Ross County 5 – 1 Hamilton Academical 28/4/12

Colour coding in the annotated pictures is, as usual:

Green = defence
Yellow = midfield
Orange = attacking midfield/wingers (e.g. Gardyne in Ross County’s 4-4-1-1; Hamilton’s wide forwards in the 5-4-1/3-4-3)
Red = centre-forwards

More information on the match and on Ross County’s recent performances can be found on The Jailender website.


Ross County won convincingly against Hamilton Academical, in a manner and with a score-line that fitted well with the party atmosphere at Victoria Park on the day.

Hamilton once again used an unorthodox 5-4-1/3-4-3 system that seemed to have at least a couple of players out of position. The three central defenders were un-organised against Ross County’s midfield running, while the Hamilton forwards lacked enough penetration to hurt County’s defence. Hamilton’s central midfield couldn’t compare with County’s midfield partnership, which showed from the amount of chances created from the space Paul Lawson found.

Ross County went with a very familiar line-up. The only surprise was that Flynn replaced Munro at centre-back.


The two formations, in isolation and against each other. Hamilton’s Redmond and McAlister are switched, to show the swap in roles after around 20 minutes.


The tone for most of the match was epitomised by the events in the first five minutes.

Ross County were comfortable in playing possession-based football from defence, despite Hamilton having three attacking-minded players on the park. Wide players McAlister and Ryan tucked back, behind McShane, when Hamilton didn’t have the ball, so that let Lawson play in passing triangles in defence. Most of Hamilton’s effectiveness in the match came down to how well or not they pressed Lawson on the ball. More on that later.

Hamilton Accies themselves found enough of the ball in Ross County’s half, but didn’t always look threatening.

The picture above showed one occasion, early on, where Hamilton’s wide players McAlister and Ryan combined well. Ryan thought he was beyond the County defence and through on goal, but Ross County’s right-back Miller read the play well and covered his defenders to clear the ball.

While Hamilton did have more of the ball than County early on, their midfield was always under pressure to move the ball on quickly. County’s midfield four pressed well as a unit, which contributed to Hamilton’s seeming lack of creative ideas in midfield.

The picture above shows the start of the move towards Ross County’s first goal. Redmond was dispossessed of the ball by Kettlewell, who quickly moved the ball forward towards Gardyne, who is arguably the best player at this level in running with the ball in space towards defenders. Gardyne set up Brittain for a low cross towards McMenamin.

However, as well executed a goal as it was from Ross County, it was a poor goal to lose on Hamilton’s part. Just as when McMenamin opened the scoring at New Douglas park recently, Hamilton’s defence made poor decisions leading up to the goal.

Right-centre-back Ziggy Gordon in this instance felt compelled to run towards Gardyne and Brittain, despite being the defender furthest away from the ball. Left-centre-back Mensing also chased the player on the ball, which left the most central of the defenders, Kilday, alone to mark McMenamin. The defensive problem was compounded by Kilday ball-watching, rather than tracking McMenamin’s run, which let McMenamin run along Kilday’s blind-side and score the goal.

The move for the goal was classic Ross County: pressing well in midfield and attacking quickly on the counter attack. From the matches that this writer has seen of Hamilton this season, the defending also seemed typical of them.


After the first goal, Ross County commanded the rest of the first half. Hamilton got forward enough times to potentially cause a threat, but the final ball around the edge of the Ross County penalty area was always poor and/or well defended.

County used the full width of the pitch well in attacks, mixing up the their approach well. Key to this was getting their full-backs forward. Scott Morrison over-lapped Vigurs well on the left-flank, but Gary Miller looked particularly dangerous on the right.

Miller’s runs from right-back ought to have earned him a couple of goals in the first half. From a tactical perspective his forward runs were particularly effective for a couple of reasons:

  1. Hamilton’s left midfielder/wing-back was Hendrie, who paid more attention to what County right-midfielder Brittain was doing.  That left Miller’s forward runs un-marked higher up the pitch.  Mensing coming out of defence to meet him left a gap in the three-man defence for others to exploit.
  2. Lawson dropped off the back of midfield, as he so often does, finding the time to play passes high up the pitch.

Indeed, Lawson was in the mood for creating countless chances for others.  He set up his midfield partner Kettlewell in this instance, with a ball over the top, which Kettlewell probably ought to have scored from in a one-on-one scenario against the goal-keeper.  Apart from that instance, Lawson was always looking to stretch Hamilton’s defence with diagonal balls to the flanks.  He started the move for County’s goal and perhaps was unlucky in not having more assists to his name on the day.

In spite of Lawson’s excellence in the play-making role, Hamilton’s best chance to take control of the match looked to be from pressing Lawson and exposing the County defence thereafter.  Lawson lost the ball a couple of times in the first half  – as did Vigurs once – from surprise presses by Hamilton’s midfielders, but it didn’t happen nearly often enough to be a telling factor in the match.

All four of County’s starting midfielders were on form, with Brittain scoring two goals and Kettlewell scoring the third.

However, Ross County always look more stylish when Iain Vigurs is on form and is able to take players on, whether on the inside or outside of the pitch.  He looked up for the occasion and had a large part to play in some of County’s better attacking moves.

Hamilton manager Billy Reid swapped his left forward McAlister with Redmond.  This might have been to have McAlister’s greater strength in central midfield, maybe as a method to stop Lawson play-making from deep.   McAlister did drive forward with the ball a couple of times and indeed hit the bar in the first half with a speculative shot. It would be facile to say that it worked, because McAlister scored from a long range shot from a central midfield position, but it was a shot that Ross County goal-keeper Fraser let slip past his hands.  County’s own midfield still had control of the match.

Ross County enjoyed the majority of the second half, controlling the space and getting forward at will.  Hamilton made like-for-like substitutions and took the ball to County, but only on one occasion did they get behind the County defence.  Ryan set up Redmond, who received the through-ball behind Brittain.  Redmond’s cross to McShane was poor and the opportunity was wasted.  County otherwise still defended with two compact banks of four and only invited shots from distance.


Ross County might have had a few more goals than five by the end of the match.  The team’s confidence was high from scoring the first few goals, and especially from going 3-1 ahead moments after conceding McAlister’s goal.

Hamilton look to have plenty potential to perform well in the league next season, if the same team is kept together.  There were five loanees featuring for Hamilton; it remains to be seen how many of them will return.  Otherwise, Billy Reid maybe ought to look to Derek Adams’s policy of consistent selection as a long-term principle, especially in defence, to ensure the loss of goals from poor positioning.

This is the last match analysis of the season on Thank you for your support to this point. It is hoped that the website will continue, to report on Ross County matches in the SPL.

In the meantime, please return to the website soon to look at the upcoming First Division Team of the Season.

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