A Craig Wighton goal in 80th minute finally put Tuesday night’s Viaplay Cup tie beyond the hosts, Albion Rovers. Last season Craig became only the sixth Pars player this century to score 20 goals in league and cup matches in a season and the striker who turns 26 this week was delighted to get his 2023-2024 season goalscoring up and running:-
“It’s always good to get that first goal. The longer it goes, it plays on your mind a bit, so delighted to get that, and a good result in the end. We probably made it a bit harder for ourselves than we probably should’ve, but it’s three goals and a clean sheet. We’re happy with that.”
The evening wasn’t totally harmonious with Craig revealing that his manager made it clear at half time that he was disappointed with parts of their first half performance:-
“I think we knew that ourselves going in, we’d just been sloppy, giving the ball away too cheaply at times. We knew it was going to be tough, but because it came from our own mistakes, that is what frustrated everyone. They were good, to be fair to them, on the counter-attack. They have some good players and big Den’s had a couple of good saves. It was better second half – I don’t think they had any chances really. It was a bit more comfortable, but we should be doing that from the first minute.
“They are a part-time team, and we’re full-time, so we should be fitter than them, and we’ve had a good pre-season, so I don’t think we can use that as an excuse. I just think it was sloppy at times, maybe too many boys had a bit of an off night in the first half. Second half was better, so we’ll take it and move on, but we need to be better than that going forward.
“You are always going to have nights like this, but it’s just frustrating because it wasn’t anything they were doing brilliantly. It was more our own mistakes. We’ll learn from it. I’m sure we’ll watch some of it back, and pick out the things we can do better, and we’ve got ten days until the first league game, so we’ll use that wisely, and I’m sure we’ll work on a few things during the week.”
After finding the net Craig almost scored a second minutes later when Taylor Sutherland swung in a great cross from the right. Craig felt that he maybe his connection had been too good:-
“I’ve probably caught it too well if anything, right at the goalie. Sometimes you mis-hit them and they go in, but it was a good save. Taylor was good. When he gets down the side he is quick, so, nine times out of 10, the ball is coming in the box. It was a good save in the end.”
Craig broke into the first team at Dundee when he was only sixteen and he can appreciate what it takes for young players to move up to first team football. Taylor has now made six appearances and he scored within three minutes in his starting debut against Celtic B in last season’s SPFL Trust Trophy. Andrew Tod has now made eight appearances and he has started the last two Viaplay Cup games. Craig praised the two seventeen year olds:-
“Taylor has been really good actually. He did well last season in spells as well, and fell away a bit, but he’s come back really sharp, him and wee Toddy as well. The two of them have worked really hard and they need to use this time when maybe you do have a smaller squad, because it’s good for those guys as they will get chances. They’ve done themselves no harm because they’ve both been brilliant.”
Taylor was an 74th minute sub and he doubled his career total with a well taken goal two minutes from full time. Earlier in the second half, Tod had a great effort saved by Ross Connelly. Craig said it was pleasing to see two young local boys coming through:-
“Toddy was unlucky not to get his goal, but his overall play was really good again, and Taylor, over the last couple of weeks when he’s come on, he’s just worked so hard. He’s quick, he’s direct, and he’s a real handful for defenders. Hopefully they can both kick on and play a big part this year because we’ll definitely need them.
“I think last year they were on the bench a lot of the time, and because we were doing so well, it was really hard for them to get in. They’ve come back and really impressed pre-season. The manager’s shown that he’s not scared to throw anybody in, it doesn’t matter what age they are. They need to use this to their advantage, the squad, and I think they can both kick on and have a really good season.”
Craig experienced a lot of exposure when he broke into first team football at a young age but he suggested that these young lads don’t need advice from senior players:-
“To be honest they are both quite level-headed. They won’t get ahead of themselves after a couple of games, so I don’t think I’ll need to say too much to them, but, if there ever is a time, I know what they’re going through, especially wee Toddy, with who his dad is and stuff. I think all the fans are really wanting him to do well, so he just needs to block that out because he’s his own person, and I think he’s done that really well. He doesn’t let any of that get to him and, like I say, he’s showing his quality on the pitch.
“Hopefully they can both keep doing that because, it gives the whole place a lift, even the fans. It’s what they want to see, homegrown talent coming through, so it’s good for them as well.”