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Penalty practice paid off for Caley Thistle says Scottish Cup hero Nathan Austin

Nathan Austin rolls home the decisive penalty against Ross County in 2019.
Nathan Austin rolls home the decisive penalty against Ross County in 2019.

Nathan Austin reckons Caley Thistle did the hard yards to be penalty-perfect in Tuesday’s Scottish Cup win over Ross County.

The Caley Jags scored all five spot-kicks in the shootout, with Austin rolling home the fifth and decisive one to earn Inverness a quarter-final tie with Dundee United.

But it was manager John Robertson testing his players from 15 yards – rather than the regulation 12 – in training that set them up for success at the Caledonian Stadium.

Jordan White, Coll Donaldson, Sean Welsh and Liam Polworth also tucked their penalties away, with the only miss on either side coming from Declan McManus, who was foiled by Mark Ridgers.

It was a short exercise at the end of a training session but Austin said Robertson’s clever thinking clearly paid dividends.

He said: “We worked on them from further out, to make sure we hit the corners to beat the goalkeepers. You can see with the quality of the penalties that it worked.

“It’s psychological. If you’re from 15 yards out it’s almost not a penalty. If you’re taking it from 12 yards, you can get lucky if the keeper goes the wrong way. From further out, you feel you have to get it in the corners and you saw that with the penalties. It obviously worked.

“It was just a 10-15 minute thing at the end of training. The manager has maybe done it before and five out of five penalties doesn’t really happen that often.

Austin wheels away in celebration.

“I felt confident in myself and the boys had done brilliant to score the four before. We’d practised them through the week and I stuck to the same side. It wasn’t my best but I went in.”

It puts Inverness into the last eight of the competition for the first time since 2016, when they were beaten by Hibernian in a replay in the Highland capital in their defence of the trophy.
A visit to Tannadice awaits on Sunday March 3, live on BBC Scotland, with the prize of a Hampden Park semi-final at stake for the victors.

Austin added: “The last season and a half we’ve done well against Dundee United. They’ve spent a lot of money in January but you saw how determined we were on Tuesday night and we seem to play well in the bigger games.

“It’s more the performances against them (County) this season – we’d not won in four. It gave us the belief. We didn’t put any pressure on ourselves and we knew our performances deserved more than draws this season. We never gave up and could have nicked it before it went to penalties. Over the two legs I think we deserved to win.

“It’s a bit of a relief to be honest. The celebrations showed how much it meant to us and we’re delighted to be through.”

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