THE first of Sunday’s semi-finals is an all-Second Division clash as Arbroath travel to Palmerston to face Queen of the South. Queens are the only side from the four semi-finalists who have previously reached the final of the tournament, having done so three times. Arbroath are playing in the Challenge Cup semi-finals for the first time, and Sunday’s match is their first semi-final of any national tournament since the 1959-60 League Cup; they have never previously reached a national cup final. The winner of this tie will become the first Second Division side to reach the Challenge Cup final since Airdrie United in 2003-04.
Arbroath have already been to Dumfries once this season, and it was a day to forget as Queens trounced them 6-0. Indeed, the Doonhamers are unbeaten in their last six home matches against the Red Lichties. The last time Arbroath won at Palmerston, they partied like it was 1999 – mainly because it was. The sides have met on ten previous occasions in cup competitions and Arbroath have only won one of them, way back in August 1961. Their only previous Challenge Cup meeting saw Queens win 3-2 after extra time at Gayfield in round one in 1996.
The second semi-final sees Cowdenbeath host Partick Thistle live on BBC Alba. Cowden are taking part in their first ever Challenge Cup semi-final and their first national semi-final since the 1970-71 League Cup. Like Arbroath, they have never played in a national cup final. Thistle have reached the semi-final of this tournament on two previous occasions, losing both times. Sunday’s match will be the 40th meeting of the two sides, and Thistle currently have the upper hand with 21 wins to Cowden’s 12. The sides have met twice previous in the Challenge Cup, with Thistle coming out on top both times. The first of these, a 3-2 extra time success in a round one meeting in 1991-92, was Thistle’s last victory at Central Park, although they have only visited twice since then.
There are only two games on the SFL card on Saturday, both in the Third Division. Leaders Queen’s Park will look to tighten their grip on top spot as they host Annan Athletic. Annan have won just once in six trips to Hampden since joining the SFL – that success came in March 2011. This will be the 15th meeting of the sides in all competitions, and the Glaswegians have had the better of the previous encounters with seven wins to Annan’s five. The Spiders have made their best start to a league season since 1999-00, a year in which they won Division Three.
Elgin City host Montrose in what will be their 25th league meeting at Borough Briggs. Montrose had an excellent record in Elgin until recently, but have lost on each of their last five visits. Montrose have gone seven away games without a win – their last success came away to Annan in March.
If you have any particular questions or topics you would like Craig to cover, contact him via Twitter at @SPLstats. Don’t let the name throw you – he also covers the football league too.