The Scottish Cup trail takes Raith Rovers to the Highlands this weekend with a convoy of travelling fans hoping for another momentous cup victory.
Around 750 supporters are expected to make the trip north by road and rail as the Kirkcaldy club take on high-flying Premiership outfit Inverness Caledonian Thistle in an eagerly anticipated quarter-final.
After beating Rangers at Ibrox for the first time since 1959 in the previous round, Rovers will aim to upset the odds again by reaching the semi-final for only the second time in 52 years.
Rovers’ previous semi-final appearance came just five years ago and for manager Grant Murray this Saturday represents a chance to make Scottish Cup history for a second time. Murray was part of John McGlynn’s Raith side that lost 2-0 to Dundee United at Hampden in 2010, and he would love to lead the club back to the national stadium from the dug-out.
“That was my first season at the club and we went on a great cup run to the semis,” he recalled. “We were a bit unfortunate that Ross County had knocked out Celtic the day before and that probably made Dundee United a wee bit more wary of us.
“But what a run it was, and some of the games we played to get to that stage were fantastic. Drawing out there against Aberdeen, then winning the replay at Pittodrie, and beating Dundee at Dens in the quarters. No-one gave us a chance in those games and Saturday’s no different.
“It’s an opportunity to get to another semi-final and it’s up to us to go and take it. It’s a massive task ahead of us, but we’re here on merit. We’re certainly looking forward to it.”
Inverness’ league form this season suggests this will be Rovers toughest test of the season but history is also against the Kirkcaldy club, as they have lost their last 10 meetings with Inverness.
“We’ll need luck on our side as well as the best performance we can give,” Murray stressed. “We also don’t want Inverness to play to their full potential. They’re a team flying high in the division above, going for European football, and it’s probably a great draw for them.
“It will take everything to go for us on the day but we’ve got to go up there with a belief in our ability that we can perform well. If we can get the 11 guys selected playing well, we can’t ask for any more than that.”
While the expectation will be on the hosts, Murray insisted that Rovers will not travel to the Caledonian Stadium with nothing to lose.
“They are the massive favourites but I wouldn’t say the pressure is off because we’ll put pressure on ourselves,” he said. “Some of these players won’t have played in a semi-final and some won’t have played at Hampden and they are only 90 minutes away from that.”
Raith have offered to bus supporters to and from Inverness for just £10 on Saturday and chief executive Eric Drysdale has been delighted with the take up, with five coach loads booked for the journey up the A9.
Eric Drysdale, club chief executive, said: “We’ve got four coaches from Kirkcaldy and one from Glenrothes at the moment.
“In addition to that, we’re aware that you can’t get a seat for love nor money on the nine o’clock train from Kirkcaldy to Inverness, so we’ll have a very healthy support up there.
“We’re glad there’s been a good uptake, and obviously there will be a lot of people going up under their own steam as well.”
Rovers can go into Saturday’s cup tie full of confidence after a run of only one defeat in eight games following Saturday’s 2-0 win in Livingston, which also saw defender Craig Barr make his long-awaited debut.
“I’m delighted for him,” Murray said. “He came to the club as a new signing but picked up an injury in pre-season that’s resulted in him being out for a long spell of time.
“Then he’s had to wait to get his opportunity due to the form of the team and other players.
“But now he’s managed to get a game under his belt, as well as a win and good performance.
“It’s a great start for him, albeit we wanted it to be a lot earlier than this.”
After barely featuring since September, young striker Lewis Vaughan also played, and scored in the win over Livingston.
However, with Christian Nade returning from suspension on Saturday, Murray now faces a selection dilemma for the trip to Inverness.
“It’s the same selection decision as I’ve had in other weeks when we’ve had a full squad to choose from,” Murray said.
“Apart from Calum Elliot we’ll have everyone available and that’s the competitiveness you need at a football club.”