BENBURB's management team are praying the wintry weather relents to save them from a goalkeeping crisis for tomorrow's Emirates Junior Cup tie with holders Shotts.

Hannah Park insiders reckon the rise in temperatures has come too late to thaw out their pitch and have it deemed playable for the fourth round fixture.

That was not the news Bens manager Frank Lovering and No.2 Lee Barr wanted to hear after learning that goalkeeper Robert Tiropoulos will be available for only two more Saturdays before undergoing surgery on a troublesome hip.

Further postponements to the tie may mean that Bens have to throw in an untried youngster for a crucial match with their regular No.1 sidelined for the rest of the season.

"To say Robert's news came as a bit of a bombshell would be putting it mildly," said Barr.

"In fairness he has complained for the past month about feeling discomfort and pain after taking part in games, however neither Frank or I were aware he had taken things to another level by seeing a specialist about his problem.

"Now he is facing an operation followed by several months of recuperation before putting the gloves back on again. That's a huge dilemma given our only other goalkeeper is an untried juvenile lad who has yet to play a competitive game for us.

"Throwing him in at the deep end against Shotts if there are further postponements just doesn't bear thinking about."

The famous old Govan side could give a start to newcomers Jamie Donnachie and James Callaghan who signed on the dotted line at the start of this week.

However, there is no such rush to snap up recently released Kilbirnie Ladeside midfielder Tom Morrow who has been training at Tinto Park. He is cup-tied and unavailable for the trip through to the remote Lanarkshire outpost.

Barr added: "Jamie is a promising young striker from Clydeside Under-21s while James is a former Bens player who has been out in Australia and got in touch on his return.

"They are welcome additions to our squad which is in much better shape for going up against a team of the calibre of Shotts than when the draw was originally made."

The vastly experienced Barr did not hesitate in pointing to Shotts midfielder Mark Sideserf as the opposition danger man.

He said: "We know the importance of stopping him from dictating play and we have plans to nullify his influence, but it will be easier said than done on the wide open spaces of Hannah Park.

"He's having a fantastic season and has developed into one of the best left-sided midfielders in the Super Premier. I think it's only a matter of time before he makes the step up to greater things."

Barr is strongly urging his charges to believe they can pull off a major cup upset and knock out the holders.

He said: "We were similar outright underdogs when facing Shotts at Tinto in the Central League Cup semis just a couple of seasons ago when they needed a last-minute goal to scrape a 1-0 victory.

"It will be a huge ask of our guys to match up with them but Frank and I believe we have players who can cause them problems so we are going there looking to win the tie and book a place in the last 16."

Shotts were in midweek friendly action against a youthful Queen's Park side in a game won 1-0 by the Junior outfit thanks to Alan McKenzie's goal.

Boss Tony McInally said: "It was just what we needed to shake away the cobwebs and hone match fitness levels after recent postponements.

"It was important to get ourselves in the best possible shape for taking on the Bens and I say that even though the chances of tomorrow's game going ahead are slim."

Away from the cup spotlight there are a number of crucial Stagecoach League fixtures taking place, most notably in the Super First Division where new signing Chris Hamilton is likely to make his home debut for Kilbirnie Ladeside – who can go top with a victory – against Maybole.

Cambuslang Rangers can return to the Central Second Division summit if they take all three points from their short hop to face Vale of Clyde.