(By Peter Mackay)
We have been saying this for weeks now, but when Saturday comes, it’s another massive game for Ross County.
The Tangerines will make the trip north on Saturday to face a spirited Staggies side; who heroically fought back in the last ten minutes at New Douglas Park on Wednesday to clinch a vital three points over relegation rivals Hamilton.
The Staggies have faced Dundee United twice this season, both of which have delivered 2-1 victories for Mickey Mellon’s side. In the first meeting in Dingwall, Coll Donaldson put the home side one up when he smashed home a sumptuous volley from the edge of the area. However, Kettlewell’s men were unable to hold out as goals from Peter Pawlett and Nicky Clark turned the tie on its head.
When the Highland side made the trip south to Tannadice, it was a poor performance from the boys in blue. Two goals from Nicky Clark were enough to seal the Arabs three points, despite an 81st minute consolation strike from Oli Shaw.
The opposition: Dundee United
United travel to Dingwall on Saturday without a victory in eight games. The last time they picked up all three points was on the 23rd of December, in a 2-0 win over Kilmarnock. Without a win the new year, it’s evident United have been struggling to score goals, which comes as a surprise, considering the striking options which they have at their disposal.
Last time out, Dundee United lost 2-1 to a resurging Motherwell side. Scotland internationals Marc McNulty and Lawrence Shankland partnered each other at the top end of the pitch, whilst experienced talisman Nicky Clark was deployed in a deeper role, being asked to try and bring a creative spark which the Tangerines have been crying out for.
The Tannadice side currently sit in seventh place, with a points tally of 28. A win for the newly promoted side is imperative to ensure they don’t drag themselves into the relegation scrap, which Mellon insists they aren’t part of.
Danger Man – Nicky Clark
County’s defence will have to be on their A game to stop the attacking talent of Nicky Clark sniffing out chances in and around the box. The Staggies didn’t have the greatest defensive display at New Douglas Park on Wednesday, as the poor positioning of players seemed to create the open space from which Accies managed to grab their goal. There have been a lot of costly individual errors throughout the season, and there can’t afford to be any against Dundee United, as they have the classy finishing on hand to punish us.
Nicky Clark is Dundee United’s top scorer this campaign, netting a very impressive ten goals so far. After his two goals against Ross County last time out, it is crucial we put a stop to the former Rangers man’s fine form.
One to Watch – Oli Shaw
Staggies frontman Oli Shaw is in a similar position to where he was before the Motherwell game. He failed to score in his last outing. But this will not dishearten the on-form striker, as County fans know just how good his finishing has been recently. Oli currently has nine for the season, and will be desperate to find his tenth of the season to bring his double figures target to fruition.
Despite playing the majority of games as a lone striker, it’s looking increasingly likely that we will see Oli Shaw partnered with new signing Jordan White, who burst onto the scene with a goal and an assist from the bench in our victory over Hamilton. This could definitely turn out to be a profitable duo, as it would give Shaw a bigger opportunity to find himself in pockets of space, as Jordan white can deal with the physical side of the game.
I hope John Hughes decides to set up his team with two strikers from the first whistle. The aforementioned potential strike partnership is one that really entices me, and it seems to have a lot of potential to grab goals.
This game is a perfect opportunity for Ross County to find that bit of consistency which has been hugely lacking. Three points could push County as high as ninth place, depending on results elsewhere in the table. There should be a contrast in confidence between both the sides going into this one, with Dundee United being on a terrible run, whilst County have really started to find their feet under Hughes. This is going to be an interesting game.