LARGS THISTLE boss Stuart Davidson says his players will bear their underdogs tag with pride when they take on Premiership league leaders Hurlford United in the Macron Scottish Junior Cup semi-finals.

The Ayrshire rivals came out of the hat together in yesterday’s draw which also pitted reigning cup holders Auchinleck Talbot against East Region leading lights Lochee United and set the scene for a repeat of last year’s dramatic Cup final showpiece between Talbot and the Ford.

“Look, we were always going to be considered as the minnows going into a draw alongside three teams that featured at this same stage last time out. It was going to be tough for us regardless but I take some degree of consolation from knowing we have shown ourselves capable of competing against a very good Hurlford side after two extremely tight league games against them.

“We didn’t inflict any wounds because they beat us 2-1 at their place and our next meeting at Barrfields ended 1-1. However, there was precious little to choose between the teams on both occasions and on our day I firmly believe we can do even better.

“The performance served up in beating Kilwinning Rangers 6-0 in the quarter-finals is arguably the best we have played all season and hitting those heights again may be required to get past Darren Henderson’s team but it is certainly not beyond my players."

The high from overcoming the Buffs quickly disappeared last weekend when his side suffered a 5-2 Premiership defeat at home to relegation threatened Renfrew and the former midfield battler admitted he has a job on his hands to mend wounded pride and bodies ahead of their season defining cup clash.

"Three home games on the spin against Pollok, Petershill and Glenafton prior to Hurlford coming here for the semi-final first leg are not exactly bankers and particularly when our playing squad is beset with a number of injury concerns. Already it’s looking like Ben Black will be touch and go for the cup game after damaging ankle ligaments against Renfrew and we also need to get Lawrie McMaster and Stuart Faulds back playing.

“On top of everything else, Nikky Jamieson’s playing through the pain barrier last week because Creag Little was away at a wedding appears to have done him no favours and he will need a bit of time on the treatment table.

“The injuries are a worry given the semi-final is looming but I also see it as an opportunity for players who haven’t been playing regularly to stake a claim for a jersey.”

Hurlford boss Henderson, who has Jack Whittaker and experienced goalkeeper Ally Brown facing a race against time to be fit for the cup showdown, reckons Largs will be tough opponents.

“Any team that can beat Kilwinning Rangers 5-0 deserve the utmost respect and I’m just happy to have home advantage in the second leg because I do not think this tie will be settled until then.”

Auchinleck team captain Willie Lyle also spoke of his delight at playing in front of the Ayrshire club’s fervent supporters in the semi-final second leg against a Lochee side whom the Bot beat 2-1 on aggregate last season.

“They hit us on the break at Beechwood to win 1-0 and then sat in at home trying to protect their lead but we hit them with two late goals to get through.

“Now the roles are reversed and people might think we will shut up shop but I can see us being positive up there and letting the second leg take care of itself.”

Tomorrow's fixtures (Kick-off 2pm), Premiership: Renfrew v Kilwinning Rangers, Petershill v Beith, Largs Thistle v Pollok, Cumnock v Auchinleck Talbot, Rob Roy v Hurlford Utd, Irvine Meadow v Cambuslang Rangers, Kilbirnie Ladeside v Troon. Championship: Darvel v Kello Rovers, Larkhall Thistle v Craigmark, Whitletts Vics v Rossvale, Neilston v Rutherglen Glencairn, St Rochs v Cumbernauld Utd, Arthurlie v Kilsyth Rangers, Irvine Vics v Girvan. League One: Lugar Boswell v Yoker Athletic, Shettleston v Shotts Bon Accord, Glasgow Perthshire v Greenock, Maryhill v Royal Albert, Port Glasgow v East Kilbride Thistle, Ardrossan Winton Rovers v Maybole, Bellshill Athletic v Gartcairn, Wishaw v Blantyre Vics. League Two: Ashfield v Newmains Utd, Lesmahagow v Forth Wanderers, Carluke Rovers v Vale of Clyde, Lanark Utd v Annbank Utd, Thorniewood Utd v Muirkirk, St Anthonys v Vale of Leven.