Ross County v Celtic: Can Staggies upset odds again?

By Martin DowdenBBC Scotland
Celtic captain Scott Brown
Scott Brown and Celtic were knocked out of the Scottish Cup in 2010
Scottish League Cup semi-final: Ross County v Celtic
Date: Sunday, 31 January Venue: Hampden Park, Glasgow Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Coverage: Watch on BBC One Scotland; listen on BBC Radio Scotland; TV, radio & live text coverage on BBC Sport website

Despite Ross County's current standing in Scottish football, not too many would back them to pull off a shock and emerge victorious in Sunday's Scottish League Cup semi-final against Celtic.

Jim McIntyre's side currently occupy a lofty fourth place in the Premiership and also maintain an interest in the country's other main domestic cup tournament.

But can they make the next step and reach the League Cup final for the first time in their history?

'Most incredible result'

There's belief within Dingwall that they can and some within the club have experience of pulling off the unlikely.

Take defender Scott Boyd, the club's record appearance holder. 2010 marked one of his career highlights, alongside team-mate Michael Gardyne, when the Highland club upset Celtic 2-0 in the Scottish Cup semi-finals at Hampden Park.

The scoreline prompted former BBC commentator David Begg to describe it as "the most incredible result in the 125 years of Scottish Cup history".

Scott Boyd and Robbie Keane
Boyd (left) closes down Robbie Keane in County's 2010 Scottish Cup win over Celtic

It was a thoroughly deserved victory for a County side still then in Scotland's second tier, against a Celtic team including the likes of Robbie Keane, Scott Brown and Aiden McGeady.

"As a club, we've been there before and we've managed to upset Celtic before," Boyd told BBC Scotland.

"We know it'll be a tough match. There's a belief in the squad similar to 2010 - one that we can go and compete at the highest level.

"Whether everybody else gives us a chance, that's another matter, but we definitely believe we can go there and get a result.

"There are a lot of good things happening at Ross County just now and hopefully it can continue."

Inspiration from the Bantams

Captain Andrew Davies also has previous.

He was part of last season's Bradford City side that came from two goals down to stun Jose Mourinho's Chelsea 4-2 at Stamford Bridge in one of the FA Cup's biggest-ever upsets.

"That game was just unbelievable," he said. "I don't think anyone expected us to go there and get a result.

Garry Liddle and Andrew Davies
Davies (right) celebrates with Garry Liddle after Bradford's win at Stamford Bridge

"A lot of the lads have been in games when you go in as the underdogs and you think 'I've got nothing to lose'.

"In these occasions, you've got to try and find a balance between the pressure and enjoying it and, if you can get it right, anything can happen.

"You've got to take inspiration from those experiences and take it into this weekend."

If further inspiration was required, County goalkeeping coach Scott Thomson was the man who saved Paul McStay's shoot-out penalty as Raith Rovers shocked Celtic to win the League Cup in 1994.

Shocks don't come much bigger in Scottish football history, and add to the evidence that the unlikely can happen.

But manager Jim McIntyre knows that in Celtic, County face a side finding their form as they pursue a domestic treble.

Free-scoring Celtic

Celtic players Leigh Griffiths and Gary Mackay-Steven
Leigh Griffiths (left), here celebrating with Gary Mackay-Steven, scored a hat-trick in Celtic's recent 8-1 win over Hamilton

Ronny Deila's side lead the Premiership by six points and, like County, are in the fifth round of the Scottish Cup.

And they have scored 19 goals in five games in all competitions so far in January.

"You've got to believe going into any game you have a chance of winning it," said County boss McIntyre.

"We know we're facing a team playing with real confidence. We're going to have to bring a level of performance that's right up there.

"I know we're capable on our day of beating any team."

What is different from the last semi-final meeting between these sides is that County are a stronger proposition. Celtic arguably are too.

But, as history highlights, in cup football anything is possible.

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