February 9, 2024
Airdrieonians vs Heart of Midlothian
Charlie Telfer says Airdrie are capable of producing more cup heroics, but the Diamonds will have to be at their best against a strong Hearts side in the Scottish Gas Men’s Scottish Cup.
The Tynecastle men visit the Excelsior on Sunday for the final tie of the fifth round, and all eyes will be on what promises to be an intriguing match.
The Edinburgh will be heavy favourites going into the fixture, sitting clear in third place in the Premiership while Airdrie occupy fifth-spot in the Championship.
Last weekend saw the Diamonds secure their place in the SPFL Trust Trophy final with a 1-0 victory at Stark’s Park, and Rhys McCabe’s men will be hoping to take that good form from one cup to another on Sunday.
Midfielder Telfer was pleased with last Friday’s result - and performance.
“With our form against Raith this season, you always kinda think ‘is this the one that they win?’, but we were just so confident going into it.
“Scoring really early, it was a great time to get a goal and this season we’ve been able to hold onto leads. We looked really comfortable the full game - we probably should have had another goal or two, but the boys are delighted.”
The win in Kirkcaldy made it seven unbeaten for Airdrie, and Telfer says a steady backline is proving to be the foundation for success.
“I think that’s one thing that we’ve really improved on this season. We scored loads of goals last season, but we were also conceding a few.
“I feel like we’re really secure at the back, we’ve got a good shape, and we’re all disciplined in our roles and responsibilities. When we go up now, we have a confidence that we’re going to see the game out.
“We’ve been winning close games recently, and that’s a real confidence boost. Hopefully we’ll get chances to go and score two, three, four goals - but at the moment we’re just delighted to be winning games and keeping the back door shut!”
That defensive unit will certainly be expected to play a part if the Diamonds are to overcome this weekend’s opponents, with Scotland striker Lawrence Shankland in red-hot form for the Jambos.
Telfer, who has top-level experience with Dundee United, says anything is possible in the cup - and believes that home advantage could play a part.
“We know it’s going to be a big challenge, but I think it’s one we’re up to and we’ll need to be on our game to hopefully get a good result.
“It’s going to be a tough game, but ever since I’ve been here we’ve been really good at home. We fancy ourselves - the club’s had good results against SPL sides in the last few years here, so it’s another game for us.”
With the rest of the fifth-round ties already played by kick-off, and the quarter-final draw being made pre-match, Sunday’s stakes will certainly be high - but Charlie is quick to repeat the mantra which has served the Diamonds well so far this season.
“We’re just going to focus on us, doing what we do, and be the best we can be on the day. We know we’re going to have to be at it, but we’re unbeaten in seven.
“We need to believe we can take it to them, and you never know… it’s the cup after all!”
Player-manager Rhys McCabe is expecting another thriller as he locks horns with former Rangers team-mate Steven Naismith.
“We’ll try and make it as exciting as we can! By all means we’ll give them the level of respect that they deserve, but ultimately a lot of the game psychologically is about us. It always is and always will be while I’m here.
“If we go out with the mindset that we’ve got to stop Hearts, then we’re beat before a ball is kicked. We’ll be under no illusion, they’re a good side and you can take nothing away from that.
“The level that they’re competing at is far superior to what we compete at, so we know that we’re going to be up against a quality operator - but I’m hoping and trying to implement that we impose ourselves onto Hearts and show them what we’re all about it.
“We’re thoroughly looking forward to the game. A chance to play the third-best team in Scotland at the moment is something that we’ll be cherishing.”
On the injury front, Liam McStravick picked up an ankle ligament strain against Raith Rovers and joins fellow midfielder Murray Aiken on the sidelines. Craig Watson’s rib injury proved not to be a break, so the defender is clear to play. Cammy Ballantyne and Calum Gallagher made their returns from injury at Stark’s Park, and Gabby McGill has resumed light training following a knee strain.
Referee Steven McLean has officiated one other Airdrie match this season, August’s extra-time Viaplay Cup defeat to Ross County.
Tickets are available using the link below, and our DiamondsTV video (subscribers outwith the UK & Ireland) and audio (pay-per-match worldwide) streams are available. Supporters attending the match are requested to familiarise themselves with the matchday restrictions in place.
Sunday February 11, 2024
Excelsior Stadium, Airdrie
Ross Macleod, Paul McAvinue