Striker Schalk reminds McIntyre of his goalscoring ability
IT IS fair to say there is competition for places at Ross County. Just ask Alex Schalk. When the Dutch goalscorer netted in memorable fashion against Celtic in the shock League Cup semifinal victory at Hampden, he might have expected to earn a starting spot in the next couple of league outings. Instead, after facing Linlithgow Rose in the Scottish Cup, it was back to the substitutes’ bench for the former Holland U21s striker as box office signing David Goodwillie claimed centre stage.
Saturday’s recall, then, was welcome – and an opportunity the ex-Go Ahead Eagles man grabbed with the opening goal and another thoroughly impressive performance.
One of five able strikers now resident in Jim McIntyre’s squad, Schalk naturally has personal preoccupations but is nothing if not a team player.
With a historic Hampden Park trip looming in the mid-March final against Hibernian, County’s aforementioned competitiveness is only going to heighten, but Schalk was quick to emphasise the unity driving the Dingwall team onwards on three domestic fronts.
“Our response to going a man down against Hamilton was amazing. The spirit was fantastic,” Schalk stressed.
“Ian McShane was man of the match, without question, but we all could have been man of the match. Our defence was so important, with Scott Fox outstanding in goal and all of the lads throwing themselves into tackles and putting bodies on the line. We’re all playing very well. Our team bonding is very good at the moment, and it is hard to put into words just how strong the group spirit is. It was a fantastic team effort to not only hold out, but to win the game with 10 men.”
Schalk’s diving header on the stroke of half time served as a timely reminder to manager Jim McIntyre, if one was needed, of just what a diverse group of strikers he possesses.
Liam Boyce is the clever, bustling goalscorer with international class. The injured Craig Curran offers great work rate and intelligent link play. Brian Graham is the big target man with clever flicks and touches, who makes the ball stick in the attacking areas.
Goodwillie has already shown hints he can re-emerge from the shadows he found himself in at Aberdeen.
Schalk, perhaps the least known of the five, is offering great energy, mobility, skill and prowess in and around the penalty area. “I think I did well a couple of weeks ago when I started against Celtic,” Schalk said. “I feel like I did pretty well but I had two games on the bench against Hearts and then Celtic again.
“I’ve done well when I’ve come on and I’ve kept training hard and performing well every day. I’m delighted the manager gave me another shot and I think I did a good job. I was a bit unlucky to be subbed off but I understand that, because it was a tactical decision to bring on another defender.
“It’s always disappointing to be dropped. But I need to just keep on going and working hard, because eventually my chance will come again, and so it did. I’m delighted that we won, that was the most important thing.”