With ten games to go, there’s really no room for excuses now, sitting eleventh in the table. It’s time to look at the matches we have until the split, and the challenges we face after it.
As seen above, it is extremely tight from 9th placed Motherwell and Hamilton at the foot of the table. The problem for us however, is that every side within three points of us has at least one game in hand. Thankfully, there is one game against one of these teams, in which we can leapfrog them if we stay within the current point we are behind. It will be no easy task, as it’s a Kilmarnock side who only just appointed well respected former St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright. I view this as the most important pre-split fixture. Speaking of which…
Hibs (H) 13/02
Celtic (H) 21/02
St. Mirren (A) 27/02
Kilmarnock (H) 06/03
St. Johnstone (A) 20/03
Out of the five, there are three games in which most will argue that the Staggies are in with a decent chance of picking up points- St. Mirren away (the most difficult out of these three- they’re a very solid side) Kilmarnock at home, and St Johnstone away. However, I think this is the biggest problem of County’s season. Failure to pick up points in games which are 50/50 or 60/40 either way is the reason we are where we are. We seem to do especially well in games we are seen as having little to no chance in (Celtic in the cup, Hibs and Aberdeen). The only team I see us as consistent favourites over is Hamilton and even against them we only have two late wins and a loss.
I don’t know if it’s the nerves that come with not knowing whether or not they’re likely to win, but it’s likely the case as County have a tendency to make mistakes in big moments- in defence in particular, but also in attack. We can’t take our chances, which is criminal considering how much we create, we can’t mark up at the back under pressure, and we capitulate immediately when we fall behind. Against higher quality opposition all this tends to go out the window, so I think it’s a mentality issue, as opposed to complacency or work ethic. I think this will remain a problem post split, as we will be facing teams similar in quality, so it will be a matter of belief in every match.
We don’t know exactly who will be in the lower half against us, but with the way the table is shaping up we can assume it’ll be:
- St. Johnstone
- Either Dundee United or St. Mirren
I wholeheartedly believe that every team in this list is beatable- John Hughes and the squad will know this. I think they’ll also know the problem is being intimidated by these games. If the Staggies show the quality and structure that saw us beat Hibs and Aberdeen I have no doubt we’ll be in the Premiership come next season. But that’s what’s gone wrong this season- after most games, we’re reflecting on the ifs, what could have been. Avoiding relegation with the great manager we have and the quality of squad we have could lead to something special for us, which is why it’s so important we start to beat the teams in and around us. Until then, I hope we can take some positives from the next game, in which we are underdogs. With the patterns of this season, we should be hopeful, right?