Scottish Challenge Cup: Boreham Wood and Sutton United set for debuts

Sutton United manager Paul Doswell
Paul Doswell's Sutton United were invited to participate in the Scottish Challenge Cup after finishing third in the National League last season

For clubs outside the Premier League, the chance of European football is an impossible pipe dream.

Readers of a certain age will remember the Anglo-Italian Cup in the 1970s or its brief revival in the 1990s, pitting second-tier English sides against Italian Serie B clubs, while Wigan Athletic were the last non-top-flight English club to take part in the Europa League five years ago - qualifying via their FA Cup triumph over Manchester City but going out at the group stage.

Two non-league clubs, Boreham Wood and Sutton United, will embark on their own European adventure (of sorts) when they participate in the Scottish Challenge Cup this weekend.

The National League pair will become the first English sides to play in the competition, which also includes Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) clubs, Scottish Premiership Under-21 sides and two representatives each from Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Wales.

"It's magnificent that I've got the club into Europe," Boreham Wood manager Luke Garrard joked.

"It's a competition we want to progress in. I think it's prestigious for the club, the fact we're playing in this Challenge Cup for the first time in English history."

Last month's draw could have thrown up ties with Londonderry-based Coleraine, Welsh Premier League champions The New Saints, or a match against Scottish opposition.

Boreham Wood were handed a home tie against Scottish Championship side Dunfermline Athletic on Saturday (13:00 BST), while Sutton United were drawn away to Scottish League One club Airdrieonians.

"It's a competition where you could be going to any country within the British Isles," U's boss Paul Doswell told BBC Radio London.

"There is a natural rivalry between England and Scotland. It is unusual for us and is something different for the players."

Sutton count cost of participation

The 844-mile round trip from Gander Green Lane to Airdrieonians has presented logistical challenges for Sutton, who are seventh in the National League table.

Their players will travel to Glasgow via train on Friday and stay in a Clydebank hotel overnight, and then fly back south from Edinburgh after the tie on Saturday (15:00 BST).

Doswell and his assistant Ian Baird will catch a plane from Southampton on the morning of the game but then return with the squad.

"It is a bit of 'Planes, Trains and Automobiles'external-link for us," Doswell said.

"David Mathers, our director, who deals with all travel arrangements, has gone above and beyond.

"It has proven to be relatively expensive as well, but part of being in the competition is accepting where you are going to travel."

But what of their chances of progression? Will Sutton's adventure into continental competition bring them success or leave them with nothing but a handful of air miles?

"Airdrieonians look decent in the games I have watched - like a Conference National or League Two team - but two or three teams they have played would not be much above Ryman Premier in my opinion," Doswell added.

"They have got players who have represented Scotland and played in the Premiership for Hearts.

"It is not going to be an easy game by any stretch of the imagination and we will do well to get through to the next round."

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