A more general match report can be found as always on The Jailender website
Another league campaign. Another 0-0 draw at Victoria Park.
The match was very even in the first half, with space at a premium and few quality chances created. The second half – with one excellent long-range Tidser strike hitting the bar excepted – belonged to Ross County, but without any real opportunity to avoid stalemate. Both teams tried to play to their strengths and might have scored another goal or two on another day, but that of course never happened.
How the teams matched up against each other. Morton wore their home kits on the day, but are shown below in yellow for technical reasons ie. a lack of similar looking Subbuteo team!
Both teams set up largely as expected, in terms of this site’s preview written earlier in the week. Morton lined up exactly as predicted. There were a couple of variations to the County team: Morrison replaced the injured Fitzpatrick at left-back; Duncan was dropped and Corcoran retained his place, which meant Brittain went to central midfield.
Morton’s 4-4-2 was at a disadvantage to County’s 4-2-3-1 numerically, but Bachirou and Tidser had decent games and coped well defensively. Morton were able to keep their two forwards high up the pitch, but they did not test County’s centre-backs often enough. Andy Jackson in particular found himself cut off from the rest of the match at times, but did work hard with MacDonald in chasing down the County centre-backs and nearly created a few good opportunities from hard work alone.
The commencement of the league campaign saw a lot of compactness in the middle of the park. Morton’s system relied a lot on play being spread wide from central midfield, but this wasn’t always possible at the start of the match.
Kettlewell and Brittain were keen to figuratively get in the faces of Bachirou and Tidser, so the Morton Midfielders struggled to get the ball on the floor and pass the ball wide. As a result, the ball was in the air often and both teams failed to find an early rhythm.
With Morton’s wide players not receiving the ball to their feet, they had to challenge for territory in the air. Morton’s defenders were not exceptional with the ball at their feet, but chipped the ball up towards MacDonald and Di Giacomo on the left side of County’s defence.
Di Giacomo would start high up the pitch from any dead-ball situation, so that he could out-compete Morrison at left-back. This tactic was moderately successful in the first half and in theory represented Morton’s best chance of breaking beyond the County defence.
O’Brien made a couple of chances for Morton in the match by taking Miller on the outside of the full-back, but probably could have done more. He was at his best when combining with Tidser who would go left to support.
Although the first half was evenly contested, County had the better of the second half. County played better then out of the two teams – without being terribly threatening in front of goal – because they got their full-backs forward in support of the attack.
A key player for County was Michael Gardyne, who was looking to find space between Morton’s midfield and defence. This was possible at times, because Bachirou and Tidser would dovetail together without either being particularly defensive.
Gardyne therefore had an important part to play in the match and did reasonably well in supporting McMenamin and holding the ball for the full-backs to progress.
Alan Moore acknowledged Gardyne’s role in the game by making sure Bachirou sat back to cover Gardyne’s space when needed. Bachirou did not play a man-marking role for the duration, but did look to shadow Gardyne during periods of County dominance.
County struggled stretching the Morton defence, because most of the crosses into the box arrived from deep, rather than from close to the bye-line and across the goal. In the picture above, Gardyne fed Corcoran to attack Evans at right-back, but Corcoran hesitated in line with the 18 yard box and waited for Morrison to get forward and cross from deep. Corcoran really must focus on getting to the bye-line to allow McMenamin and Craig to get on the centre-backs’ blind sides.
Ross County dominated the last twenty minutes, which was the period of the game when they might have looked like scoring. County did flirt with a 4-4-2 diamond formation intermittently, which gave Gardyne even more space in midfield, before Corcoran was replaced by Byrne with 25 minutes to go. County reverted to the original 4-2-3-1 thereafter.
County’s relative success during the last part of the match was down to Morrison and Miller pinning back the Morton wingers inside Morton’s own half. Morton’s defenders couldn’t release the ball to the wingers and had to try to clear the ball to the forwards, but Flynn and Munro dominated this part of the game (in fact, even Richard Brittain was able to beat substitute Weatherson to three successive headers at one point). As a result, possession was being turned over to County at an alarming rate.
County looked like scoring when they managed to get behind the Morton full-backs, as above. McMenamin was unfortunate to be perhaps a yard away from connecting with the ball in this instance. This didn’t happen nearly as much as it ought to, with crosses sent in front of the 18 yard box and with erratic trajectories.
Both teams look strong enough to finish in the top half of the First Division this season. Morton have a strong spine to their team, but could do more with their full-backs in an attacking sense to break down more stubborn defences.
Ross County played much better than in recent cup ties, but have to be more brave with early crosses around the edge of the box if Craig and McMenamin are to get the supply they crave.