Hamilton Academical travelled to Coatbridge in the summer for their BetFred Cup tie against the Wee Rovers, but, it was the Premiership side who stuttered to a 4-4 draw after 90 minutes. Taking confidence from that match, Albion manager Brian Kerr is confident as he leads his side into Saturday’s William Hill Scottish Cup tie versus St Johnstone.
Despite two divisions difference, Kerr is not treating this match any lighter than he would a regular league encounter.
“To people, I think they view this as a ‘free-game’ for us, but, I don’t look at it like that. I understand why people say you can afford to lose this match as nobody will ask the question if you do, but, for me, the way I am and the way I will continue to be is to go in looking to and trying to win the game and I will honestly believe we can until otherwise proven different.
We will have a week of training this week where we will organise the players so they know what to expect from St Johnstone and so they also know what we [as a management staff] expect from them. We are not going to sit-in and try steal a 1-0, as we did versus Hamilton earlier in the season, which ended 4-4. This is how we play; the players I brought in was for this reason and this style will continue to be in place.”
The former Newcastle and Motherwell midfielder feels it is the physical aspect of the game which his Albion side may struggle with the most.
“I think that will be the main key. We have a few players in our team with good experience and who have played at a higher level: we will have 5 or 6 who also haven’t experienced this type of game before. St Johnstone’s physicality will shine through at some points during the game, but, when that does occur, we just need to make sure we continue doing the right things; keeping the ball and not giving them it back as we don’t want an afternoon of slog where we struggle to win it back. You often see that when a Premiership side faces a lower-league opponent, that they can keep the ball better but that isn’t how we want it to be, so, when we get the ball, I want us to show off ourselves and have that positive mentality where they will play the ball forward, try create chances and look to score goals. It’ll be difficult, I know that. They have a good group of players who have proven on their day, they are more than capable of beating anybody, but, they have also proven that they are able to be got at.”
Kerr agrees that home advantage may be a leveller for the Coatbridge side in this tie.
“I am sure St Johnstone haven’t played on a pitch or in the surroundings of Cliftonhill, like they will on Saturday. It isn’t the most welcoming away team dressing room and these wee things sometimes help against players who are used to travelling to arenas such as Parkhead and Ibrox. It will be an eye-opener for them, but, it will only become a leveller if we go out there in the early stages and get in their faces; you want them to go “wow, they are up for this!” as then they will know it won’t be a comfortable afternoon for them. They will come into the match with their own ideas about the pitch, the dressing room and the facilities but we need to prove to them on the park that we aren’t going to roll over, either.”
With the Wee Rovers struggling near the bottom of League One, a victory on Saturday could really lift the mood around the camp according to the 3-time capped Scotland international.
“I think Saturday could be a real, massive, turning point for ourselves. If we can win through, then, financially, it’d be great for the club as it would give us a very welcome boost. There’s no hiding the fact that the club aren’t in a great way, so, this would be a big one if we can get through this game. We know what the impact of a win could do for us both on and off the park, hence the reason why I feel it isn’t a ‘free-game’. This means a lot to everyone involved within the club, both on the pitch and in the directors’ box as well.”
Kerr will need to do without top scorer Alan Trouten, however, as the 24-goal midfielder sits out through suspension.
“I don’t think any team would like to lose a player like Alan, especially with the amount of goals he’s contributed so far this season. Add Mikey [Hopkins] on to that too who is a valuable squad player who has played his part this season as well, it is frustrating and disappointing as we already have a small and tight squad. To lose two players due to red cards [both against Forfar last weekend for ‘violent conduct’] which I don’t believe are, it makes Saturday’s match even more difficult for us.”