Irn-Bru Cup Final Preview

Dumbarton versus Inverness Caledonian Thistle

Saturday the 24th of March, 2018, will see two SPFL Ladbrokes Championship sides pit their wits together at McDiarmid Park in Perth to see who will lift this season’s Irn-Bru Cup.

Over the past few years, this competition has been won by clubs such as Dundee United, Rangers, Livingston and Raith Rovers. Since the competition came into being in season 1990/91, Inverness have reached the final on three previous occasions, winning once. Dumbarton, on the other hand, will experience their first Challenge Cup Final on Saturday afternoon.

Caley Thistle’s first final took place in 1999/2000, as they drew 4-4 with Alloa Athletic at the Excelsior Stadium, before the Wasps won 5-4 on penalties. Then, in 2003/04, the Highlanders defeated Airdrie United 2-0 in front of nearly 5,500 supporters to lift this piece of silverware for the one and only time in their history so far. This is the further John Robertson’s side have progressed in this cup since season 2009/10, when they went down 3-2 to Dundee at Saturday’s host venue in Perth.

The Sons most notable cup success came back in 1882/83, when they won the Scottish Cup for the one and only time in their history, to date. Their most recent domestic trophy was won in 2008/09 when they won the SFL Third Division, while also successfully winning through the SFL Second Division play-off’s in 2011/12. Since then, Stevie Aitken’s side have enjoyed relative success by sustaining themselves as a second-tier side. The Championship’s 9th placed side will hope to make history on Saturday as they aim to win a domestic cup competition for the first time in 135 years.

The Sons have won 5 matches in this year’s competition to make it to the final, defeating Rangers Under-20’s in their opening match of the cup. Then, a home victory over Welsh club Connah’s Quay Nomads set up a tie with Aitken’s former club Stranraer. After being drawn against League One high-flyers Raith Rovers in the Quarter-Finals, the part-time outfit were given another tough tie in the final four as they were made to travel to Wales to face The News Saints. After going 1-0 down from a Dean Ebbe goal, strikes from Danny Handling and Dimitris Froxylias helped Dumbarton reach the final.

For Inverness, they didn’t start til the second round, as they defeated Aberdeen Under-20’s at Glebe Park, on the 2nd of September, 2017. Then, the club relegated from the Premiership last season, successfully negotiated ties with Peterhead and Falkirk before being drawn at home to Northern Irish side Crusaders in the last round. The Semi-Final was on easy street during the first-half, with goals from George Oakley, Joe Chalmers and Jake Mulraney setting the Jags well on their way to the final. A double by Paul Heatley in the second period made in nervy for the 1,044 crowd at The Tulloch Caledonian Stadium, but Robertson’s side hung on to reach Saturday’s showpiece.

The former Hearts striker can make history on Saturday, if he can lead his side to glory; Robertson can become just the second manager to win this competition twice, but, he will have to do it without the services of ever-present central defender Brad McKay who misses out due to suspension. Nathan Austin is also cup-tied for the Highland outfit, however, they can call on the experience of players such as Gary Warren and Carl Tremarco who lead Inverness to Scottish Cup triumph in 2014.

Dumbarton have Cypriot internationalist Dimitris Froxylias available despite the winger being called-up for international duty. Cyprus play Montenegro on Friday evening, with the Sons playmaker flying straight back to Scotland following ghr game to take part in one of the biggest matches in Dumbarton’s history. Sam Wardrop is an injury doubt after picking up a slight knock last weekend but Chris McLaughlin has returned from an injury lay-off to boost the numbers at Aitken’s disposal.

jordanburtfootball.com this week spoke with Andy Dowie, who previewed this match:

Both sides have had difficult start’s to 2018; Dumbarton sit in ninth and Inverness in eighth in the SPFL Ladbrokes Championship as the final few matches approach. The Sons sit three points behind their cup-final opponents as the battle to stay in Scotland’s second-tier continues. Aitken’s men have won their previous two games, albeit against bottom of the league Brechin City, running out 1-0 and then 3-1 winners. This was their first victories in this division since the turn of the year, with their only other wins coming against Peterhead in the Scottish Cup and TNS in the Semi-Final of this competition.

Inverness, however, don’t come into the match in any better shape: Since the 20th of January, they have played 7 matches, winning one – the previous round of the Irn-Bru Cup. They also managed to draw with Dundee at Dens Park in the Scottish Cup while their first league point since the 13th of January was picked up in their last match against Dundee United, as they drew 1-1 at Tannadice.

This will be the fifth meeting between these two clubs in their history – the first match was in 2002 which Inverness won 2-0 before Caley Thistle won 3-1 in 2006. This season has saw a win apiece with Aitken’s men running out 2-1 winners at The Your Radio 103FM Stadium earlier on this campaign before a home victory for Robertson’s side in the last encounter between these two sides this term.

It is set up to be a cracking encounter between two sides who are up for the cup…

Kick-Off is 4:15pm, with the match being broadcast live on BBC Alba.

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