Accies web reporter Martin McConnell spoke with Ross Cunningham and Brian Rice after Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Partick Thistle…

Ross Cunningham

You must have enjoyed it out there today?

“Aye, definitely. It was my first start for the club so just delighted to contribute with two goals. Would have preferred to have come away with the win but we won the penalty shootout and have the chance now to put things right in training. Hopefully we can bounce back at Airdrie next Saturday.”

Do you consider that a hat trick?

“No, that’s not a hat trick (laughs). No.”

From a personal point of view, it couldn’t have gone much better for you.

“No. I went to bed last night hoping that I would score, make my first start and stake my place in the team. I went in and scored two, so hopefully I can give the manager food for thought.”

You’ve had a frustrating time with injury haven’t you?

“Yes, I did my ankle back in January and had to get an operation in March. So it’s been a tough six months being out. But it’s good to be back now and I’m feeling fully fit now.”

You obviously made a few appearances in the past and you’d have thought then that you’d have taken off. What’s happened in between times?

“Just probably not mentally strong enough or ready to play. I knew myself that I wasn’t ready to play. I’ve now had time to mature and going out on loan last year to Forfar helped me to mature as a person. I think that’s really helped me as a person to move forward.”

Do you feel that it’s up for grabs this season?

“A place in the team?”

Yes.
“Definitely. I feel that I’ve given myself a real good chance and hopefully the gaffer will see that I work hard in training. And obviously playing well today. I’ll just continue to work hard and hopefully I’ll get more starts.”

With the new gaffer coming in midseason it’s a fresh start for everyone isn’t it?

“Yes, in terms of a fresh start he has actually said that to us. He’s given everyone that fresh start and it’s now a case of coming in and working hard and then showing him that you’re the right man for the job. Hopefully I’m doing that right now.”

Those goals will surely boost your confidence as a striker?

“I know. It’s part of the job, that’s what a striker gets paid to do and I managed to score two today and I’m delighted with that.”

The second in particular was a cracker.

“Aye, that’s something that I fantasize about. Scored a few of them in training but never really do it in a match. So it’s good to pop up with it again.”

Are the boys a bit concerned about Ronan?

“Yes, I heard that he was doing okay and was in the back of the ambulance. Once I’m done here I’ll go and find out how he is doing. He didn’t look too good.”

This club has always had a conveyor belt of young players coming through. What are your ambitions in the game? How far do you think you can go?

“Just really to play at the highest level that I possibly can for as long as I can. Just continue with my work here, stake my place in the team and hopefully play in as many games as possible.”

Brian Rice

First of all, how is Ronan?

“I’m not sure how he is at the minute. Obviously very concerning as it led to the stoppage. I’m not sure if it’s his neck or his collar bone or something else. I’ve not heard the latest yet.”

Brian Easton as well…having to go off so soon…it’s not ideal.

“No, that’s what happens that’s football you know. That’s why you’ve got a squad. But I don’t think Brian’s is anything too serious I think he’s just rolled his ankle and it’s just a precaution.”

A big game for Ross?

“Yes, brilliant for the kid. I believe it’s his first start and scored two goals and played very well in the game. I’m delighted for the boy as he’s had a bad time with injury over the last two or three seasons and we’ve finally gotten to the bottom of it. About March time. And he’s worked really hard to get himself in good condition. I’m really, really delighted for the young boy.”

Will he be a big figure this season?

“Well I don’t know. It’s up to him to keep working hard and keep progressing and keep himself in the team. But he’s scored two goals today you know and it’s difficult to keep people that score goals out your team.”

That was another young player that you had the other night that played very well and he played well today as well. Lewis Smith. You said last season that young players would get a chance here….

“Yes, you’ve got to earn the right to be in the team and those two young lads in particular have earned the right. And they’ve come in and added something to us and they’ve only played one or two games. But I’m delighted with what they’ve given me. You know, Lewis was asked to do something different in the second half today and he did it to the best of his ability. And let us see, Ross got his just rewards for his performance.”

You’ve closed the gap at the top of the table to a point within Thistle. How do you assess your chances?

“What I would say is ‘go and win at Airdrie and see where that takes us’. You know, we may qualify if we do happen to win the group or to be one of the best runners-up. So the ball is in our court to go and win the game.”