Annan player/manager Peter Murphy is looking for his players to show how well they are knitting together when they take on Celtic’s under-20 side in the Irn-Bru Cup at Galabank.
Murphy has had to rebuild the League 2 side’s squad after previous boss Jim Chapman headed for Clyde and took the majority of last season’s team with him. While Carlisle United’s record appearance holder has still to enjoy a win, performances have been improving.
A good display against the Parkhead youngsters will show Murphy that his men are heading in the right direction. “We are a brand new squad as I had no signed players when I took over,” said the one-time Republic of Ireland internationalist. “Things have been coming together over the past few weeks and we have shown in parts of games that we can be useful.
“We lost to Clyde in the Betfred Cup in my first game in charge and people said we deserved more. We played well before going down 2-0 to Kilmarnock and then had a success at Dumbarton on penalties. We then dipped back the way and lost 6-1 to Ayr.
“We were back to being unlucky losers against Peterhead in the league. However, there comes a time when you have to start turning useful performances into points. I thought that we would do that against Clyde at the weekend but despite a strong finish to the game we lost 2-1.
“We have been making good progress but we know that a win would confirm that progress. We will go out looking to do that against Celtic, but it will be a really difficult tie as they have very good players at an under-20 level.
“They can also add another couple of over-age boys now but thankfully they have the Champions League this week or we could have been facing a couple of internationalists.”
Annan and Celtic are no strangers. Murphy added: “The sides met last season and Celtic won 5-1. That shows the size of task ahead of us. However, there are good players at Annan and this is a chance for them to show that both individually and collectively.”
Murphy, who started his playing career at Blackburn Rovers when most of tonight’s opponents were toddlers, has featured in four games since moving to Annan from Ayr United in the summer.
He could involve himself again tonight. “We are still a couple of bodies short so we do not have a lot of options to change things,” he said. “Ideally I would like to have a striker on board before we play Celtic but I have not had a definite commitment from the player we have been speaking to.
“That makes the hard job of beating Celtic even harder.”
Celtic Under-20 coach Tommy McIntyre knows that the hosts will be extra determined to win through after their defeat last August. He said: “I am sure that Annan will be hoping to get one back on us. They have a new management team in place who will be keen to hit the ground running.”
It is not all about winning, though. McIntyre added: “The most important thing is the experience the young players gain. It was a bit of an unknown leap last year and after doing well against Annan and Cowdenbeath we lost to Livingston.
“We are a bit wiser this year and will look to use that knowledge to acquit ourselves better. It is a tough challenge against any senior side but this competition helps bridge the gap between under-20 and first team football.”