When I saw the team lines at the start of the game, I had a feeling that the game was going to end 0-0, or either team might have been lucky with a 1-0 win.
Both teams played in a 4-4-2 formation for the duration of the game. It was not the sole reason why the game ended in stalemate, but it had a significant bearing on both teams cancelling each other out.
If there was going to be a winner, it was probably going to come from:
1) A set-piece
2) A major defensive mistake
3) Something out of nothing, or
4) Any of the full-backs having a significant impact on the game.
Out of the two squads, perhaps only Tade and Gardyne were capable of making something out of nothing. Tade started the game but didn’t change the game the way he sometimes can; Gardyne only came on for the last half-hour but did not get into the game at all.
When a 4-4-2 meets a 4-4-2, the only free players on the pitch tend to be the full-backs of the team in possession. They often have room to drive into as well, so it was disappointing that neither team could make the most of it. County did the better of the two teams in getting the full-backs involved in the game in advanced areas of the pitch, but could have done more. Raith Rovers did very little with their full-backs… it was not hard to see why given that their right-back Wilson had a particularly poor game on the ball.
There were no real tactical changes during the course of the match. Even the substitutions were like-for-like, with players taking a different position on the pitch to accommodate the substitutes into the formation.
The picture above shows how Rovers lined up with an orthodox shape. County were pretty similar.
I was surprised at how high Tade played. I expected him to drop off Baird the Rovers number 9 to drive at the County defence, but he often looked to try to isolate and beat one of the County centre-backs, Boyd and McCormack. Apart from getting past Boyd once and into the box with the ball early on in the match, Tade didn’t get much joy from this.
County were keen to get their wide midfielders forward early and the picture above shows them in line with the forwards. Corcoran and Brittain were County’s two best players: Corcoran ran with the ball at defenders from different angles while Brittain showed good vision with one touch passing as well as his tenacity when his team doesn’t have the ball.
County played the game with two forwards, but they were marshalled well. Rovers’ two centre-backs were excellent and won every challenge in the air. Why therefore did County not test them with passes along the ground more often?
This picture shows County in the ascendency further into the first half. Note the two full-backs getting forward to overload the flanks. When County were on top, the full-backs could have done more to get into the final third of the pitch, because Rovers were not threatening to break on the flanks behind them.
When Rovers did have a spell of possession in the first half, they were not willing to take a risk in running past their markers. This essentially left County to defend with two banks of four against two banks of four. Without a forward dropping off to pick up the ball between the lines, or a central midfielder making a run from deep, or the full-backs taking a risk getting forward, there was no real prospect of a goal.
Paul Di Giacomo tried his best to influence the game by pulling off the left sided Raith Rovers defenders. He managed to spin off his marker a few times and get on to balls over the top. One particular chance by County started with Giaco doing exactly this and laying the ball off for a midfielder to eventually shoot from outside the box. Giaco otherwise looked a bit goal-shy, as he has been for quite a while. Wood on the other hand barely got into the game and hardly won a thing in the air.
This picture is a brilliant example of County not making the most of their full-backs. Miller had so much space to himself here. With the ball further up and across the pitch, Miller could have been twenty yards further forward (with no real defensive risk) to collect a long pass from the left.
This is another example of the midfield stalemate that was prominent throughout the match. Both sets of central midfielders made it easy to pick up each other.
County were crying out for Gardyne to come off the bench, play between the lines, collect the ball from the midfielders and then run with the ball directly at the Rovers centre-backs. But when he replaced Garry Wood with 30 minutes to go, he played right against the centre-backs and effectively led the line! There was no way he was going to get into the game like that.
The orange circle represents where I would have liked Gardyne to be in the context of the play, but he made it too easy to be marked. I wonder if it was the manager’s instruction to play so high, because it is not something he often does.
The game was a little boring in a tactical sense. I was looking for either manager to make a significant change to either have an extra man in midfield or up front. Sadly neither happened. That is unlike a County side under Derek Adams, so I wonder how much his touch-line ban is affecting his team’s ability to change things during the course of the game.