Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis haven’t stopped Hurlford United from doing what they almost always do at this time of year… ready themselves to take part in a Macron Scottish Junior Cup quarter-final tie

Yet pointing out to United gaffer Darren Henderson his remarkable achievement in never losing a last-eight contest and managing to steer the Ayrshiremen to the semi-finals in five of the last six seasons only served to open up wounds left by memories of his side’s somewhat inglorious 2016/17 exit when the lost 2-1 away to Lochee United in the first round.

And his pain is only slightly lessened by the realisation Hurlford’s recent track record in Junior football’s showpiece competition is second to none… other than to the record 13-time trophy winners and reigning holders Auchinleck Talbot, as the luck of the draw would have it, the team now standing between the Blair Park outfit and yet another last-four place.

The Premiership giants will go toe-to-toe later this afternoon, surprisingly for only the second time on quarter-final day , with their previous meeting having gone the way of Hendo and his troops by a 2-0 scoreline in 2016 prior to crashing out to Pollok at the penultimate round.

But neither that previous United triumph nor his club’s success in negotiating last-eight ties will have any bearing on the Beechwood Park outcome according to the 53-year-old boss.

“Scottish Junior Cup games are by and large won by whosoever plays best on the day and nothing else matters “insisted Hendo.

“Just going by the form book would have people questioning why we are even bothering to turn up in the first place because Tommy Sloan’s players are on a terrific winning run whereas my guys have not picked up a win bonus since mid-December.

“We are inconsistent to a fault, as is the way when you rebuild a team, but on the days when all the key components are in place and pulling in the same direction then we have shown ourselves capable of matching up with any of the so-called top teams.

“To see us written off and underrated by way too many people in the game is disappointing but only by making a statement out on the pitch will we earn renewed respect.”

Injury woes look set to delay Henderson declaring his starting line-up, not least of all concerns over goalkeeper Mark McDonald who hasn’t featured between the sticks in six weeks while the 2-0 mid-January defeat by Pollok was the last time midfielder Sean Dickson saw playing action.

An even bigger headache is whether to gamble on the fitness of United’s top marksman Liam Caddis, scorer of two thirds of his side’s goals this season but sidelined for over a month with an ankle ligament injury while even more worryingly for United’s gaffer is his talisman midfielder Paul “Taz” McKenzie being unable to train this past week due to a muscular problem.

Hendo admitted: “I’ve had Taz playing under me for the past eight seasons and he’s missed more training sessions this week than in all that time.

“It’s so unlike him to be laid up but he’s the type who would play with a broken neck so hopefully we can get him patched up before kick-off time tomorrow.

“Liam is another I would like to see pulling on a jersey but it might be asking too much to throw him in from the start and a better option might be to introduce him off the bench when the tempo dies a little .

“In his absence Squib (Marc McKenzie) and young Lewis Morrison have stepped up to the plate and looked very lively so a big onus falls on their shoulders.”

Oldest head in the Talbot camp and a close friend of Henderson since they were team-mates together at Ayr United and Stenhousemuir is Bot skipper Willie Lyle who is hoping to get his hands on the Holy Grail silverware for a third time on the spin, a feat only achieved by legendary Auchinleck captain Willie Young in the late 1980s.

Said the tough-tackling full-back: “I speak to Daz most weeks and he will play down Hurlford’s aspirations for winning the cup but deep down he will fancy their chances.

“Coming out of the hat against his team is probably the toughest draw imaginable for us and it doesn’t help

that our weather enforced stop/start season has left us scrabbling to find our best form of late.

“Playing in the Scottish tends to get us fired up and hopefully that’s the case tomorrow.”