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Andy Skinner: Staggies cup dream alive and kicking after ‘dodging bullet’

Andy Skinner reflects as the Staggies Scottish Cup dream continues
Andy Skinner reflects as the Staggies Scottish Cup dream continues

Ross County may just have hurdled one of the trickiest ties they could have faced, as they kept their dreams of Scottish Cup glory alive and kicking.

The Staggies already have a League Cup semi-final against Celtic to look forward to later this month, but their 1-0 defeat of League 1 leaders Dunfermline paved the way for another cup run, with a home tie against either Forfar Athletic or Linlithgow Rose standing in the way of a quarter-final berth.

It would be nothing short of a disaster for Jim McIntyre’s side should they fail to reach the last eight, with Forfar currently just three points above bottom spot in League 1, and Linlithgow Rose among the junior ranks.

Whoever they face, it certainly looks a more straightforward task than that posed by the Pars, who will feel they deserve to be taking their place in round five.

Allan Johnston’s side proved a match for their Premiership opponents, with McIntyre accepting his side ‘dodged a bullet’ in escaping Saturday’s 2-2 draw at East End Park with a replay.

Goalkeeper Scott Fox, although at fault for the Pars’ second goal, was otherwise outstanding in both games and arguably the most crucial factor in the Dingwall side’s progress.

Dunfermline will be playing at a higher level in the near future, with the Fife side currently nine points clear at the top of League 1, and on a 14-match unbeaten league streak. They already look capable of making a big impact in next season’s Championship, with leading scorer Faissal El-Bakhtaoui particularly impressive.

Nevertheless the Staggies held their nerve, with Italian midfielder Rafa De Vita coming off the bench to fire them into the next round.

Their hopes of securing a League Cup final berth will be greatly boosted should leading scorer Liam Boyce return from a broken hand in time for their semi-final encounter against the Hoops on January 31. The Northern Irish attacker was this week named Premiership player of the month for December, during which he netted five goals.

The Staggies could also be boosted by the return of former captain Paul Quinn, who looks set to re-join from Aberdeen following the two sides’ meeting at Victoria Park on Sunday, and the prospect of Quinn pairing up with current skipper Andrew Davies will be an exciting one for County supporters.

While McIntyre’s men have gone through various periods of inconsistency this season, their midweek victory ensures they are still competing well on all three fronts this season, which is a measure of the vast strides they have taken over the last few months.

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