BUCKIE Thistle’s first-ever venture into the Scottish League Cup kicks off with a trip to Cowdenbeath on Saturday.
As Highland League champions, Jags qualified for the Betfred-sponsored competition which gets underway this weekend with the beginning of the group stages.
Buckie boss Graeme Stewart leads his team to Fife to take on League 2 Cowdenbeath, who only escaped relegation to the Lowland League last term with a penalty shoot-out victory over Jags’ play-off conquerors East Kilbride.
While a green and white army of Jags fans is sure to descend upon Central Park on Saturday, a bigger treat awaits the Moray club’s followers when Dundee United pay a visit to Victoria Park for the second group match next Wednesday.
A trip to Premiership Dundee and a home clash with Raith Rovers completes Buckie’s schedule, and Stewart said the tough tests will prepare his team for the start of their league defence on July 29.
“We’ve played a few friendlies but we are looking forward to a competitive game,” he said. “We are going to use the Betfred Cup for fitness, move the squad around and try some different formations and things.
“In saying that, these are huge games for the club and hopefully we can make some money by getting a good crowd for our home ties. Obviously it’s a lot more serious and a far greater test than the friendly games so the boys are looking forward to it.”
With Shaun Wood and Craig Cowie set to miss the season due to knee injuries, and Sam Urquhart possibly out for a fortnight, Jags pre-season has been hampered.
Stewart mixed his squad up for friendly defeats against Cumbernauld, Rothes and Dyce Juniors but played close to his strongest team in Saturday’s 6-0 win over Dufftown.
He brings in new signings Ross Anderson and Stevie Ross to his squad for Saturday. Fellow fresh faces Ross Elder and Declan Milne were away on holiday so are not yet up to fitness, and Shaun Carrol isn’t available for the Fife trip.