Penalty shootout hero Cammy Bell thinks Dundee United have players fit for the Premiership but they must prove their quality when the Championship campaign starts.
The Tangerines travelled to the Highlands on Saturday for the third of their Betfred Cup group C clashes and left with the better of the result against top-flight side Inverness Caley Thistle.
The match finished 1-1 after 90 minutes, with Scott Boden giving the hosts the lead 10 minutes before half-time with a header from close range before Stewart Murdoch netted a cracker of an equaliser for the visitors just a minute after the restart.
Then an outstanding display from goalkeeper Bell in the penalty shootout saw him save kicks from Greg Tansey and Ross Draper to secure a 4-1 victory and the accompanying bonus point.
That result put Ray McKinnon’s men at the top of their group on seven points, one ahead of Dunfermline and three better off than ICT but having played a game more than those two sides.
That means a win in 90 minutes against the Pars at Tannadice on Sunday in the final match should be enough to send them through to the next stage as group winners.
That would send out a strong message that United are looking in decent shape ahead of the campaign that really matters – the Championship.
They start at home to Queen of the South on August 6 and Bell is looking for the top-flight credentials of many of United’s players to shine through in the lower division.
Bell said: “I feel we have a Premiership squad, to be honest.
“I wouldn’t doubt that.
“I think we have Premiership quality players but you can’t just think that – you need to produce it on the pitch.
“We have worked hard in training this summer and in the cup games.
“It is difficult with this tournament coming early for us, albeit every team is in the same situation.
“So we need to prepare for the league campaign and that means we are also taking the cup very seriously and playing our strongest teams.
“We are using this as a tool to help us be ready for the Championship because we know how tough a division that will be.
“This was a good test for us against a Premiership team but it was one that we approached without fear and we came through it.
“It was a great move and finish for our goal and I thought we played some really good football.”
Bell admitted that the new cup format is a gift to goalies because it gives them the chance to be the hero, as was the case for him against ICT.
“The shootouts are good for us and I also think the structure of the tournament makes it exciting for the fans,” he added.
“I also think it keeps up the interest right to the end because teams keep playing away in order to avoid going to penalties.
“They want to win the game in the 90 minutes.
“As far as I am concerned, every penalty save is a good save.
“Personally, I think every player should score a penalty because it’s not far out and the goals are very big.
“There is pressure on the takers, I suppose, and you get people who change their minds about what they are going to do, which helps you as a keeper.
“Still, it was pleasing for me and I thought my first save in particular was a really good one and it took a strong hand to get it around the post.
“So I was delighted.”
United boss McKinnon was happy to give his No 1 plaudits for the penalty saves.
He said: “I am delighted for Cammy because that will be great for his confidence.
“He is a good goalkeeper but we knew that already.”
Sub Tope Obadeyi scored first in the shootout for United before ICT’s Carl Tremarco made it 1-1.
Coll Donaldson then fired home a confident kick before Bell brilliantly dived to keep out Tansey’s penalty.
Next up was goalscorer Murdoch for the Tangerines and, after he hit the back of the net, Bell was the hero again as he saved from Ross Draper.
That left the stage clear for Simon Murray to secure a 4-1 shootout victory for the visitors, with most of the congratulations going Bell’s way.