Facing Caley Thistle in the Scottish Cup should hold little fear for Buckie Thistle and their defender Sam Morrison.
Buckie were impressive winners in the first round of the competition, disposing of League Two side Albion Rovers 3-0 on their own patch.
The tie always had the potential for an upset, given Buckie’s aspirations as a Highland League title-challenger and Rovers’ difficulties in the SPFL. But the manner of the win was hugely creditable nonetheless.
Their prize is a visit from Championship side Inverness, in one of the most eye-catching ties of the second round. The two clubs sit 55 miles and three divisions apart, with the Caley Jags playing Buckie in a couple of pre-season friendlies in recent years.
There are also plenty of connections within Victoria Park to John Robertson’s side, with manager Graeme Stewart, his assistant Lewis MacKinnon and players Kevin Fraser and Andy MacAskill all formerly on Caley Thistle’s books.
Morrison, who is two years into his stint at Buckie after leaving Ross County, believes the Moray club have every right to be optimistic about what they can achieve.
He said: “As a Highland League club, it’s good to get through the rounds in the Scottish Cup because it generates a bit of income. But as the rounds progress, you always keep an eye out for a big tie.
“Caley Thistle, as a Championship club pushing for promotion, is a good one to get. It’s unfortunate there’s no supporters allowed as it would have been quite a big crowd.
“We can be quite confident in our form but we know how much of a threat they will be, as a full-time team. We have nothing to lose.”
Morrison speaks highly of Stewart, who has worked diligently over the last few seasons to build a young, hungry side which could emulate their 2017 Highland League title-winners.
He added: “Over the past few seasons he’s assembled a good young squad. We’ve got experience in there too, in Kevin Fraser, Andy MacAskill, Hamish Munro and Lewis MacKinnon.
“A lot of boys have come from full-time football and with youth on their side, are trying to make a name for themselves in the Highland League.
“We have got aspirations of winning leagues and cups and that’s where Buckie should be. Hopefully we can do ourselves justice and start bringing silverware back to Victoria Park.”
The 22-year-old centre-half has started to develop a partnership with another former Staggie in the Buckie backline.
Jack Murray had two loan spells at Buckie before joining permanently in the summer, after his release by County.
Morrison said: “Jack was in his first year full-time when I was in my second. He played a couple of years up there before I was released and he was always a central midfielder.
“But he’s a big guy and since I left, he’s been put back to centre-half. It suits him playing on the left and it suits me playing on the right; we’ve struck up a good partnership and it gives us balance.
“We’ve only had five or six games together but it’s been good playing with someone you know well.”
The reinstatement of lockdown restrictions have hampered Buckie’s preparations for the tie, with available facilities thin on the ground.
Instead, the players have been given programmes by defender Hamish Munro – a sports scientist – to keep them ticking over.
Morrison added: “It’s not the same as having everyone on the training pitch but we’re still allowed to be playing, with the Highland League coming under the professional sport bracket.
“We’re just glad to be back playing.”
— P&J Sport (@PandJSport) January 5, 2021