armenian side Alashkert scored at McDiarmid Park in a Europa League game early last season.
It's a cliché but the Gretna goal came against the run of play, and for most of the afternoon, it was Buckie who continued to dominate the game, both in terms of possession and territory.
They employed a direct approach in the most part, with varying degrees of success. Their imposing number nine John McLeod carried their biggest goal threat, but was guilty of missing a couple of good first half chances.
Gretna's forays into the Buckie half were infrequent but they always looked dangerous on the counter and Dylan Neill went clean through in the second half, only for Jags keeper Ross Salmon to make a brave stop.
With around an hour gone, I suggested to Joris, my Dutch travelling buddy, that it could be 'one of those days' where Buckie do everything but score.
For all their dominance, their attempts to carve out a goal were being thwarted by bad finishing, good goalkeeping, an unfortunate break of the ball or, as in the case of one frenetic goalmouth stramash, a combination of all three.
Their frustration was added to by some cute gamesmanship from Gretna, who were diligent in taking as long as they could get away with to take throw-ins, goal kicks and free kicks.
The visitors approach didn't win any friends, and although I was a neutral, I'll readily admit that I was willing Buckie to score by the time that the tireless McLeod arrived in the right place to knock home Kevin Fraser's low cross for the equaliser on 66 minutes.
Buckie camped in the Gretna half until full time, the Lowland League side producing a backs-to-the-wall rearguard effort to earn a draw, especially after the late second booking picked up by David Reynard.
Given that they were long-odds outsiders to get a result, it was a good draw for Gretna and their new manager Matt Henney, who only took charge last Sunday.
Buckie seemed desperate to avoid the need to replay at Raydale Park next Saturday, and little wonder given the distance they'll need to cover.
Clearly unimpressed at the prospect of a 500+ mile round trip, I overheard a local fan grumble: “We were due tae go tae Wick on Saturday, and that was bad enough. Now bloody Gretna!”
I'm sure if they get through to the third round – as I suspect they will – it will all have been be worthwhile. If they want a piece of advice from me in the mean time, it's 'avoid the A9'.