As Brucie would say: Good game, good game.
Ross County deserved to win this match and should have killed the game in the second half of the 90 minutes. Careless defending allowed St Mirren to score against the run of play three times during the course of the match.
County lined up in a 4-2-3-1, with the same team and same bench that drew 0-0 with Dundee at Dens Saturday past. St Mirren lined up with a 4-1-3-2, similar to how Greenock Morton shaped up against County in the Challenge Cup a few weeks ago.
Miller Boyd McCormack Morrison
Brittain Gardyne Corcoran
Lynch McGowan Murray
Travner Mair Potter McAusland
The midfield and attack of both teams are illustrated by the pictures above.
The first period of the game was largely non-eventful, at least compared to the rest of the match. Both teams were testing each other’s strengths and weaknesses, without either team dominating.
Ross County are using a lot more width this season, which is largely down to Corcoran staying wide left and being supported by the full-back Morrison when available. Brittain tends to tuck in on the other side, but the right full-back Miller likes to push on to counter-balance this.
Having one player wide on a consistent basis always asks questions of the opposing defence: do you ignore him and defend with a compact shape or have the full-back pick him up and therefore stretch the defence? When teams go for the latter, this gives space for Gardyne and even Martin ‘Jimmy’ Scott to make a run from deep.
The 4-2-3-1 system that County use at the moment gets the best of out Jimmy, because he has a good range of passing and has licence to roam foward when he can, knowing that fellow central midfielder Paul Lawson will cover for him. These two pictures are examples of Jimmy getting in support of Gardyne and Wood.
Lawson & Jimmy
The Lawson – Jimmy partnership does need a little work though, because there were moments in the second half where they were too close together and occasionally got in the way of one another when trying to spread the play to either flank.
Both players were also unwilling to take the ball from the full-backs and centre-backs at times. There was one moment where I noticed Lawson shaking his head at Miller passing the ball back to the ‘keeper rather than to him, but Lawson was ‘hiding’ behind Dargo and could not reasonably expect to receive the pass.
These two examples illustrate the point, with the first picture showing suggested movements to retain and recycle possession with a passing triangle.
St Mirren’s tactics
St Mirren look like a troubled team and could do with a play-maker in the middle of the park. They relied on the long ball too often to retain possession and County, largely, dealt with the direct game. Generally speaking, County defended better than against Falkirk who used a similar tactic, but in this case County tended to have a spare man and cut off the supply when overloaded at the back before it became a threat.
St Mirren’s number 19 McGowan looked to support the forwards when he could, but largely had a quiet game.
This picture shows that St Mirren were keen to overload the County defence, but County were successful in cutting off the supply by pressing the player with the ball and removing the threat.
St Mirren were keen to get the ball to Higdon early, but County coped with this tactic by winning the second ball more often than not. Dargo was marshalled appropriately in the above picture, but Jimmy Scott should have been marking McGowan here.
Lennon encouraged the St Mirren full-back, ‘Cheesy’ McAusland to get forward towards the end of the first-half. This posed some problems for County, because it meant their right-midfielder Murray could tuck in and overload Lawson and Scott.
However, that allowed Corcoran to get behind the defence. County didn’t get the ball out to him enough during this spell, unfortunately.
St Mirren broke against the run of play at the very end of the first half and had a two on two situation, with McGovern saving well from Dargo. They scored from the resulting corner.
County might have felt hard done by going in at the break 0-1 down, but they did not offer enough in attack themselves. However, I felt it was only a matter of time before County got a grip of the game.
Second half and extra-time
Apart from Lynch and Murray swapping flanks, neither side made any change at the start of the second half. Neither player got into the game at any stage.
Robb came on for Lynch and gave St Mirren some more natural width, which was always likely to cause a problem on the counter. He set up St Mirren’s third goal in extra-time.
County largely dominated the second half and extra-time. They had enough chances to win the game outright in normal play, but typically were not ruthless enough in front of goal. County were particularly impressive after Craig came on for Wood up front after 60 mins. Craig linked with midfield and held the ball up much better than Wood, as well as scoring the equalising goal for 3-3 in extra-time.
This picture shows a brief spell in the game where St Mirren had control of possession. Lennon was instructing his team to keep the ball and dictate the tempo of the game. However, they do not have enough ball-players in the middle of the park to do this.
Note that the holding midfielder McGregor is in a good position, about 10 yards in front of his back four, to deal with any counter-attack.
Moments later, County break forward on the counter-attack with Gardyne’s marker nowhere to be seen. Gardyne scored a sublime goal with his left foot just inside the box, across the keeper and into the far corner. It was a typical Gardyne finish with little back-lift. He really does look the part at this level now after a consistent run of games.
As the game became more stretched, Gardyne was finding more space to work in, which helped County’s effort tremendously. McGregor was struggling to cope with his movement by this stage.
Then of course came this goal:-
County were still celebrating when St Mirren scored, completely against the run of play. If it wasn’t for this lack of concentration, County might have won the game in normal time.
As a County fan I am delighted that the team were able to persist in achieving the result, despite going behind twice. County looked much more confident when it came to taking the penalties, which is no surprise given the lack of fear in facing SPL teams.
County had the upper hand tactically for most of the match, with Lawson and Scott dictating in midfield, with Gardyne linking betwee them and Wood (and then Craig) up front.
I have reservations about McGregor as the holding midfielder for St Mirren. I do not see them enough to know if he is the first choice for the role, but he is neither good enough on the ball to progress an attack with the ball on the ground, nor mobile enough to protect the defence from deep runs from the opposition midfield. Dargo is a hard worker, but St Mirren need to be more imaginitive in their service to the forwards if they are going to get enough goals to stay up this season.