A match report detailing the goals and events can be found on The Jailender website here
This was not an inspired performance from Ross County, who at first struggled to find goals to come back from an early advantage from Queen’s Park. It took some fortune from a Queen’s Park defender being sent off for County to impose themselves on the match, from which point Queen’s Park barely threatened.
Derek Adams vowed to change the team from last week’s loss to Elgin, which is what he did. Gone were attacking full-backs Miller and Morrison, who were replaced by centre-back Flynn and central midfielder Fitzpatrick respectively. Corcoran replaced Vigurs on the left of midfield, while Duncan played instead of Lawson in the middle.
Both teams started with conventional 4-4-2 formations. For both teams, there was more industry than finesse in the middle of the park, so attacking threat had to come from the flanks.
Burns had a very good game for Queen’s Park on the left-wing, against Johnny Flynn who is not a right-back by trade. Despite Flynn’s best efforts, his positioning from the right of defence was not as solid as it perhaps should have been.
Flynn should was more than a match physically for Burns, but Burns was able to get past Flynn a few times to put dangerous crosses in.
Burns was particularly effective on the counter-attack, keeping his position high up the pitch. At around six foot tall, one would normally think he ought to be attacking crosses within the box himself, but Burns’s crossing was consistently threatening.
Duncan and Kettlwell performed a similar role in the centre of midfield. It was a destroyer-destroyer partnership, as opposed to something like a destroyer-creator Kettlewell-Lawson pivot. There was a distinct lack of creativity from this area of the park, although it was encouraging to see one or the other drive in to the box to try to get on to the end of a cross.
The two players were probably picked together as a reaction to the lack of physical authority in central midfield in last week’s Elgin match.
However, County never really controlled the midfield until Gardyne was introduced later in the game, with a change of formation. That was due to the excellence of the Queen’s Park midfielders in keeping Kettlewell and Duncan in check. Gallagher in particular imposed himself on the match with his height and strength. He is typically a centre-back, but was tidy enough with the ball to hold his own in midfield.
Since there was little to come from midfield, County had to use the flanks effectively.
However, this rarely happened, until the second half at least.
County’s captain Richard Brittain started wide-right, but in the beginning was looking to play narrow. He does not have the pace to beat a left-back on the out-side of the pitch, so either cut on to his left foot or, more often, crossed early and from deep.
As is often the case, crossing from deep gives opposing centre-backs the opportunity to read the flight of the ball, while staying aware of the striker they are meant to mark.
County’s left-back Fitzpatrick did not have a good first half, often taking too long in possession of the ball to keep the momentum of attacks going. In addition, his crossing was too predictable and wasteful.
County’s only other thread from the flanks came from Marc Corcoran, whose role the team appeared to be built around. Until the Queen’s Park sending off, Corcoran was double-marked by the Queen’s Park right-back and right-winger.
Sendig off and second half
It took Meggatt’s sending off for a professional foul on 41 minutes for County to really take control of the match.
Until the second half, Queen’s park lined up with a 4-2-3 formation, with enough forwards kept high up the pitch to pin County’s defenders back. It would have been interesting to see them retain this formation in the second half, because Anderson and Gallagher were still matching County’s midfield, even if Anderson in particular had a lot of running to do to link defence with attack.
It was inevitable that Queen’s Park would revert to a more compact 4-4-1 shape to protect their one goal advantage.
Ross County, on the other hand, were agressive from the start of the second half, with obvious instructions to have their full-backs contribute to attacks at every given opportunity.
Flynn got forward as much as he could in the second half, which helped stretch the Queen’s Park defence. Even if Flynn himself was not that effective with the ball, his more aggressive positional sense gave Brittain inside him more time to play a succession of crosses in to the box.
It was from the left-hand side that gave the first goal, with Fitzpatrick – who was also surprisingly attack-minded from the start of the second-half – overlapping Corcoran and delivering a quality cross from close to the bye-line for McMenamin to finish. It was not a co-incidence that County eventually scored by crossing close to the bye-line.
Both teams after substitutions
Ross County changed to a 4-2-3-1, with Gardyne coming on for Corcoran.
Brittain went to the left-hand side of the band of ‘3’ and showed that he can still be an asset to the team there. As Brittain does not normally beat his marker on the defender’s outside, Brittain tends to cut inside to put in a cross-ball in front of the defence. Starting on the left, this allows him to cut on to his stronger right foot.
This can be an effective tactic, but will only ultimately be successful with a) an over-lapping full-back and b) someone playing high on the opposite side of the pitch who is willing to attack the opposition left-back.
The balance of play was with Ross County for the rest of the match, with County’s centre-backs largely untroubled and Queen’s Park struggling to keep a hold of possession at times. Queen’s Park did have one opportunity, with a dangerous cross from the left-hand side of the bye-line narrowly missing a QP head, but otherwise missed the extra man in midfield.
Queen’s Park were more than a match for Ross County up until the sending off at 41 minutes. Aside from the red card, their manager made a mistake in taking Burns off, who was more effective than Watt on the other side. He could have tried to preserve the 4-2-3 formation, which would have kept County’s full-backs in their own half.
It is impossible to know whether or not County would have won the match if the sending off didn’t happen, but County did have options on the bench to change things. There are still a lot of balancing issues within Ross County’s team. They will have to improve a lot to compare favourably with Greenock Morton next week.