THE PARS will be hoping to transfer their momentum in the Championship to the Challenge Cup on Saturday when they visit the Highland League’s second-placed side, Buckie Thistle.

The Jags disposed of Brechin in the first round and victory for the Pars would not be a formality, particularly if players are rested. Nevertheless, Athletic are 3/10 to notch a victory inside 90 minutes; Buckie are 15/2 (Betvictor) and a draw 5/1 (Stan James).

This is a game with which to tread warily at the prices but the Pars can get the job done.

Prediction: Buckie 0 Dunfermline 2.

Betvictor have formed an outright market on the competition and kudos to them for attempting to assess the relative merits of Partick Thistle under-20s, Bray Wanderers, Gap Connah’s Quay and Spartans. Whether Dunfermline’s second favourites tag at 8/1 (behind 4/1 favourites Dundee United) proves to be a total blunder remains to be seen but the price does not cry out to be backed.

The New Saints reached the semi-finals of the competition last season and their bid to emulate that performance begins with a home tie with Livingston (S4C, Sunday 2.45pm). TNS are 8/11 (Betvictor), a draw 11/4 and Livi 7/2.

Scotland are close to a point of no return as they try to keep tabs on Slovakia and Slovenia in World Cup Qualifying Group F’s battle for second place. Victory in Lithuania tomorrow (Friday, Sky Sports Football, 7.45pm) is a must and the Scots are 5/6 (Betway) to get it; Lithuania are 4/1 and a draw 13/5 (Bet365).

Scotland and Lithuania are averaging three goals in their games to date and 7/5 (Bet365) that there are more than 2.5 goals in the contest is worth a look.

Prediction: Lithuania 1 Scotland 2.

ITV have drawn the short straw and are lumbered with Malta versus England as their Friday night offering (7.45pm). Malta, the archetypal minnows of world football, are 90/1 (Ladbrokes/Coral) to pull off a colossal upset; England are 1/20 and a draw 20/1 (Bet365). 90/1 is not too many notches below the price at which one could consider throwing a tenner at but common sense dictates that those investing in England at 1/20 will get a five per cent return on their money.

Prediction: Malta 0 England 3.

Wales and the Republic of Ireland will have their advocates for advancing their claims for automatic qualification from Group D. Wales host Austria where the losing team is likely to have too much ground to make up on the leaders in the remaining matches. Wales are 5/4 (Bet365), a draw 23/10 and Austria 13/5.

The Republic travel to Georgia and are 4/5 (Bet365), the hosts 9/2 and a stalemate 5/2.

Northern Ireland, at 1/16, ought to make short work of San Marino in the other home nation’s game.

Predictions: Wales 1 Austria 0; Georgia 0 Republic of Ireland 1; San Marino 0 Northern Ireland 4.