MALKY MACKAY insists the loss of Tony Watt is unlikely to hurt Motherwell’s motivation for European football.
The Ross County manager is as impressed with the build-up of Fir Park manager Graham Alexander’s squad as he is an admirer of the Premiership’s current top scorer.
Watt, nine goals, hit the winner from Well when visiting Ross County in September but looked set to make a big money move to Dundee United last night after previously agreeing a pre-contract with the Tannadice club .
Mackay certainly wasn’t cracking open the champagne at the announcement of his impending departure.
The former Scottish FA performance director said: “Tony is someone who has scored a number of goals.
“He’s the division’s top scorer, so it’s a clear loss for the club.
“What that means is that other players can step in.
“I have to say Kaiyne Woolery and Kevin Van Veen have been great this season, and they showed in the last game, when Watt was on the bench, that they were in a way of playing.
“Graham has a team going there and it’s not a one-man band.
“Obviously if you lose your number one striker, overall you have to look at that and say it’s slightly debilitating.
“But I’m sure Graham will tell his players it’s time for other people to step in or else he’ll go and do business.
“There are still a few weeks left to bring someone in, but it’s not easy to bring in a goalscorer – and it’s certainly not easy to do so in January.
“We are all in the same boat with this.
“For Tuesday night, all I’m looking at is that we have a tough team coming up, a team that’s been on the crest of a wave for the last two months and has been very confident.
“It will be difficult for us on Tuesday night, but I’m really looking forward to it.
“Other than that, I don’t watch Tony Watt’s movement too much and I really don’t care to be honest.
“I know we don’t take them lightly.
“If you look at where they are in the league and where we are in the league, we have a tough job ahead.
“We have to make sure we win our battles all over the pitch, and if we do that, we have a chance.
“At Fir Park it was a really good performance that day, so that’s how we’re going to see it and approach it.”
Mackay, after guiding his side through a tough start to the season, ended the pre-winter break with a run of four wins and three draws in 10 games.
It was enough to lift the county into third place, two points above Dundee and four ahead of St Johnstone.
Clearly, he’s looking to build on that form after seeing his team move up the pack in the middle of the bottom table.
Mackay said: “They know they just have to focus on the game right in front of them – the detail of the strengths and weaknesses of the team we’re going to face.
“We were in good form in the 10 games before Christmas, so we have to take on this challenge again.
“The challenge was to get into the peloton, which they did admirably, and now we have to make sure we stick with that.”
County are without club captain Keith Watson (calf) and assistant Jack Baldwin suspended, but centre-back Alex Iacovitti is fit and available again.
Kayne Ramsay, a right-sided defender who is also joining the team, is the Southampton player Mackay sees as the ideal replacement for lost Arsenal player Harry Clarke, now at HIbs.
Ramsay, 21, started a Premier League game against Manchester City in December 2018, before loans to Shrewsbury and Crewe until Christmas.
Mackay added: “We looked for something similar as soon as we heard from Arsenal that Harry would not be staying with us.
“It was actually a few weeks before.
“There were two that we were looking at in that area, that same photo-fit – that power and pace that Harry has.
“Kayne was also loaned out a few times and he played for Soyuthampton’s first team against Manchester City.
“You don’t do that unless you have potential.
“We’ve talked before about the importance of character and we’ve had good polls.
“That means they arrive and set up quickly, there are no hassles or high maintenance issues. They just keep going with it.
“These are boys who have been at big clubs, but also in the mud and nettles of lower league football, against men.
“That means they’re coming in and going from day one.”