ONE of the biggest crowds of the season is set to congregate at today’s Newlandsfield showdown between Pollok and Auchinleck Talbot and wonder whether the Super Premier Division clash has taken on a whole new dynamic after the Junior titans were paired together in this week’s Scottish Junior Cup fifth-round draw.

Not so, according to Lok manager Tony McInally, whose stated intention to recall a clutch of injured stars against the visiting Ayrshiremen demonstrates his determination to pick up the three points on offer and lay down a further endorsement of the Glasgow side’s emergence as a leading title contender .

Pollok’s disappointing start to their league campaign (12 points dropped in their opening six fixtures) is fast becoming a distant memory and Macca’s men extending their 2018 winning sequence of league games to three today would move them level on points with Talbot to sit a mere point adrift of Beith in second.

"Nothing that happens tomorrow will have any bearing on the Cup game, psychological or otherwise,” insisted the Lok boss last night.

“A healthy rivalry has long existed between the clubs and that in itself ensures both myself and Tommy Sloan will be putting out our strongest possible line-ups and not holding anything or anyone for that matter in reserve.

“Our shared need for the points is patently obvious and attempting to close the gap on league leaders Kilwinning Rangers is all that matters.”

Home supporters will undoubtedly be cheered by Macca reporting a near clean bill of health and declaring suspended defender Grant Evans as his only definite non-starter.

He said: “Our goalkeeper Jordan Longmuir picked up a painful contact injury in our recent victory over Clydebank and at a push we could have strapped him up to play in last weekend’s Scottish Cup tie away to Rossvale but we felt the better option – without in any way being disrespectful – was not to risk aggravating his injury on the astro-grass surface.

“Jordan’s situation was better than that of Bryan Wharton [also injured in the Clydebank game] and Mark Sideserf, neither of whom had a chance of being passed fit last week but thankfully they are both on the mend.

“Sidey is firmly back in our thoughts for a starting jersey after coming through a couple of stiff training sessions without reaction and the word on Bryan is similarly encouraging as his leg injury has responded to treatment and his chances of figuring against Talbot are 50/50 at worst."

McInally refused to be drawn on whether ex-Auchinleck striker David Gormley would be turning out against his former team-mates.

He added: “The 90 minutes David played against Rossvale was his first since last May so it wasn’t altogether surprising that he tired in the closing stages so we’ll look at him closer to kick-off time before deciding on our line-up.”

Visiting gaffer Sloan was every bit as coy when asked whether a recall was on the cards for highly-rated Junior Scotland hitman Graham Wilson who only figured as a second-half substitute in last Saturday’s 5-1 victory over Cumnock.

Tucker admitted: “We never get other than a tough time of it coming through to Pollok and the guys will need to play at their best to get anything out of the game.

“Sean McElroy and Jamie Glasgow partnered up well in our recent defeat of Kilbirnie and they deservedly retained their places down at Cumnock however it didn’t escape my notice that Gee made quite an impact coming off the bench.

“He will come into our thoughts not least because he is also back to full fitness following a recent bout of illness and it’s a really positive aspect going into a game of this importance that our front players are in good form and scoring goals.”

West Region clubs are participating in all seven Scottish Junior Cup fourth-round contests scheduled to go ahead today and there is a growing belief of a potential giant-killing act at the Celsius Stadium where Rutherglen Glencairn host the visit of East Region big guns Bo’ness United.

The visitors, managed by former Arthurlie boss Stevie Kerrigan with ex-Kilsyth Rangers manager Keith Hogg as his assistant, are thought to be well clued-up on the Glens however Willie Harvey is planning a surprise or two.

He said: “We are in the best possible shape now that back-to-back postponements has allowed injuries to Liam Gormley, Jamie Hamilton and Gary Smith to clear up and the players are in confident mood.

“We know Bo’ness will be strong favourites but we recently beat Kilbirnie Ladeside 1-0 in a friendly match at Glasgow Green and it says everything about our performance when Budgie McGhie asked why we are still in the Super First Division.

“The answer as far as I’m concerned is consistency – or lack of it in our case – because I have no doubts when we play as we did against Kilbirnie then we can be a match for any Junior side.

"We have done our homework on Bo’ness and know their team is packed with top name players however I fancy we can give them a game of it.”

On the transfer front, Cumbernauld United inviting offers for out of favour pair Willie Wells and Dylan McGuigan has sparked speculation that Guys Meadow boss Andy Frame is preparing a bid to resign his former striker Jamie Watson who only signed for Arthurlie in October but is now surplus to requirements at the Barrhead outfit.