(By Ramsay Banks)
Matches that can sway the relegation battle are rarely enjoyable- often there is no clear favourite and as a result they are cagey affairs between two teams simply desperate not to lose. This is one of the only times I’m confident that both teams will try to play their best football to come out on top, to outwit the opposition. I think that the influence John Hughes clearly has on the Staggies dressing room, to leave it all on the pitch, will mean not one player will shy away from the challenge of going 4 points clear of Motherwell.
Last meeting to have an effect?
Our previous encounter with ‘Well was a day to forget. A 4-0 drubbing at Fir Park. Normally this would have an immense mental impact, and likely give an edge to the away side, but I think this is also an area in which this game could be an anomaly from assumptions. Since this match, both clubs, the Staggies and the Steelmen, have changed personnel in the technical area, with Graham Alexander replacing Stephen Robinson in the Motherwell dugout, and John Hughes replacing Stuart Kettlewell at County. This means that anything that happened in the past isn’t particularly important in making predictions for this game, and the two different managers with different ideas and mentalities will make it a very enticing game.
Danger Man: Devante Cole
Motherwell haven’t quite hit their free scoring touch under Alexander- scoring 2 goals in the 3 games he’s been in charge. The stat to keep an eye on however, is that Cole scored both of these goals, one against St Mirren and impressively one against high-flying Rangers. Both goals were from inside the 6 yard box. He seems to thrive in scrappy situations and tight spaces so we must mark him tightly at set pieces. If possible, I think we should stand off in certain situations to give away minimal fouls, which has been a bit of a problem this season. At the same time, we can’t let the threat of Cole stop us from imposing ourselves on the game. Motherwell are more of a threat as a whole than one of their players. We can’t make the same mistake as we did against Rangers, which was marking Morelos so tightly that major threats like Ryan Kent and Joe Aribo were unmarked. Players like Tony Watt and Sherwin Seedorf must be kept under wraps by the Dingwall defence.
Staggies One to Watch: Oli Shaw
Despite drawing a blank against Rangers last week, Oli Shaw remains a man in form. With two goals against Aberdeen, who Motherwell struggled to contain last time out, the former Hibs man should be looking at tomorrow’s match as an opportunity to get closer to his target of double figures in goals for the season. If we’re struggling to make clear cut chances, Shaw is the man in the team most likely to put away a half chance that falls his way. He works very well with Jermaine Hylton and Harry Paton up top with him, but I’d prefer to see the latter in the centre of midfield and the former out wide taking men on.
I usually don’t like to make predictions before matches, but I’ve started to do this more lately due to the infectious positivity of John Hughes. He reflects his upbeat personality in the way he sets his team up by putting the boys out to win, no matter the opposition. While that’s arguably where it went wrong against Rangers, it worked a dream against Hibs and Aberdeen. I think it will work well against the teams around us too, so I’m eagerly anticipating the game tomorrow night. I predict 2-0 to the Staggies!