Ross County won The ALBA Challenge Cup for the second time in their history as the 20th Cup Final of the SFL knockout competition was played out last Sunday in spring sunshine at St. Johnstone’s McDiarmid Park as opposed to the usual grey autumn skies that engulf the Cup Final of this competition.
Jimmy Calderwood’s side belied the form that sees them stuck in relegation trouble to triumph in front of 5,124 fans thanks to first half goals from Andrew Barrowman and Iain Vigurs.
The trophy was heading to Dingwall after only eight minutes when David Lilley played the ball back to shot stopper David Hutton and rather than kicking clear as Barrowman closed in, Hutton tried to control the ball on the six yard line. The striker’s presence unnerved the Doonhamer 'keeper and after feigning to return the ball to Lilley, he seemed to freeze and that allowed the County striker to rob him and run the ball into the unguarded net.
County increased their lead six minutes from the break when Michael Gardyne got free on the right and his low cross was dummied by Barrowman and Vigurs arrived right on cue to side-foot home a left foot shot.
Former Birmingham City, Walsall, Kilmarnock, Queen of the South and Inverness Caledonian Thistle front man Barrowman was delighted to talk about his side’s success
He said: “It was a great win. At the start of the season, it is the cup competition that a First Division side is most likely to win and thankfully, we did that. The lads were magnificent and hopefully, we will use this as a springboard for the five Cup Finals we have coming up in the First Division.
“We have to hope to kick on from here. It would have been nice if this had been a League game and we got that result. Being a Cup Final, it was a high pressure game but it was not the same pressure as a League match. If we play like we did in this Cup Final in the next five League games, I am sure we will survive.”
The 26-year-old added: “We had a sense of freedom in The ALBA Challenge Cup Final and were able to express ourselves. We have the players that can do that really effectively in one off games especially in a game where both teams set out to win. Where we have struggled is in games where teams sit in against us.”
Barrowman’s goal was more one in a hundred as opposed to one in a million as he explained: “I saw the ball getting passed back to their goalkeeper and I chased it in like I have done 100 times this season. I took it off David Hutton and went through on goal with the ball and then my only concern was the pitch.
"There had been a lot of talk about how poor it was in the lead up to the game but it was not as bad as I thought it would be. I knew we were on our way after I scored.
“It was my tenth goal of the season and probably the easiest. I know David and he is a really good lad so I felt for him but we never looked back after that goal and thoroughly deserved our win.”
The striker was involved in the second goal as well when Michael Gardyne crossed from the right and Barrowman dummied the ball with team-mate Vigurs arriving right on time to side foot home a fine left foot shot.
“I left it as I heard a shout,” said Barrowman before adding, “I don’t normally leave anything in the box and I have told Iain it is the first and last time I will be leaving anything!
It was a good team goal but I was going to control it but pulled my foot away at the last minute.
“We were fairly comfortable after that. We knew that they would come back at us at the start of the second half but we handled that and towards the end, looked the more likely side to score.
" It was great as I had my mum, dad and sister as well as a few pals watching so it was a great occasion.”
Barrowman praised recently appointed Manager Calderwood as he said: “The Manager sent us out to attack from the first whistle. He wants us to win games and not look for draws and he drills that into us.
"That suits the players we have and a Cup Final game was perfect for that as Queens went out to win as well. There was plenty of space available to play football.”
As well as enjoying the day, Barrowman is hoping that The ALBA Challenge Cup win brings a benefit in the League as he said: “It is a huge boost to us, the club and the fans and we will hopefully take confidence from to help us move away from relegation trouble.
“Our success has been sinking in over the past few days as we have been reading the papers and watching the highlights. It is games like that one that you are in football for.”
The winners’ medal that Barrowman left Perth with was the second he has picked up in his time at Dingwall as he advised: “I picked up a Second Division Championship winners' medal with County in season 2007/08 but I am in no hurry to be looking for another one of those. It would be a travesty if we went down with the players we have but we are the only ones that can turn things round.”
Barrowman’s contract with County ends in May however, he has remained patient in terms of his future as he said: “I can understand the club’s predicament in terms of new contracts and waiting to see where we end up before starting discussions. Whatever happens will happen and I am fine with that just now.
“Concentrating in staying in the division is the only thing now and we were straight back into things quickly. We had a small celebration back at Inverness on Sunday night, had Monday off but back in working on Tuesday for a big game against Partick Thistle this weekend.
"We cannot rest on our laurels and we are all really looking forward to it and that is a wee change from recent games.”
Barrowman added: “Partick will be a tough game especially at Firhill. They are a very well organised side but we will go there with confidence.”
The West of Scotland born player added: “This is a home game for me so hopefully, I will have a few supporters down there enjoying themselves again.”