I thought County had a very good first half, taking the game to United, working United’s back line and keeping the ball in the right area of the pitch. County didn’t create enough chances at the end of the day though; they could and should have done more, but I feel their midfield didn’t take enough risks in making late runs into the box.
United were much better in the second half than they were in the first and it led to a more even game, territory-wise.
County’s goal at the end came from good passing play (and slack tracking), but that move was the only real penetration County had all evening, despite playing quite well.
It was a shame, from a County point of view, for the winning goal to be an own goal, but United looked like they might score again and very much looked dangerous on the counter-attack towards the end of extra time.
County lined up in a 4-4-1-1 / 4-2-3-1 hybrid. It looked like a 4-2-3-1 at times when Lawson and Vigurs, the two central midfielders, sat back when County’s wide midfielders supported Wood and Jimmy Scott. This picture shows the classic 4-2-3-1 shape, but it mostly looked like a 4-4-1-1 with a flat midfield four and Scott much closer to the striker Wood.
United used a 4-1-3-2 system that has been seen in Dingwall by opposing teams a couple of times already this season. Buaban for United here is sitting deeper than the other three. The main three defended quite narrow on the pitch, but Gomis used his energy to pull wide left when he could and give the team some width.
The result of playing the two formations against each other was that County generally had the extra man in midfield. When Scott came deep, County could match up in the middle with United but have a spare midfielder on one of the flanks. When Scott played higher up, Buaban dropped deeper, leaving County with four midfielders v United’s three.
However, United always had a spare man in defence and this showed in the first half, because nearly all of County’s efforts were off-target from outside the box.
This picture shows how deep Buaban was willing to sit to ensure the defence was watertight, even when his natural marker Scott was further down the pitch.
Life without Gardyne
I wondered how County were going to line up tonight without being able to use Gardyne’s craft and skill to link defence and attack. Jimmy Scott played off the striker Wood and I thought he was the best player on the pitch in the first half. Nearly all of County’s good play came from Scott’s willingness to run beyond the United defenders. If a goal was going to happen, Scott would likely have been involved directly in the play by getting one-on-one with the ‘keeper, or chasing a ball over the top and setting someone else up.
However, when United’s midfield began to control the midfield in the second half, he never got the service needed and became largely anonymous in the second half before being replaced by Darren Smith.
I didn’t expect Scott to start there. As far as I can remember, the only time he has played as the advanced midfielder was at the start of the 09/10 season in the last friendly and the first Challenge Cup tie. In both matches he was very poor and it appeared that he did not suit the position and the positional awareness you need to unlock a defence. Tonight, in the first half at least, he looked like he had been well drilled in the role in training. If Gardyne were ever to leave the club, Scott might do well in that role long-term.
Regardless of the dubiety of the award of the penalty for the first goal, Goodwillie had a pretty good game. Although he never really got the break of the ball (or the luck of the off-side calls) in the first half, he was still a constant threat. He tended to play on the shoulder of the full-backs and anticipated knock-ons from Daly or longer passes from midfield. He was unlucky with an effort that came off the wood-work. The picture above shows him looking for a ball behind the County right-back Miller.
United came out in the second half slightly re-organised. The two Robertsons switched positions in midfield for United. This was a subtle change, but it meant that Scott Robertson could dictate a little more from the centre of the field. Gomis and David Robertson pressed better in the second half than in the first; Brittain and Corcoran didn’t get into the game much as a result.
Without either side creating too many chances, County’s momentum in the second half was killed. Unfortunately for United, Vigurs lost his midfield marker Robertson, got behind the defence with the help of a through ball and scored close to the final whistle.
The start of extra time panned out much like the second half of the first ninety minutes. The own goal was fortunate but not necessarily undeserved for United. They generally controlled the rest of extra time, with County becoming increasingly desparate to breach the United defence again.
United started the second period of extra time in an orthodox 4-4-2. Buaban and Robertson had dual responsibility at that point to pick up any runners from the centre of the park, but they kept possession better than earlier in the game as a result.
County went to a 4-3-3 with a view to playing early, direct balls to the forward line. The United defence largely coped well with this.
As County ran out of time, they went to a 3-3-4, taking their left-back off and giving a debut to their giant Faroese centre-back Gregersen. I bet he didn’t anticipate playing up front in his debut! He was generally poor in linking with the rest of the team, which wasn’t surprising given that he has hardly played much football since the summer and he was played horribly out of position.
United went to a 4-5-1/4-3-3- formation, with forwards Russell and Cadamateri playing in the wide positions. Both formations matched each other perfectly, as the diagram above shows, but United were the more likely to score with the pace that they had on the counter-attack. United could well have scored a couple of goals at the end of the game.
I have to say that Dundee United deserved to win the game, but they were made to work hard by an industrious, if not wholly creative Ross County side.