THE world’s oldest football trophy – the William Hill Scottish Cup – will be at Nairn County this weekend.
And manager of the Highland League club, Ronnie Sharp, hopes that his players will return to form and see off their Lowland League visitors Whitehill Welfare to book their place in the second round of the competition.
The SFA have picked this encounter at Station Park as the tie to take the trophy to and fans can get their pictures taken with the cup, which Caley Thistle famously won three years ago.
Sharp had Whitehill watched at the weekend as they crashed to a 4-0 defeat against leaders BSC Glasgow on Saturday at Alloa.
Nairn didn’t have their troubles to seek either, as they suffered a crushing 8-0 home hammering by league leaders Cove Rangers.
Last term, Nairn were knocked out in the first round of the Scottish Cup, losing 3-2 against Preston Athletic, while Whitehill Welfare reached the second round where they lost 4-1 at Highland League hosts Wick Academy.
Sharp is relishing the chance for his players to pit their wits against a team from a different division.
He said: "This game takes away from the pressure of getting three league points, so from that point of view it’s good. We were delighted to get a tie against a team like Whitehill. I think when you are drawn against another Highland League team then it doesn’t feel like the Scottish Cup at all.
"We’ve had them watched and, despite losing at the weekend, I think it could be a close game. Like us, they are quite a young team.
"The Scottish Cup being here on Saturday adds to the occasion and the game will be filmed (for the SFA website), so it’s set up nicely. Everyone wants to just get through the first round."
Goalkeeper Stephen Foster, who is on loan from Caley Thistle, returns to the fold after suffering concussion recently, while striker Gary Kerr will bolster their attack after missing out last weekend.
Sharp would not have minded missing last Saturday’s game too, with Cove in stunning form.
Former Aberdeen starlet Mitch Megginson bagged a first half double, with a Daniel Park free-kick in between times making it 3-0.
Goals from Ryan Strachan and Harry Milne took their tally to five for the day before Park then Megginson sealed their doubles and trebles respectively.
Keeper Dylan MacLean prevented Park from joining Megginson as a hat-trick scorer when he saved his penalty after Strachan was brought down in the box by Ryan MacDonald.
However, classy Cove added their eighth goal three minutes from time when substitute Connor Scully netted.
This result pushed Cove two points clear of Fraserburgh with one game in hand, while Nairn slipped to seventh spot.
Sharp explained that their visitors were just too hot to handle.
He said: "They were strong from start to finish. After they scored two or three goals, they kept piling on the pressure. They’re battering teams throughout the league, scoring 47 goals in their first 10 games and conceding just four. That’s very hard to play against."
Nairn will return to league action with a tough test away to Ross Tokely’s Brora Rangers on Saturday, September 30 before hosting Huntly seven days later.