THORN Athletic begin 2022 with a long trip to the north-east to face Cowie Thistle in the fifth round of the Scottish Cup on Saturday.

However, the arduous coach journey is only the first hurdle that head coach Johnny McEwan and his players will have to overcome, as their opponents sit in sixth place in a highly-competitive Aberdeenshire AFA Premier Division.

McEwan said: “This is going to be a challenging match for a number of reasons. Firstly, the journey and ensuring we get there in good shape. Then the fact we are facing a very difficult opponent immediately after the festive break.

“Any away ties always come with their challenges but one this distance away presents more issues, especially with Covid still hanging around.

"We have managed to get a few sessions under our belts and hopefully we will have a good squad available for the trip.

"We desperately want to keep our run in the competition going and use it as a springboard in the league.”