The cup tie they couldn’t finish

“IT will come as no surprise to you to learn that our Scottish Cup third-round replay against Threave Rovers has been cancelled yet again for this week,” states the Stenhousemuir website with notable weariness.

Nearly four weeks ago, Stenhousemuir (of the Scottish Second Division) and Threave (of the South of Scotland League) drew 2-2 at Ochilview Park. The replay has since been postponed seven times, as Threave’s Meadow Park home in Castle Douglas is apparently like a skating rink.

After the frost ruled out any chance of playing on Tuesday or Wednesday this week, the game has been rearranged for next Tuesday. Failing that, they’ll try next Wednesday. According to Threave chairman Colin Holden, there’s little chance of getting the match on before the turn of the year.

“It’s a very difficult time for everyone involved with Scottish football and my personal view is I don’t see us getting another game this year,” he told the Galloway News last week.

In the meantime, Stenhousemuir’s manager John Coughlin has resigned – not because he was fed up waiting for the replay, but because his team were thumped 6-0 by East Fife last weekend and have slipped towards relegation trouble.

(Speaking of East Fife, I couldn’t help but have a quick look through the records to see if they ever have lost 5-4 to Forfar, and it turns out they have – on April 22, 1964 in the Scottish Second Division. Disappointingly, though, the game was at Forfar, making it slightly less of a tongue twister.)

But even though the number of Threave v Stenhousemuir postponements could reach double figures by the time the game is played, it’s still got a long way to go to beat the record.

According to the Guardian’s font of all knowledge, er, The Knowledge, the Scottish Cup second-round tie between Inverness Thistle and Falkirk was postponed 29 times in the icy winter of 1979. A match originally scheduled to be played on January 6 eventually went ahead on February 22. Falkirk’s reward for a 4-0 victory was to be dumped out by Dundee in the next round.

The multiple postponement has been frustrating for everyone involved with Threave – chairman Holden has the headache of keeping the club ticking over financially when they haven’t played a home game since the end of October.

It’s a frustration too for Threave player-coach Davie Irons, who turned out as a holding midfielder in the first game at the age of 49.

Irons, the oldest man ever to strut his stuff in the Scottish Cup, has been around long enough to have played in the 1970s, having started his career at Queen of the South in 1979. A four-year stint in Scottish amateur football was followed by spells at Ayr, Clydebank, Dunfermline, Partick Thistle and St Johnstone. He has a bit of Scottish Cup pedigree, having been Rowan Alexander’s assistant at Gretna when they lost on penalties to Hearts in the 2006 final. He had only stopped playing for them a year earlier, at the age of 43.

“I’m really enjoying being back playing, although with 17-year-olds in the team, I’m old enough to be their grandfather,” Irons said in an interview with the Daily Record in October. According to Coughlin, Irons was the star of the first game against Stenhousemuir. Even so, this will probably be his last crack at a Scottish Cup run, given that he turns 50 in July. By then, Meadow Park will probably have thawed out.

And the prize for the winner when the tie is finally decided? A home match against Stranraer of the Third Division, provisionally scheduled for January 8. When it will actually go ahead is anyone’s guess. The road to Hampden is long and winding.


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