This was a disappointing result from County’s perspective, but a fortunate and hard-earned point for Cowdenbeath. Ross County should have won this match by several goals, but had no cutting edge. As always, there are two teams in a game and both teams almost always end up with at least one chance to score in a match.
Both teams matched up with 4-4-2. but with a few players out of position. Di Giacomo was playing at right-midfield, while Fitzpatrick highlighted County’s lack of depth in full-back positions as he had to play left-back, with Morrison not available.
Cowdenbeath welcomed Makel, who played in a deepish central-midfield slot and Stevie Crawford, who played up front and inter-changed with Dempster. Neither had a big influence on the game as County dominated possession for most of the match. Their loose 4-4-2 often looked like 4-3-3 and sometimes even a 4-5-1, with Campbell supporting the forwards when he could and either Crawford or Dempster dropping deep to help the midfield who were not competing for possession.
County took command of the game from the outset and had several chances. With Brittain and Kettlewell in the middle, creativity had to come from the wings. Corcoran and Di Giacomo had strong starts to the match, with Corcoran managing to dribble past two markers on several occasions. Di Giacomo did the best with what is not his natural position and probably is a better player there than Steven Craig in a similar circumstance.
County’s early – relative – success came from quick, early balls to the flanks, which allowed Corcoran to run at the full-back with the defence out of position. Wood and Milne were in dangerous positions towards the far post, confident that Corcoran would beat his man and get a cross in. Neither striker showed any composure in front of goal, with Milne guilty of missing two important chances in the match.
County’s wingers tired later in the game and became less effective before eventually being substituted.
Brittain is particularly good at spraying the ball wide to facilitate this, but later in the game tried it too often when more directness or perhaps a shot was required. In fact Brittain’s performance was worse as the game wore on, in contrast to his recent game against Dundee Utd.
Lack of creativity from midfield
The picture above shows Makel and Cameron against Brittain and Kettlewell. A common theme of County’s play – and my reporting – this season is stalemate from central midfield.
Kettlewell just doesn’t give enough going forward, while Brittain rarely plays a forward pass (even if he is good at switching play at times). It was a shame to see Vigurs on the bench for so long, because he brings a touch of class and a bit of authority on the ball. I don’t understand how Kettlewell got the sponsor’s man of the match award, because he was not needed to protect the defence as much as against more threatening teams, while contributed nothing to the team going forward.
That is to say that Kettlewell didn’t have a bad game, but he and Brittain as a combination offered nothing in an attacking sense and the onus was on County to be pro-active in this match. To effectively write off any creativity from central midfield is disappointing considering the position County are in.
Makel and Cameron were content with their opposite players in front of them and showed little ambition in supporting the forwards.
Having said that, County made enough chances to win the game and even though they were winning 1-0 at half-time, should have killed the match long before the Blue Brazil equalised. Cowdenbeath offered little going forward, but even managed to hit the post with a cracking long range curling strike from Campbell was moved to left-wing in the second half.
It looked like County started to panic after that and took off Di Giacomo and Wood for Barrowman and Gardyne. Giaco and Wood tried his best during the match, but his hustle and bustle didn’t help the team beyond the initial fifteen minutes. His lack of composure in and around the box frankly isn’t good enough for him to regularly command a starting place up front. Barrowman looked a vast improvement even though he never got a clear-cut chance in front of goal.
Gardyne was clearly needed to come on as a sub and influence the match, as there was a lot of space between the Cowdenbeath midfield and defence to exploit.
I was initially surprised at seeing Gardyne come on as a like-for-like replacement for Di Giacomo, but he defended as a right-midfielder but had licence to wander infield when County had possession.
It might even be a position that suits him: how to you defend against a player who frequently wanders out of position to get the ball in threatening situations?
- Have a player track him, but that leaves the attacking right-back completely free
- Simply have a holding midfielder to sit in front of the defence and pick up Gardyne whenever he floats there, but if Gardyne doesn’t go there then makes the player redundant.
This picture shows how far infield Gardyne drifted to get the ball and run at the defence. In the end, as with Barrowman and Vigurs, he wasn’t on the pitch long enough to change the game.
Ross county used blood and thunder, but little finesse, to make a lot of chances and get in front in the first half, while wasting so many opportunities to kill the game. Cowdenbeath took encouragement from that and managed to get an equaliser from a deflected cross, and could have scored again, but were second best for most of the match. County’s three best players in their squad came off the bench after the equaliser and made a big improvement to the quality of possession in the final third, but County still lacked a cutting edge in front of goal.