GW 18 (Boxing Day Bonus) – Ones to Watch

Matt: Welcome to our traditional ‘Boxing Day Bonus’ round, one that has historically provided a thoroughly entertaining day of Ultimate Goals action. This year should be no different, not least because we have the unexpected inclusion of the Scottish Cup First Round fixtures. No sooner has last season’s delayed competition ended, this season’s is starting! All 19 of Saturday’s matches are available for selection to complement our usual offerings and I’m sure plenty of you will look to take full advantage of the opportunity.

That’s exactly what my intention is, so where better to begin that in said cup competition. Unsurprisingly, the First Round has thrown up some very intriguing ties and you could definitely make a case for going with a full set of selections from this competition alone! I’m heading in the direction of North-East Scotland for my first pick, to the most northerly football league ground in the United Kingdom in fact, where Elgin City will want to ensure they avoid an upset by disposing of Lowland League outfit Civil Service Strollers (you have to love some of the names that appear in these early cup rounds!) The League Two team will clearly head into the match as favourites, and their record at Borough Briggs tells you all you need to know about why they’ll be a popular pick with our players this weekend; other than a 4-1 defeat to Premiership Ross County, City have lost just once on home turf since way back in February – with eight wins and 22 goals to their name since then. Last weekend’s 2-0 beating of Stenhousemuir ensured The Black and Whites retained second place in the league table, with promotion to League One for the first time in the club’s history becoming more and more of a possibility as City keep racking up the points. A decent cup run will do the squad’s confidence no harm either, and they’ll certainly be expecting to see off a Civil Service side who are hovering around mid-table in the Lowland League. The Strollers are not particularly fearsome on their travels either, recording just two wins on the road this calendar year. In fairness, their defensive record this season is not terrible; 15 goals conceded in total, from 13 matches played. However, that defence will be severely tested on Saturday afternoon and it would be quite the shock to see them head back to Edinburgh with a clean sheet to their name!

Sticking with the Scottish Cup theme, another tie that has caught my eye features an all part-time affair between Camelon Juniors and Brora Rangers. Despite Camelon moving up into the East of Scotland Premier division in 2018, they have preserved the “Juniors” part of their name and they will be eyeing up a potential shock on Saturday against the Highland League leaders. The Mariners currently sit in fourth spot in their league, but do have games in hand on front-runners Tranent Juniors (whose fixture against East Stirlingshire is also available for selection) and they’ve suffered only two losses this season, so they’ll head into the match against the Highland Leaguers in good spirits. It’s also worth noting that although Brora do lead the standings, they’ve actually played just three league games so far, such has been the impact of Covid-19 and the subsequent delays in commencing the season! Mind you, if those three games are an indication of what is come in this encounter, it could be a long old afternoon for the home side; Rangers have banged in no less than 20 goals, including 15 on the road!! Incredible! A 5-0 win at Deveronvale and a 5-1 victory at home to Wick Academy was followed by an astonishing 10-0 mauling of poor Fort William last Saturday. The Cattachs also went toe-to-toe with some credible opponents in the Scottish League Cup back in September & October, giving both Hibernian and Dundee a real run for their money, then earning notable draws against League One sides Cove Rangers and Forfar Athletic. Brora have long been regarded as a powerhouse of the Highland League and with performances like that you can see why…….I’m fully expecting their quite ridiculous goalscoring antics to continue in this fixture. Good luck to you all and Merry Christmas from everyone here at The Ultimate Goals.