Ross County won by two clear goals today in the league for the first time since they beat Stirling Albion at home in September.
The scoreline perhaps flatters County, who it could be said struggled to make many clear-cut chances out of their own creativity. They opened the scoring with the break of the ball at the start of the second half, but went on to dominate the match.
However, the scoreline is not unflattering for Morton, who although competed well in the first half, lost the midfield battle for most of the match and created next to nothing of their own.
How the teams matched up: almost identically apart from Gardyne dropping off Barrowman.
Both teams went with a diamond-shaped midfield in 4-4-2 or more accurately 4-1-3-2 formations.
Bachirou played as the holding midfielder for Greenock Morton, in a similar role to the Challenge Cup tie played in Dingwall towards the beginning of the season.
Lawson played a similar role for County. He was partnered by Vigurs in central midfield. Whereas in the last league match in Dingwall between these two teams I suggested that Vigurs and Lawson are too similar and couldn’t play together, today they had defined roles and both players put in good performances.
Milne & Fitzpatrick
Once agin, County started with two makeshift full-backs, with ‘regular’ left-back not even in the squad and ‘regular’ right-back Miller on the bench. Fitzpatrick and Marr were good enough in defence but offered little going forward, which hindered County in an attacking sense.
Milne played in front of Fitzpatrick on the left wing, as he had done against Raith Rovers on Tuesday past. Although he scored the second goal, he didn’t have a particularly good game.
The picture above shows Morton’s right-back Evans standing his ground against Milne, who in possession always had to cut in and pass inside. Whenever Milne had the ball in decent areas, he more often than not mis-timed his shot, mis-controlled the ball or mis-hitt his pass. His technique was being tested in a position that he is not accustomed to, but which he has earned through his work-rate (as opposed to being out of the first XI altogether, as Barrowman has consolidated his role as #1 striker for now).
It was not only the left side that County struggled to make progress down. Brittain and Marr almost always passed between themselves on the right side and looked for Lawson inside them.
Paul Lawson therefore had an important game in recycling possession for County, as well as linking the aforementioned players with Vigurs, Gardyne and Barrowman in front of him.
He did a good job in keeping possession for County and only really lost the ball in making the ‘killer’ pass towards the edge of the box. At this level of football, not every pass can count and those risks were worth taking, even if none of his final passes made the difference in this game. He certainly had a better game than his counter-part Bachirou, who was part of a largely ineffective Morton midfield.
Tidser & Jenkins
I expected more from Morton’s midfielders today given the form that the team has been in of late. Jenkins was largely anonymous in a central attacking midfield role, marshalled effectively by Lawson, while Tidser was often too far from goal to make much happen for his team.
Playing wide-left, Tidser did not have the pace to beat the full-back on the outside here. This initially promising counter-attack fell apart because he had to wait for someone to get close enough to him to pass to, by which time County’s defence had re-set themselves.
Nevertheless, he was still Morton’s best and most influential player on the day. This picture shows another Morton counter-attack where Tidser was in a good position to spread the play left, which he did, but the delivery into the box from that point was poor.
Tidser did have one testing shot towards the top-corner of the goal from the edge of the box with his left foot, but County’s McGovern was placed behind it and saved comfortably.
Crossing from deep
Greenock Morton failed to get in behind County’s defence often enough to make any great chances for their forwards.
Morton’s Holmes once played a one-two to get behind the County defence in the first half, but the low cross into the box was cleared to safety.
Generally speaking , Morton’s crosses came from deep towards Graham at the far post. County’s centre-back Flynn man-marked Graham during the game and dealt with balls towards Graham very well.
However, Morton weren’t the only team failing to hit the bye-line and get crosses in. Both teams looked predictable in possession, especially in the first half, with Brittain and Marr guilty of crossing from too deep to trouble the opposing centre-backs.
With both teams sharing having altnernating periods of possession, but with no real goal threat coming from them, the chances of a goal were going to be from direct counter-attacks.
Key to County’s success in countering was sponsors’ man of the match Gardyne, who invariably dropped deep off the centre-backs and found space to run into with the ball.
Gardyne was looking particularly threatening in the second half when Morton were chasing the game and he found himself with lots of time and space to work with. One could tell he was enjoying his football today, because he worked tirelessly up front in harrassing defenders along with Barrowman.
I think at this point I should give some praise to Barrowman, who sometimes has a thankless task up front on his own when Gardyne has to drop deep.
He wasn’t afraid to hold the ball up in the channels for County’s midfielders to get into position.
Barrowman was probably my man of the match for the amount of work he put in. He was unlucky with a number of efforts in one-on-one scenarios with the goalkeeper. Perhaps he should work on his left-foot more as most of his chances seem to end up with him having to use his left.
It is pleasing to note that County won at home again and probably deserved to do so. The team is no-where near perfect and a lot of improvements can be made if County think they should be higher in the table.
Morton matched County with the same formation (by accident or design), but lost their individual battles in midfield and didn’t look like picking up a result today.