The story for Ross County today has been the story come the end of many of our matches this season- play some decent stuff, miss numerous chances, concede a silly goal. Or two. Or three. As said by many a football fan, it’s the hope that kills you.
Here’s how the two sides lined up:
Up and Down
After a nervy start from County (and Ross Laidlaw managing to put off Shankland enough to stop a 1 on 1) it was unrelenting end to end football. The Staggies played a very unconventional shape that saw Jermaine Hylton, Tony Andreu and Billy McKay constantly swapping positions across the final 3rd with Jordan White the main man up top.
Every time we got the ball we looked to get it up to the attackers with immediate effect and our first real chance came when Hylton stung the palms of Benjamin Siegrist. In the first half, United didn’t really create much of their own accord despite also being direct. It took an error from Leo Hjelde to put them through on goal, Laidlaw again brilliantly denying Shankland. For the rest of the half it continued to be end to end constantly without much being created, apart from a few chances for Tony Andreu. This is due to really solid defending from both sides, the only real weakness coming for the Staggies- when Tremarco would push forward Leo Hjelde would be dragged too far out wide, leaving Callum Morris isolated in the middle.
Post Half Hopes
After half time came several chances for County to take the lead and stamp their authority on an incredibly even game. With the amount of chances, you’d be forgiven for thinking the Staggies were in the ascendancy.
Billy McKay had a snapshot saved from the left of the box. Jordan White had a header from close range but sent it looping feebly into the keepers gloves. McKay had another chance but sent it straight at Siegrist once more. Tony Andreu had a shot destined for goal blocked. Finally, after great play from Andreu, White smashed it wide when he should have at least hit the target. We were being wasteful, and eventually we were punished for it.
After missing two fantastic chances in the first half, he wasn’t about to miss a third- Lawrence Shankland showed his great footballing brain to take a touch across the run of Hjelde and fire past the onrushing Laidlaw, capping a Dundee United counter attack. It was a gut punch for the Staggies, but I felt United deserved their lead as Ross County failed to convert even one of the chances they created.
Out with a whimper
From the moment we were one down, I feared what had happened every time we’ve conceded in the second half would happen. It did. Heads went down, and it looked like a group of individuals rather than a team. I think what happens is they all forget they don’t have to shoulder the responsibility of getting back into the game themselves- they can, and should, turn to their teammates. Help each other dust themselves down and go again. Instead, the team adhesion we had before the goal completely falls away, every time. The only reason it didn’t happen against Hamilton was because we fell behind in the first half.
If we weren’t going to offer anything in attack (which we didn’t) the only thing we had left to hope for was to shore up at the back. Again, we didn’t. Peter Pawlett whipped in a really average delivery from a corner, yet nobody was marking Dundee United centre back Ryan Edwards, who headed home an easy finish. From then on, Ross County allowed the match to peter out, and ultimately Dundee United were good value for their win.
The Staggies must try not to let this loss affect them. It won’t be long before we face a Hibs team that have strengthened since the sides last met, and look to be picking up a bit of momentum. Despite some breathing room between us and Hamilton at the bottom, Ross County must try and pick up as many points as possible, or we’ll have a playoff to contend with. Or worse.