It will be an historic day for Bala Town on Saturday when they become the first Welsh team to compete in the Irn-Bru Challenge Cup as they welcome Scottish League One side, Alloa Athletic to Maes Tegid with an early kick off at 13:00 live on S4C.
The Scottish Challenge Cup was traditionally contested by members of the Scottish football league system but this season the Challenge Cup has been expanded to 54 entrants with the inclusion of under-20 teams of the twelve Scottish Premiership clubs, four teams each from the Highland League and Lowland League and two teams each from the NIFL Premiership and Welsh Premier League.
Rangers are the current cup holders after beating Peterhead in the 2015/16 final.
54 clubs entered the competition this season but Bala Town and The New Saints received a bye to the fourth round and are now two of the remaining 16 teams looking to secure a place in the quarter final.
Alloa Athletic are a semi-professional club (like Bala) that compete in the Scottish League One (third tier) following the club’s relegation from the Championship last season.
Alloa is a town in Clackmannshire with a population of around 19,000, which is ten times more than the 1,900 that live in Bala.
‘The Wasps’ have reached the Challenge Cup final on three occasions, winning the cup in 1999 and losing in the final in 2001 and 2005.
In 1999, Alloa won the cup on penalties after a 4-4 draw after extra time with Inverness CT.
Alloa lost 2-1 to Airdrieonians in the 2001 final, and lost 4-0 against Livingston two years ago in the 2014/15 final.
News broke out this week that Alloa manager Jack Ross had accepted the managerial job at St. Mirren and will leave the club after this weekend’s game at Bala.
Bala and Alloa’s recent records are similar as both teams have managed only one win in their last five games in all competitions so the two sides will be hungry for a win on Saturday.
Greig Spence will be the one to watch for Alloa as the 24 year old striker has already bagged 10 goals this season (6 league, 3 League Cup, 1 Challenge Cup).
Wales v Scotland
It’s seven years since a club from the WPL has faced a Scottish opposition, since Llanelli met Motherwell in the Europa League qualifiers in 2009.
Llanelli won the first leg (0-1) and lost (0-3) in the second leg at home.
Three of Bala’s current squad were in that Llanelli side – Ashley Morris, Chris Venables and Stuart Jones played in both legs, as well as Bangor City manager, Andy Legg.
Stuart Jones scored the only goal of the first leg, heading in from a corner at the Excelsior Stadium.
2009/10: Motherwell 0-1 Llanelli / Llanelli 0-3 Motherwell (Motherwell won 3-1 on aggregate)
1999/00: Cwmbrân 0-6 Celtic / Celtic 4-0 Cwmbrân (Celtic won 10-0 on aggregate)
1997/98: Inter Cable Tel 0-3 Celtic / Celtic 5-0 Inter Cable Tel (Celtic won 8-0 on aggregate)
1996/97: Aberdeen 3-1 Barry Town / Barry Town 3-3 Aberdeen (Aberdeen won 6-4 on aggregate)
The Welsh and Scottish national sides have met 14 times – Wales won 7 (50%), Scotland won 5 (36%), drawn 2 (14%).
Wales have beaten Scotland 2-1 in their last two meetings – both in the 2014 World Cup Qualifiers.
The New Saints are the other WPL that will compete in the Irn-Bru Challenge Cup as they prepare for a trip to face Scottish League Two side Forfar Athletic to fight for a place in the quarter final as Craig Harrison dreams of going one step further than last season’s treble as TNS set their sights on the ‘Quadruple’!
Bala Town v Alloa Athletic – LIVE on S4C this Saturday, 8 October at 12:30.