Cove Rangers loanee Ross Graham hopes experiencing the rigours of lower league football will stand him in good stead when he returns to parent club Dundee United.
Graham has joined Cove on a season-long loan from the Tannadice club, with the 19-year-old starting in both Betfred Cup matches against Hibernian and Brora Rangers so far.
Graham had been training with United’s first team squad prior to the move, but, having made just two Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer Challenge Cup outings so far, the Blairgowrie-born defender is eager to use the spell at Balmoral Stadium to rack up his playing time.
Graham saw a promising loan spell with Elgin City cut short when the coronavirus pandemic put an end to last season, having made eight appearances after joining the Black and Whites in January.
Having now made the step up to League One, Graham is ready to test himself against the attackers he will face in Scotland’s third-tier.
Graham said: “I have loved coming in and playing the two games so far. The boys have been great and really made me feel at home.
“Being a young player, I just need to get out and play the men’s game and learn the trade in the lower leagues.
“Hopefully I can take that back to United when I go back there. They have just told me to learn to play against different strikers and different systems which I’ll come up against in the lower leagues.
“I will get the experience and then go back to fight for a place there.”
After running Premiership side Hibernian close in a narrow 2-1 home defeat on Saturday, Cove were held to a 2-2 draw by Highland champions Brora Rangers on Wednesday, before going on to claim the bonus point with a 6-5 penalty shoot-out victory.
Paul Hartley opted to rotate his squad for the trip north, with goalscorers Jamie Semple and Rory McAllister among five players drafted in, while skipper Mitch Megginson and midfielder Jamie Masson stayed at home.
Graham feels the two outings will give Hartley’s men a strong foundation to prepare for the start of their League One campaign at home to East Fife on Saturday.
Graham said: “It has been two completely different games.
“On Saturday, against Hibs the ball was on the deck more.
“Brora turned it into a battle on Wednesday, which suited them – it didn’t really suit us and we didn’t really get playing like we could have in the second half. I don’t think we really coped with the conditions.
“We will take it into Saturday and try to kick on from this. We will need to learn how to win dirty because games can be like that sometimes.”
Although Cove relinquished a two-goal lead against Brora at Dudgeon Park, the bonus point means the Aberdeen outfit have taken two points from their opening two fixtures in Group B.
Cove will now play four league fixtures before they complete the section with games away to Dundee and at home to Forfar Athletic next month.
Graham was disappointed his side did not add to their tally against the Cattachs and has called for a more ruthless edge.
He added: “We were disappointed not to take all three points. The extra point is a bonus but it’s not quite the win.
“We should have had the game out of sight in the first half with the chances we had, but we let them back into the game.
“It was disappointing not to come away with the win. We just need to take our chances.”
Meanwhile, Cove have announced loan goalkeeper Ryan Mullen has returned to parent club Celtic after picking up an injury.