Ross County co-manager Steven Ferguson says the return of Chelsea loanee Nathan Baxter has given fellow goalkeeper Ross Laidlaw a fresh fight for the Staggies’ gloves.
Englishman Baxter is back at Victoria Park after recovering from an operation on a dislocated shoulder he underwent shortly after making the season-long loan move to the Staggies in the summer.
Although Baxter’s fellow summer arrival Laidlaw has been first choice throughout the campaign so far, Ferguson says both goalkeepers will have the chance to stake their claim for tomorrow’s Premiership trip to St Mirren.
Ferguson said: “Ross and Nathan have trained exceptionally well. We feel we have two goalkeepers that are more than capable of keeping goal in the Premiership.
“To have Nathan back up to give us that competition for places in the goalkeeping position is ultimately why we brought him to the club.
“Unfortunately we have had to wait to get that competition, but it’s there now.
“The beauty of Nathan coming back into the group is that he has done all his rehab to make him fit to play, not fit to train.
“He has done all the stuff that needed to be done through medical and rehabilitation staff down at Chelsea.
“He’s here and ready to play. He will have a job in getting into the team to compete with Ross Laidlaw for that number one spot.
“That’s exactly where we wanted to be at the start of the season, and thankfully we are now there.
“We feel that will bring the best out in both goalkeepers, and raise the bar in what we are looking for from them.”
Aside from making his own case to start, Ferguson feels Baxter’s return can push former Hibernian goalkeeper Laidlaw to raise his own standards.
Ferguson added: “I think that’s why you have a squad of players, for that competition for places.
“Consciously or not, if players think they are a stick on to play every week they can sometimes let the levels or standards drop.
“If you know there is somebody breathing down your neck to play your position, you would be crazy not to react to that by making sure you give absolutely everything you do.
“The competition for places is what we want – and that’s what we have got.”
County brought in former Wolves goalkeeper Jack Ruddy on a short-term deal until January following Baxter’s injury, with Ferguson revealing he is out of contention at present due to a stomach problem.
Ferguson added: “Jack has had a real problem with a sickness bug. We are trying very hard to get to the bottom of it.
“It’s frustrating for Jack, and for us because we have not been able to call on him.
“Jack’s health is more important at this stage for him, he needs to make sure he gets himself right.”