Striker Schalk re­minds McIn­tyre of his goalscor­ing abil­ity

The Herald - Herald Sport - - LADBROKES PREMIERSHIP -

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.”

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