Ayr's Mark Roberts hopes to cause another cup upset

By Alasdair LamontBBC Scotland
Ayr United striker Mark Roberts
Roberts aims to sink former club Kilmarnock at Hampden Park

Ayr United frontman Mark Roberts accepts a repeat of their League Cup heroics in the semi-final against Kilmarnock may be asking too much.

But that will not stop the former Killie striker doing his utmost to eliminate his old side.

The First Division side have knocked Hearts, St Mirren and Inverness Caley Thistle en route to the last four.

"It's going to be difficult, but the pressure's all on them," said Roberts.

Roberts spent eight years at Rugby Park, making more than 100 appearances for Kilmarnock.

As a 21-year-old, he was left out of the squad that won the 1997 Scottish Cup and now, at 36, time is running out for Roberts to get his hands on a major trophy.

Although only a spectator when Killie beat Falkirk in the final 1-0 at Ibrox, Roberts says such occasions are what every player strives for.

"It was a fantastic day, obviously a great day for Kilmarnock, especially with me being a local boy, it was great to be involved with that," he told BBC Scotland.

"That seems like another lifetime ago, but my thoughts now are obviously with Ayr and beating Kilmarnock on Saturday."

For many of his team-mates at the First Division's only part-time club, the semi-final against local rivals represents a first shot at glory.

"The guys are buzzing, it's a massive game for us - a massive game for the club - and the first time for a lot of the guys to go to Hampden and play in such a big game, so we're all looking forward to it," Roberts added.

"Most of the guys have got jobs and they go and do nine-to-five and then come and train for a couple of hours at night, but this is the bonus. You work hard all week and we've got our rewards of getting to this semi-final."

His goals in an Ayr jersey - among them the winning penalty to beat Hearts - have helped him cross the Ayrshire divide, though that has not endeared him to the Kilmarnock fans who used to cheer him.

"I get pelters all the time," he laughed. "It's constant - I'm only two minutes away from Rugby Park - but it's all in good fun.

"But everybody probably thinks it's only Rangers and Celtic who've got the hatred, but when you stay here you know how much they actually hate each other, which adds to it.

"It's not nice to say the hatred makes it better atmosphere, but it gives it that edge."

Having beaten three Scottish Premier League sides to make it this far in the tournament, Roberts knows the odds are against Ayr adding a fourth scalp to their list.

But he believes the experience of those victories - particularly the quarter-final win over St Mirren - stands them in good stead.

"We sat in and fought our corner for a while and then we actually started catching them on the break later in the game," he said of that triumph.

"Kilmarnock will probably be pretty similar. They play the same style of football and that's the way we're going to go into the game on Saturday, and we'll see how it pans out.

"Nobody expects us to get a result so if we can maybe keep them quiet for a wee while and then later on they'll maybe get a wee bit nervous and we'll come into the game hopefully."

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