Australian defender Nikola Ujdur would love to go toe-to-toe against Premiership opponents with Caley Thistle in this season’s Scottish Cup.
Firstly though, the centre-half will play his first match in the competition against Lowland League opponents Cowdenbeath at the Caledonian Stadium on Saturday.
The league title winner with Sydney Olympic has heard all about ICT’s run to the Scottish Cup final last season when they were beaten by treble-winners Celtic.
Signed by former boss Billy Dodds in the summer window, Ujdur has been impressive for current manager Duncan Ferguson as a six-game unbeaten run has taken the club from last to seventh in the Championship.
They are just four points from fourth place with a game in hand on Airdrieonians, who occupy that place.
Now he wants to ensure no slip-ups against their unfancied visitors for the chance to meet higher-tier teams with the fourth-round draw set for Sunday evening.
Taking on best would be the ‘dream’
When asked about the potential of meeting a Premiership side further down the line, he said: “These big games are the reason you play football.
“To come up against players who play in the Premiership weekly is the dream.
“We want to compete against those top players and see how we fare.”
Ujdur, who is getting set for his first Scottish winter, has been doing his homework on Cowdenbeath this week and is relishing the chance to play in the competition.
The 24-year-old said: “This will be my first experience of the Scottish Cup and I’m looking forward to it.
“There is always a different atmosphere, so it should be good.”
Greg (27) is an experienced defender and he now joins his brother @ewanmacpherson4 on the Cowden playing roster.
— Cowdenbeath FC (@CowdenbeathFC) November 14, 2023
Hampden cup final still talked about
He’s been hearing from many of his team-mates about going all the way to the Scottish Cup final in June when they lost 3-1 to Celtic but were in the game until late on.
He said: “A few of the players have spoken about their run to the Scottish Cup final and the feeling they had when they walked on to the pitch.
“There was a crowd I believe of around 50,000, with up to 7,000 Inverness fans there.
“There was such a buzz around the stadium.
“Any final is special. but when you play in front of so many people, it will always make it a bit more special.
“It’s exciting when you see the success of the team last season, reaching the final.
“It’s something to drive towards, to try and reach the final again.
“Having seen the success the team had by reaching the final, and doing so well against Celtic, we want to back that up and do that again.
“It would be unreal. Those are the games you play football for.”
𝐍𝐄𝐗𝐓 𝐔𝐏 | @ICTFC
We're in Scottish Cup Third Round action this Saturday as we travel to the Caledonian Stadium to take on the Caley Jags.
Tickets are now on sale from https://t.co/YNFg3bAxoi
🎟️ Adults: £15
🎟️ Concessions: £10
🎟️ Under 12s: FREE (with accompanying adult) pic.twitter.com/dwGVRwZbNY
— Cowdenbeath FC (@CowdenbeathFC) November 22, 2023
Shape reshuffle works for Ujdur
Ferguson recently shook up his team formation from the usual 4-4-1-1 to a 3-5-2.
Ujdur, who plays to the right of the trio alongside Danny Devine and Morgan Boyes, says the shift of shape works well.
He added: “Our culture and playing style are starting to show that we’re a really good ball-playing team.
“All three of us at the back would say we’re seeing more of the ball and we’re playing out from the back, so it has been really good.
“Defensively, we’re not conceding more than one goal most weeks.
“We’ve been really solid defending our box.
“We’re also starting to click up front by looking really dangerous.”
High standards demanded by boss
The influence of former Everton coach and caretaker boss Ferguson, Ujdur believes, is bearing fruit from training ground on to high-pressure games.
He said: “He sets high standards in training and we’re following that.
“Everything we do, from passing drills to possession to games, the standards are up there all the way through.
“That is all starting to translate on game-days.”
Cowdenbeath, meanwhile, have signed experienced right-back Greg MacPherson from Linlithgow Rose.
The brother of main striker Ewan MacPherson could make his debut against Inverness.