BY IAIN COLLIN – @CCP_sport
Gary Thom feared Linlithgow Rose would be left feeling green with envy after he saw red against Forfar Athletic in the last round.
But the former Stenhousemuir defender is determined the juniors will not run up the white flag as they prepare for the latest battle in their epic Scottish Cup journey against Ross County this afternoon.
Thom was sent-off in conceding the penalty that allowed Forfar to take a 2-1 advantage in the fourth round tie between the teams last month, a lead that quickly stretched to 3-1 just three minutes later.
The 26-year-old sat in the Prestonfield dressing room contemplating the end of a Cup run that had already taken the East Superleague outfit on a meandering road to Hampden.
However, with Davie McGlynn’s side storming back to earn a replay and then easing past the Loons in extra-time in that second game, the West Lothian club will fly the flag for junior football in Dingwall this afternoon.
It is a mouthwatering tie that Thom has confessed he thought had slipped through their grasp when he bundled over Scott Martin in the box.
Thom, a chemical engineer at the nearby oil refinery at Grangemouth, said: “I did think that when I was sent-off in the first game against Forfar that that was the end of the journey for the club.
“Having been sent-off I was sitting in the dressing room on my own thinking about what had happened.
“But, when I came back out, I was delighted to see the goals go in to give us a chance in the replay.
“I always felt confident, and we felt confident as a team, against Forfar, even though we went up there with a depleted squad.
“I was helpless in the replay. I just had to sit and watch and support the guys, but we’ve got a good squad here so I was hopeful we could get through.
“The boys deserve great credit and these are big games and you look forward to playing in, because they don’t come around that often for us.”
As if the prospect of facing Premiership opposition was not already challenging enough, County’s victory over Celtic in last weekend’s League Cup semi-final just emphasised the task awaiting Linlithgow.
Thom added: “In any cup you look forward to the draw and who you’re going to get and Ross County are obviously flying high in the Premiership at the moment.
“They’ll be on an even bigger high after beating Celtic last week as well, but it would be good if they had burned themselves out a bit!
“But we’ve just got to concentrate on the game and try and put on as good a performance for our fans, because I’m sure there will be a lot of them travelling up for the game.”
Linlithgow will break the 2000-mile mark when they head to Dingwall today, with an incredible tournament sending them on trips to Gala and Inverness, as well as to Wick and Forfar twice.
The continual call-offs of midweek games in Wick earlier in the campaign proved difficult for Rose’s part-time players, many of whom had to take holidays to play.
But Thom confesses there have been few complaints this week about the anticipation of another lengthy sojourn north as they prepare to take on Premiership opposition.
They former Stirling Albion and East Fife player said: “We’re really looking forward to this game, after what has been some journey in the cup for us.
“We’ve covered some amount of miles.
“But we’re not bothered about the travelling we’re having to do for this game.
“To get this far and be involved in the fifth round of the Scottish Cup is some achievement and it’s about going out and enjoying it.”