The spotlight falls once again on the Macron Scottish Junior Cup this coming Saturday, and brings with it a level of scrutiny that precious few of the Largs Thistle squad – preparing to entertain Hurlford United in their semi-final first-leg contest – have ever experienced in their playing careers to date.

Aside from speedy front man John Carter, a medal winner with Glenafton in 2017, the competition’s penultimate stage is unchartered territory for Theesel’s players, not least of all young Ben Black whose progress since stepping up into the Junior ranks as a teenage prospect from Ayrshire amateur outfit KSC just three years ago has been not far short of meteoric.

The 21-year-old’s skilful displays established himself as a firm favourite with supporters of his home town club Irvine Meadow, but he has really come into his own since moving to Barrfields last close season and has become something of an integral figure in his side’s impressive run to the last-four stage.

How cruel therefore to hear the lively forward is considered a serious injury doubt for facing last season’s beaten finalists Hurlford after damaging ankle ligaments during a league match against Renfrew at the start of this month that has prevented him from training or playing ever since.

He said: “I’m not a good patient anyway so to be on the treatment table going into arguably the biggest game of my Junior career to date is absolutely soul-destroying.

“I’ve tried to speed up my recovery by cramming in as many extra sessions as possible with my next-door neighbour, who just happens to be a qualified physiotherapist, and I’m now at the stage where hopefully I can join in with the other guys tonight.

“Having not played for a month, it’s maybe the case this game is coming too soon for me, but I’ve never been as far in the Scottish Cup and I’m desperate to play a part even though some of my more experienced team-mates reckon it might be best if I concentrated on getting myself in the best possible shape for next week’s second-leg through at Blair Park – they are thinking the same as me: there’s no way this tie is going to be settled on Saturday.”

Black played in both Premiership league meetings with Hurlford this season, a last-minute goal inflicting a 2-1 defeat away from home while a late Largs equaliser earned a 1-1 draw when the sides last met at Barrfields.