Can County Escape Championship?
After the terrible defeat to Inverness CT, last Friday night, added even more disappointment to an increasingly frustrating season, we now have a full week to pull ourselves together and prepare for the stressful relegation dog fight coming ahead.
After a season of mixed emotions, with perhaps more lows than highs, we find ourselves in 10th place with just the five post-split fixtures to go.
It is setting up to be a dramatic end to the season as we battle it out with Hamilton and Kilmarnock to secure a place in the premiership for 2021/22.
As it stands we are currently sitting clear of relegation but not by much.
Kilmarnock occupy the playoff spot, just one point below us after their crucial win against Motherwell, and Hamilton sit just one further point below them.
Kilmarnock Away – 10/04/21
We kick off the post-split fixtures on April 10 with a vital trip to the artificial surface of Rugby Park.
This could easily be the biggest game of our season thus far as a win here would take a great stride towards safety.
Having beaten them less than a month ago we should be going into this game confident of picking up the three points, but I’d imagine Novembers concerning loss, with an extra man for the majority of the game, at their stadium will still be playing in the players’ minds.
As long as we can nullify the threat of Kyle Lafferty, who has scored three goals in his first four league games, then we should be able to give ourselves a chance in the match.
St Mirren at Home – 21/04/21
After just narrowly missing out on their first top half finish since 1985 to a last-minute equaliser at Hamilton, St Mirren are definitely the strongest team in the bottom half.
As we have failed to beat them three times already this season a midweek game under the lights of the Global Energy Stadium doesn’t feel too appealing.
Our hope is that the blow of not reaching top six and them having nothing to play for allows us to outbattle them and use the pressure to our advantage.
Dundee United Away – 01/05/21
Unbeaten in their last four games, including a draw with Celtic and a 1-0 against Aberdeen, United are the form team coming into these post-split fixtures.
As the only team to have won all three games against us this season, aside from champions Rangers, it will take some performance to change our fortunes and take any points back to Dingwall.
None of the three defeats have been hammerings, however, and we easily could’ve gotten a draw at Tannadice if it wasn’t for Iain Vigurs’ freak handball in the first half. This should give the players some hope coming into the game, but we will have to defend a lot better to stop the threat of United’s forwards particularly Lawrence Shankland.
Hamilton Academical at Home – 12/05/21
Our last home game of the season and possibly the most important of them all…
No matter how poor they play throughout the season Hamilton consistently find ways to gain results such as an incredible 1-1 draw with rangers recently in a game that they should’ve won, to pull themselves clear of relegation. However, they sit bottom of the league going into the split and this year may be the time they struggle to drag themselves out of it.
In an ideal world we pick up enough points in the next three games to avoid this being a pressurised meaningful game but if the rest of the season is anything to go by we don’t do anything the easy way.
So far we have beaten Hamilton twice this season although our one loss did come in Dingwall at Christmas time which we will certainly have to avoid a repeat of.
Much like ourselves they have it in them to score a goal or two but look very shaky at the back which we must take advantage of and I feel one of our strikers will be able to drag us to a win and hopefully relegate the Accies.
Motherwell Away – 16/05/21
Our fifth post-split match, and final game of the season is away to Motherwell.
The last day of the season is traditionally left to the big boys, with trophy liftings and the occasional helicopter Sunday, but this year the SPFL have allowed the relegation battle to take centre stage.
Obviously, it is Motherwell vs County that matters most to us, but it must be noted that the Accies host Kilmarnock at the same time which could lead to an interesting and excruciating final 90 minutes as at least one of those two will pick up points.
In 2018 we led St Johnstone for the most part of the final day but even if we held on it wouldn’t have mattered as Partick Thistle beat Dundee 1-0 so we must ensure we are not entering the final day bottom of the pack.
In terms of Motherwell, they have had the beating of us this season twice since we came out 1-0 winners back at the first game of the season. We don’t have the best record at Fir Park either, conceding eight goals in our last two visits.
I believe we will need to be well clear of relegation coming into that game to have any chance of avoiding the playoffs.