TEAM OF THE ROUND - ROSS COUNTY
Ross County’s Second Round 2-1 win over SPL Hamilton Academical at their own Victoria Park Ground on 25th August quite correctly earned the Dingwall side the honour of being awarded The Co-operative Insurance Cup ‘Team of the Round’.
Derek Adams’ side were the pick of the winners from the ten ties played and won through thanks to a first half goal from Paul Di Giacomo and a second half strike from Richard Brittain with Hamilton’s late counter from Simon Mensing only securing some consolation for Billy Reid’s side.
Adams, the youngest manager in The Scottish Football League at the age of 34, said, “It was a great match for us and one that we played very well in. It restarted the good run after a blip against Raith Rovers in the League three days before and to beat an SPL side is a tremendous achievement. We were on top form on that night and deserved to win and it has to be the highlight of our season so far.”
Asked if he had been worried about Hamilton forcing themselves back onto level terms after Mensing’s goal, Adams said, “Thankfully, they scored with the last kick of the game so there was no time to worry about that.”
Adams, who spent the majority of his career playing in the SPL for Motherwell, was invited to give his thoughts on the difference between the two Leagues and commented, “There is a gap off the field in a financial sense, which is wider than the gap between the teams on the pitch. Clubs in the First Division do have an advantage of sorts in that every game they play in is extremely competitive. There are a high number of good teams in the First Division, who could all claim to be favourites for promotion, and that just shows you the nature of the contests that you have to play in every week in the League.”
“All the First Division sides will have taken heart from how well Hamilton have done since they were promoted over a year ago and will be keeping a close eye on how St. Johnstone fare this season. The Co-operative Insurance Cup is great as it gives First Division teams a chance to progress in a one-off situation, however your form over the thirty six League games will determine how good a side you really are.”
The Co-operative Insurance Cup win is all the more commendable when you consider that there was a substantial turnaround in Adams’ squad this summer, with the players moving out including goalkeeper Derek Soutar, defenders Mark McCulloch, Andy Dowie and Stuart Golabek, midfielder Ritchie Hart and the trio of attackers Dyron Daal, Sean Higgins and John Stewart.
Moving in to Dingwall was Michael McGovern for ‘between the sticks’ duty, defender Gary Miller, the industrious Stuart Kettlewell in midfield and the new attacking trio of Garry Wood, Ian Vigurs and Paul di Giacomo.
These moves have given the Ross County team a very youthful look with the oldest players in the team now aged just 27 although Dundee United should not be taken in by the youthful features of their opponents in the Third Round with Adams saying, “We might have a young squad but we have a lot of players with experience of playing in the First Division and the SPL. The players have gelled very quickly and the goals from Paul di Giacomo have certainly helped especially when you consider he played a couple of games when he was not fully fit. All the new signings and the existing players have contributed positively this season and long may that continue.”
Facing the beaten finalists in this competition from season 2007/08 does not worry Adams too much with the manager saying, “It is not very often a top six side from the SPL visits Dingwall so it will be a great occasion and a fantastic test for the players and me.”
PLAYER OF THE ROUND - DAVID WEATHERSTON
Queen of the South’s jet paced striker David Weatherston was awarded The Co-operative Insurance Cup Player of the Round after his two goal salvo saw off Partick Thistle at Firhill to send his side through to their Third Round clash with Rangers.
The former Queen’s Park and St. Johnstone striker looks set to make this the season the one he throws off his super-sub tag and grabs a starting place with his manager Gordon Chisholm saying, “David is maturing all the time as a player and he has the one thing that all defenders fear, his electric pace. He has added a great deal of composure to his game and who knows, he may yet start against Rangers.”
Facing up to Walter Smith’s side would be a first for 23-year-old Weatherston who said, “I have never played against either of the Old Firm so this will be a first for me. I am really enjoying myself at Queen of the South, I am settled at the club and have just extended my contract by a further year. We have a good pool of players but I know I need to keep on delivering to stake my claim for a starting place.”
The Co-operative Insurance Cup is a happy tournament for the striker who said, “I have enjoyed The Co-operative Insurance Cup against an SPL club before as I was part of the Queen’s Park team that defeated Aberdeen in a penalty shoot-out three years ago. That was a great night although I was substituted just before the end and never got to take one of the spot kicks. I would settle for the same against Rangers.”
YOUNG PLAYER OF THE ROUND - PAUL HANLON
Hibernian’s 19-year-old left back Paul Hanlon was named as The Co-operative Insurance Cup Young Player of the Second Round, following his excellent performance in the Easter Road side’s 3-0 win over Second Division Brechin City on 26th August.
The Edinburgh born youngster was delighted to pick up his trophy saying, “I am absolutely delighted to be receiving this award as it is the first honour I have earned in professional football. I thought I had played well that night and it is good to know that other people thought I had too.”
Hanlon charged up the left flank all night from his defensive base, and he also found time to hit the net in 55 minutes for Hibs’ third goal. Hanlon remembers his strike well, “I had the ball on the left wing, cut in past a defender and shot from about 25 yards out with my right foot. It was a good moment especially as it was with my weaker foot.”
The youngster, who joined Hibs as a 14-year-old, burst onto the scene just over a year ago, when he scored against Falkirk at Easter Road in a League game. His development continued with a short spell on loan at ironically, Hibs’ opponents in The Co-operative Insurance Cup Third Round on Tuesday night, St. Johnstone, when they were leading the way in the First Division last season.
Hanlon, who has been capped by Scotland three times at Under-21 level, said, “Unfortunately, I only managed to play twice with St. Johnstone as I went there in January and a couple of games were postponed. I enjoyed it and it was no surprise to me when they were promoted as they had players of SPL quality at the club already.”
Hanlon’s loyalty is very firmly to Hibs with The Co-operative Insurance Cup award winner saying, “I was delighted for the people at Perth when they won promotion but I will be looking to beat them on Tuesday night.”