THE road to the quarter-finals of the William Hill Scottish Cup has not been easy for Albion Rovers.
It has led to ties against such as Motherwell and Stenhousemuir, carrying the SPFL League 2 side away from their familiar routine.
The players will stray into the spotlight on Sunday when they face Rangers in the last eight of the competition, although Rovers have been watched closely already, their midweek draw with Peterhead earned under the scrutiny of television cameras recording material for this weekend's cup coverage.
A tie with Rangers has been such a draw that the subject also followed Rovers all the way to Montrose last Saturday, a match which brought a 2-1 defeat for James Ward's side and a reminder that the league campaign was a side story. The success of Rovers' season is not contingent on the outcome at Ibrox - that will be decided instead in a more provincial setting and that result at Links Park has left the club five points outside the promotion play-off places. It has become more appropriate to say that they are only three days from a first quarter-final in 80 years.
The countdown began for Mark McGuigan as soon as he returned from a cool-down on Saturday as the Rovers striker was asked to warm up a few words about his latest cup outing. The scale of the challenge ahead for his side is great enough that it did not require him to be precise - "It's a massive game" - although McGuigan is confident that he will have the measure of what it will be like to face the League 1 leaders. The striker saw out the full 90 minutes of a 4-0 Ramsdens Cup defeat by Rangers in July.
"It's more a game for the club and for the fans," said McGuigan. "There is a great buzz about the place and everybody has to be realistic and say that our bread and butter is the league; we started the season with the ambition to go up. We're too inconsistent just now but we need to forget about that for a week and focus on Rangers."
McGuigan signed permanently from Partick Thistle in the summer following a sequence of loans and has found League 2 to be a fertile ground, both for ambition and contentment. The 25-year-old has grown closer to the club the further it has seemed from success.
"This is the third tie in a row when we will be underdogs but we have proven that anything can happen if we do ourselves justice," said McGuigan. "To be as far on in the cup with the Rovers is brilliant. The guys have done fantastically well to get us where we are, so it's an occasion that we are going to enjoy.
"But we will not be there just to make up the numbers. Nobody expected us to get anything against Motherwell - it was a case of 'how many are Motherwell going to score?' - but we proved everyone wrong. We're not scared."
Rovers are too far down the road for that now.