EMIRATES CUP: Lok boss says Ross can call the Shotts

Pollok boss John Richardson is not surprised at how midfield dynamo Ross Hepburn has adapted to playing in top-flight Junior football.

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Ross Hepburn (No.8) has been outstanding for Pollok
Ross Hepburn (No.8) has been outstanding for Pollok

The 23-year-old will be one of the first names on Rich's teamsheet for tomorrow's Emirates Scottish Cup clash with holders Shotts Bon Accord, yet he only stepped up to the Newlandsfield club from Central Second Division Rossvale at the start of this season.

The Lok gaffer admitted: "Ross is not someone who has a lot to say in and about the dressing room, but engage him in conversation and you can sense right away that he doesn't lack confidence.

"And that's how it should be when you consider he was one of a crop of highly-rated prospects on Celtic's books for two years before a free transfer saw him drop out of the football picture.

"His qualities resurfaced during a short playing stint under John Mitchell and I at Rob Roy, so I had no hesitation in signing him for Pollok once I was alerted to the fact he was back on the Junior scene.

"Ross might go almost unnoticed, however he does all his talking on the pitch and to my mind he has undoubtedly been one of our unsung heroes and a must-pick on any big-game occasions.

"Carlo Monti's goals and big Steff Reilly's ball-winning qualities have probably caught the eye of supporters, but I believe the midfield combination of Ross, Paul McQuilken and Brian McGinty has been every bit as integral to the successes we have enjoyed."

His comments make it understandable why Richardson is sweating on the fitness of the experienced McGinty, who was sidelined for last weekend's 1-0 defeat by Clydebank with a hamstring strain, and his selection thoughts have been thrown into further disarray through knocks suffered by Reilly (dead leg), Willie Sawyers (groin) and Stevie Miller (ankle) in that Holm Park contest.

He added: "However, taking on the holders with a place in the quarter-final at stake is probably our toughest test yet, but I'm sure it's one my players will relish."

This will be the third meeting of the Super Premier rivals at Newlandsfield this season and Pollok will be going for a hat-trick of wins having recorded a 3-1 victory in a Euroscot Eng Cup last eight encounter as well as a 2-1 league win.

Rich added: "Both games, and our meeting in the Central League Cup semis towards the end of last season, have followed almost identical patterns.

"We have forged 2-0 leads on each occasion and then had to withstand Shotts throwing everything at us and, quite honestly, every one of the games could have gone either way.

"Tony McInally has quality players in Mark Sideserf and Colin Williamson as well as three former Pollok players in Alan McKenzie, Tam Hanlon and Michael O'Hara, who will undoubtedly be fired up to do well coming back here.

"But we have a dressing room of players itching to get involved and every bit as motivated so I can see tomorrow's game being every bit as close to call."

Shotts are boosted by the return of Andy Scott, Graeme Goodall, Craig Miles and Hugh Kerr, who were all laid low by a flu bug and missed the dramatic 2-1 triumph over Benburb.

Gaffer McInally said: "A number of other guys played while struggling with the bug, so hopefully it is now out of their system and we will have everyone in fine fettle.

"Unfortunately, the snow caused the cancellation of our midweek training session.However, we had a team-bonding night at the sauna in the Westerwood Hotel which has put the players in the right frame of mind for tomorrow."

Meanwhile, on the transfer front, Pollok and Beith are being linked with Arthurlie midfielder Ryan Deas who is on the open-to-transfer list at his own request.

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