On Tuesday July 6 2022, Ross County suspended football operations after a “number of players and coaching staff test positive for coronavirus”. Two days later it was announced that we would be unable to fulfil our two opening league cup group stage matches causing the SPFL to award 3-0 victories to both Forfar and Dundee, ending any hope of progression to the next round.
The disappointment of such campaign seemed to spur Malky Mackay and his players on this year as County progressed to the next round, topping Group C with three wins and a bonus point draw.
Winning the group so comfortably, one might assume that it was an easy ride for County but the games themselves tell a different story.
After a 4-1 demolition of Brora Rangers in a friendly a few days before, you would’ve been forgiven for thinking that a competitive match against a team from the same level would push the players on to an even more assured victory. Instead, Sam Urquhart fired Buckie Thistle into the lead ten-minutes early in the second half.
Next up was a home tie against Dunfermline. This was widely considered our hardest game in the group against a side just relegated from the Championship.
Most fans were hoping the team would come out fighting after the previous weeks embarrassment but the performance against the pars could only be described as underwhelming.
Both sides struggled to break their opponents down throughout the 90 minutes and it took a wonderful looping header from Jordy Hiwula to break the deadlock.
On the hottest day ever recorded in the history of Scotland, Malky and his team made the journey down the A9 to face Alloa Athletic. The baking sun provided difficult conditions at the Indodrill stadium as County came away with an unconvincing 2-0 victory.
County opened the scoring 17 minutes in through Josh Sims. Kazeem Olaigbe found space brilliantly on the left wing and teed up his teammate who cushioned his header past the helpless keeper.
Alloa had a glorious chance to equalise when Baldwin pulled down former staggie, Ross MacIver, inside the penalty area. Debutant Jake Eastwood got down well to deny a poor penalty from Conor Sammon.
County’s highlight of the game came through our second of the match deep into stoppage time. The wasps pushed forward to try gain an equaliser but County stood firm and the ball fell t0 Owura Edwards, who drove down the right wing. After a couple of nice passes Dominic Samuel threaded the ball perfectly through the Alloa defence to Jordy Hiwula, who made up for his squandered chance two minutes earlier, by placing the ball into the bottom right corner.
Finally we welcomed league two side East Fife to Dingwall. After three fairly disappointing encounters it was time for the boys to step up and put on a show. And that they did.
Victor Loturi gave us the first glimpse of what he can offer the next three years as he curled the ball beautifully into the top right corner to open the scoring. Ben Purrington followed it up with a nice right-footed finish into the bottom left corner to double County’s advantage before half-time.
It was into the second half when the Staggies stepped up a gear however and relentlessly attacked the fifers like a heard of tigers on a helpless gazelle. The ruthless forward play was mainly driven by new signing William Akio who continuously drove down the right wing providing crosses and cut backs to be fired into the back of the net.
County finished the game 7-0 victors with the pick of the bunch coming from Owura Edwards. The on-loan winger cut inside onto his right foot and rifled his shot into the top corner, an early contender for goal of the season.
Despite such poor opposition, the East Fife game showed that the new signings know how to find the back of the net. Our general play going forward to cut them open was superb and if we could play like that every weekend we should have no problems scoring goals against premiership opposition.
Our last 16 tie takes place on August 31 when we will play host to the current holders of the competition, Celtic. The game will be broadcast live on Premier Sports 1.