The New Saints will host Dumbarton tomorrow evening in the Irn-Bru Cup. This semi-final tie is the first of the weekend, with Inverness vs Crusaders to follow on Sunday. Greg Draper is determined he and his TNS team-mates will ruin the Sons’ journey by guaranteeing a non-Scottish side will participate in the final of this competition.
Speaking on Wednesday, the striker said:
“In Wales, the top three or four sides are probably a bit ahead of the other clubs within the Welsh Premier League. For ourselves, personally, any time we have come up against a Scottish Championship side, we have competed really well; the matches have been even, so, I would say we are probably on par with those sides. Last year, every tie we were drawn away and they were great little trips: you get to go to grounds you haven’t visited before, which is great because in Wales – and possibly Scotland too – it can get a bit monotonous playing the same teams 4, 5 or even 6 times a season if we draw then in the cups. It is good to freshen things up – it is almost like a European evening, which we have had a lot of this season. Queen of the South brought a lot of supporters down with them and made a great little atmosphere. It is something myself and the lads really enjoy.
When we go into a competition, the aim is to do as well as we can. I think some of the Scottish teams use it as a chance to rest some guys and play players who maybe haven’t been playing a lot recently, whereas, we at TNS have always treated it as a competition we want to win. We have always fielded our strongest team and taken the Irn-Bru Cup seriously. There will be no difference on Saturday, we will be going out there with the same objectives.”
The New Zealand international feels TNS have an advantage over their Scottish visitors this weekend.
“Dumbarton will be travelling down, while, we don’t have any of that to worry about; it is probably similar to when we played Elgin earlier on in this season – they are part-time, travelling down a long way, so, there is pressure on them not to leave without picking something up from the game. To be honest, though, our matches in the Irn-Bru Cup over the last two seasons against teams like Forfar and Elgin, considering they are part-time, I have been really impressed with them. I know the scorelines won’t suggest it, but, I don’t think it was as dominant as it seems: we probably had just as many chances as them, but, we had a good day in front of goal and we took our chances when it came our way. Queen of the South were also a very good team and I give a lot of praise to all of these sides as they matched us up and gave us good games.
We have Jon Routledge, as well as a lad called Steven Saunders, who were both with Dumbarton previously, so, I know our manager and assistant manager will sit down with these guys and go through their team, as, I think they know the majority of the players anyway. We will have a fair idea, I would guess, of who is going to be playing and where once we see the team-sheet; our management team have been up to watch them personally themselves, too, and we have had some video footage of them shown to us, as well. We will be well prepared: we won’t leave anything to chance, we will go into the match knowing as much as possible.”
Draper, who signed for TNS in the summer of 2011 thanks to the help of Celtic assistant manager Chris Davies, is determined to go one further this term after he and his team-mates lost out at this stage to St Mirren last campaign.
“I think it was a disappointing game, really. We done well in the first-half and then got a man sent off at the start of the second-half for a silly tackle. They then scored from the free-kick and being a man down, we never really recovered and they ran away with it. We just need to make sure nothing like that happens again; being at home, we should dictate the play and be in charge of most of the possession. We aren’t treating this match any differently – we will play at our own tempo and hopefully it’ll take care of itself.
Out with the European matches, this is probably the competition the lads look forward to most, to be honest. Like I’ve said before, playing against different opposition from a different league gives you a fresh challenge and it is games like these that we look forward to. If we can get past Dumbarton, it will mean we have beaten quite a few Championship teams on the way to the final and I don’t think many people can argue with the standard we play at, then. One of the main reasons we take this cup seriously is because we want to show that Welsh football is getting stronger and it is a league worth looking at: it is important we do things right, every round, and if we can get to the final, then you never know what can happen after that.”