Ladbrokes League 2 rivals Queen's Park and Elgin City go head to head at Hampden on Saturday for a place in the Petrofac Training Cup semi-finals.
It's Gus versus Jim
One of the most fascinating aspects of this match-up, is that it will feature two of the most highly-regarded managers in Ladbrokes League 2, fighting it out for a semi-final spot. In one corner, you'll have Queen's manager Gus MacPherson, who, in a little over a year-and-a-half, has broken down and reassembled a Queen's Park side who have veered from finishing bottom of the pile in 2014 to coming within a sliver of promotion to Ladbrokes League 1.
While there were some dissenting voices concerning MacPherson's decision to recruit a number of players from out-with the senior game, their run to last season's play-off final, where they lost to Stenhousemuir, and commitment to pleasing-on-the-eye football along the way, has silenced the doubters. This season's bright start would suggest they are no one-season flash in the pan and, with three wins last month, MacPherson has just been awarded the Ladbrokes League 2 Manager of the Month award for September.
Facing Gus will be Elgin boss Jim Weir, another man who has imparted Lazarus-type properties on his current side. Brought on board in November last year, Elgin were rooted to the bottom and facing the ignominy and tension of a play-off to stay in the senior game. Their turnaround in fortunes since his arrival have been nothing short of remarkable and only a disappointing final few games of last season prevented them from sealing a top-four finish.
Like Queen's Park, Weir's side have made a fine start in a topsy-turvy league, which sees the top seven clubs separated by just three points. Elgin haven't come out on top against the Spiders in their last seven meetings, but with main striker Craig Gunn in fine form with eight goals already, now would be as good a time as any to halt that run.
Both sides aiming for best-ever run
Queen's Park and Elgin are both hoping to create their own small piece of club history in this year's competition. A win for the Spiders on Saturday would see them emulate their best ever performance in the tournament, a run to the semi-finals in the 2002/03 season, which produced one of the tournament's classic encounters at Hampden Park, when the home side lost out to Brechin City by the odd goal in seven.
While Elgin City's involvement in the senior Scottish set-up has been reasonably short, their record in this competition has been anything but sweet, with 11 first-round eliminations since entering Division Three in the 2000/01 campaign. One of the few times they navigated the first hurdle was in 2009, the only other occasion they've reached the quarter-final stage, but despite taking a 2-0 lead into the interval, a revitalised Annan side roared back to book their place in the semi-finals with a 4-2 win.
With only one Ladbrokes Championship side guaranteed to be in the semi-final draw – Rangers meet Livingston on October 20 - both teams will have designs on a potential place in the final.