Scottish football: Cooper content to see off former club

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Neale Cooper, the Ross County manager, freely admits Bert Paton has become his managerial mentor - but it will not stop him trying to dispose of Paton's Premier Division club, Dunfermline Athletic, in today's Scottish Cup third-round tie.

Cooper brings his Third Division promotion chasers south for this attractive tie to East End Park, where he spent more than four years before taking the player-manager's job at Dingwall last summer. "Bert Paton has been a tremendous help to me since the start of my managerial career. In the first few weeks, when things were not going so well, he was always there to offer me advice," the 33-year-old Cooper said.

Dunfermline will be in the now unfamiliar role of favourites after surprising many observers since entering the top flight. Paton said: "He's done well there and we gave him a couple of players, so there are a lot of connections. But for us it is a no-win situation because everybody expects us to go through."

Motherwell are another Premier Division side facing an awkward tie at Partick Thistle. Alex McLeish, the Motherwell manager, has said his side could be vulnerable, but Murdo Macleod, his Thistle equivalent, is wary of the visiting strike-force. "Owen Coyle is clearly on form," MacLeod said. "They have Tommy Coyne as well, so we must be wary."

Kilmarnock reached the Scottish Cup semi-finals a few years ago but have struggled since then. However, Bobby Williamson's side should surely prove too strong for the Third Division side East Stirling.

Gary Locke returns after an eight-month injury lay-off for Hearts. Jim Jefferies, the manager, will decide if he plays or starts on the bench for the home tie against Cowdenbeath.

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