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McCall: 'It's another long journey down for them. We've got to try and capitalise on that ...'

Rivals both short-term and long battered each other at Celtic Park on Sunday.

Stuart McCall addresses the media yesterday
Stuart McCall addresses the media yesterday

Stuart McCall, the Motherwell manager, had as vested an interest as any neutral in the outcome of the Scottish League Cup final. And while it was their closest contenders for second place in the SPFL Premiership who ended up lifting the trophy and no doubt sent spirits soaring for the run-in, focus turns first to the beaten finalists.

The match itself was not the prettiest of showpiece showdowns, less a battle of two lightning-quick prime-time boxers than a couple of swinging beige punch bags occasionally colliding but mostly missing, albeit in front of the tensest of packed houses.

It certainly got a little roomier on McCall's sofa as wincing family members slunk off to watch instead the full extent of Manchester United's pitiful capitulation against an outrageous Liverpool. But McCall had homework to do. Inverness travel south, again, to Fir Park tomorrow, with heavy legs and heavier hearts.

"I was pleased to see it go to extra-time," the Motherwell manager admitted. "It's another long journey down for them. We've got to try and capitalise on that if there's any tiredness mentally or physically. But I said before the game, win or lose, they've got too many professionals in their squad, Inverness.

"The boy [Gary] Warren will be back, [Nick] Ross and [Aaron] Doran will probably start, so they'll have a few fresh faces in there. They'll look at it now that they've got 11 games left, they've never been to Europe and I'm sure that will be their focus now."

McCall maintains the line that he is not surprised with how well Derek McInnes, his former team-mate at Rangers, has done at Aberdeen. Coming in before the end of the season last year was critical, McCall believes, giving the Aberdeen manager the chance to assess his squad and make canny summer signings.

"I texted Del last night, he's done a terrific job there," he said. "There was a lot of pressure on him, and the team, [on Sunday]. The expectation level when they've got the backing that they did have . . . over the game Inverness did terrifically well to take it over 120 minutes. Aberdeen on chances probably just about edged it. It's not surprised me that they're doing as well now, and they'll want to lift two trophies but they'll still have their eyes on second as well.

"I just think they've got a big enough squad, even if they have to change things around they'll still have enough to cope with it," said McCall, dismissing the notion that the extra games and effort is starting to take its toll on McInnes' side.

Some perspective: Motherwell had to travel to Easter Road last time out with 11 out of their original squad of 22 unavailable, including all four full-backs. Injuries are easing up slightly, at least, with Steven Hammell, Zaine Francis-Angol and Stuart Carswell available again and Henri Anier back in training. Aberdeen are squad-rich in comparison.

"And plus, you know, even up towards the [Scottish Cup] semi-final everyone will want to do well and stay in the side because they've got really strong competition, with Pawlett out yesterday and Hayes coming off early," added McCall. "They'll have enough to still go at it on both fronts."

The conversation strayed back to Liverpool's display of raw aggression and relentless harrying at Old Trafford. McCall caught the first half before flicking over. "Their hunger and desire to get around the park . . . that's what we need," he said, enthusiastically. "It was epitomised by [Steven] Gerrard, who's 34, or whatever. We need everybody up and at it, but I'm sure Inverness will be ready.

"They have had a taste of playing in a cup final and now the next best thing will be: 'Can we go play in Europe?'"

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