THE 2017/18 Scottish Cup begins in earnest this Saturday as Nairn County welcome Lowland League side Whitehill Welfare to Station Park for the very first time.
For Nairn, it represents a chance to provide the perfect tonic to last week's disappointing display against Cove Rangers in the Highland League by making it through to the second round of the competition. Ronnie Sharp was unhappy with the showing from his charges last Saturday and will be looking for an all-round improvement against a Whitehill side who will fancy their chances of being in the hat for round two when the draw is made at 5.45 pm on Saturday evening.
Whitehill Welfare are one of the founding members of the Lowland League, making the switch from the East of Scotland League in 2013. Prior to that, the Roswell-based side had been the most successful club in East of Scotland League history, winning the championship a record 16 times after joining the league in 1979 following their formation in 1953.
They were beaten 4-0 away at runaway league leaders, BSC Glasgow last weekend but in the match prior to that, recorded an impressive 5-2 victory away at Gala Fairydean Rovers. That victory was their first away success of the season having previously beaten Edusport Academy at their Ferguson Park home, so they will make the trip north looking to add another victory on the road to their record.
This tie is the featured match in the first round of this season's competition and the trophy will be at Station Park for supporters to have their photos taken. There will also be a Scottish Cup photobooth, Scottie Cup the official Scottish Cup mascot and a featured match team walkout.
If you are unable to make it along to Station Park for the tie, you can follow live coverage on our official social media channels. Simply logon to facebook.com/nairncountyfc or @NairnCounty on Twitter to follow live updates of the match as it progresses. Meanwhile, a preview is below:
Date: Saturday September 23rd 2017
Competition: Scottish Cup First Round
Opponents: Whitehill Welfare
Manager: Gary Small
Venue: Station Park, Nairn
Previous meeting: n/a
Last time out: Nairn County 0 Cove Rangers 8; BSC Glasgow 4 Whitehill Welfare 0
League position: Nairn County 7th Whitehill Welfare 13th
Form guides: Nairn County WWLLWL Whitehill Welfare LDLLWL
Team news: Callum Maclean continues to be bothered by a knee injury and will miss this first round tie. Also on the sidelines with a similar injury - although more long term - is club captain Gregg Main, who is awaiting the results of a recent MRI scan to determine his path back to fitness. Gary Kerr missed last weekend's match as he attended a wedding but he is available for selection again. Matty Macleod came through 90 minutes for the under-20s last weekend and is back in contention but Ryan Macleod is still on holiday and Calum Riddell misses out through illness.
One to watch: Jack Wright. The nippy attacking midfield player recent bagged a five-minute hat-trick in Whitehill's impressive 5-2 win away at Gala Fairydean Rovers. The son of former Raith Rovers, Dundee and Hibernian striker Keith, he is full of little tricks and flicks, that open up the space to play in team mates and he is an expert at making late runs into the box to get himself on the end of deliveries from wide areas.
Match officials: Referee Chris Fordyce, Assistants Calum Spence and Darren Westmacott.
Weather forecast: Light cloud 18 degrees 13 mph wind.
Admission prices: Adults £8 Concessions £5.