Ross County manager Stuart Kettlewell feels a strong run in the Betfred Cup would take on added significance for the Staggies this season.
County will claim top spot in Group D if they defeat League Two side Stirling Albion at Victoria Park tomorrow, which would secure a place in Sunday’s last-16 draw.
Given the struggles experienced by all clubs during the coronavirus pandemic, Kettlewell feels the prospect of reaching the latter stages of the competition could provide a much needed lift.
Kettlewell said: “There’s an added incentive in both cup competitions during this pandemic.
“To everybody, the opportunity to go further in cup competitions will mean that bit more just because we know how difficult this time is.
“We’re all trying to get a lift as players, management, but especially for the supporters – you want the supporters to have something else to look forward to in such a tough period.
“Who knows whether further down the line they will be able to follow the journey, but certainly the message from me to the players is to be competitive in every competition we take part in.
“The Betfred Cup is the one in front of us at the minute, so we have to give it everything we’ve got and see where it takes us.”
Despite starting the group campaign with a draw against League One side Montrose, in which the Staggies claimed the bonus point with a penalty shoot-out victory, the Staggies have gone on to defeat Arbroath and Elgin City to put themselves in the driving seat to qualify.
Kettlewell is pleased his side remain on course to achieve their objective, adding: “We had a hitch against Montrose, but ever since this competition started it has just been about winning every game and ensuring that we finish top of the group.
“That was our task from the beginning, and we had a potential banana skin away at Elgin to negotiate, but now we get ourselves back home.
“Stirling Albion have started the season well, so we’ll go into that game with exactly the same level of respect as we did against Elgin.
“The task for the players is to finish off the job and become the top side in the group.”
County will once again have 300 supporters at tomorrow’s game, having successfully staged two previous matches with the same capacity against Celtic and Livingston.
Kettlewell feels the addition of supporters has already made a difference to the Dingwall matchday experience, and he hopes the club are given the opportunity to increase the figure in the coming weeks.
Kettlewell added: “This will be the third game with fans.
“Even around the manager’s office and main foyer, there’s a difference there. A wee bit more of a buzz about the place.
“After Celtic, Aberdeen game didn’t feel like a game because there was no buzz.
“It felt like that training game environment.
“I saw a massive difference about the place with 300 fans in staff and players. Hopefully we get that feeling again on Saturday and it’s a good one for Stirling Albion as well to come and play in front of supporters.”
“For me, it makes it a proper football game. We need supporters in the ground and hopefully we do this right again on Saturday and it gives us a chance to build on it.
“Hopefully we can start to increase the numbers.”