Ross County need only one point from the final game of the league season to secure their Premiership safety. Despite a draw being enough, there’s no doubt that the Staggies should go for all three, to give them a safety net in the game itself, and also to set the tone for next season, should they stay up.
Opposition Focus- Motherwell
Motherwell have enjoyed some very strong post-split form, with three wins on the bounce only interrupted by a draw against Dundee United in their last match. This draw was fairly impressive- they came back from two goals down away from home. Despite having next to nothing to play for, the Steelmen have shown no sign of checking out early.
The Fir Park side are likely to stay with the 4-3-3 they’ve deployed over the season, which has seen them put the Staggies to the sword twice. Players like Devante Cole and Christopher Long work well in this shape, especially under new manager Graham Alexander, who truly has Motherwell firing on all cylinders. Since coming in, they’ve looked more like the side that clinched European qualification than the one scrapping at the bottom of the table.
Of course, as said before, Motherwell haven’t checked out early, but there’s a possibility since it’s the end of the season that they’ll play more players on the fringes of their squad, both to prevent potential injuries and give those who haven’t played very often a run out. Despite this possibility, it’s important to remember that these players can also be extremely dangerous on their day, so there’s no scenario in which the Steelmen will be a pushover tomorrow.
Possible Motherwell lineup:
O’Donnell – Gallacher – Lamie – McGinley
Crawford – Lawless – Foley
Ross County Focus
There are only three days between County’s massive 2-1 win over Hamilton and tomorrow’s match, so the way they worked hard to grind out the result should be fresh in the players’ minds. Everyone who’s worn the Staggies shirt this season has worked so hard to get the chance to solidify their top flight status, and the opportunity of one last push to confirm it should be all the motivation they need.
County will likely line up with the 4-3-3 formation that has worked so well in the past few weeks. Predicting the personnel that will go into this lineup is a little more challenging, with Alex Iacovitti and Leo Hjelde picking up knocks on Wednesday. John Hughes says both have a chance of making the starting lineup, but it would be understandable not to take the risk.
The Staggies weren’t noticeably better than Hamilton, but they were clinical and looked reasonably dangerous when they did get forward. John Hughes’ men will have to replicate this tomorrow, as Motherwell are capable of dominating a game and completely smothering their opposition. This also means that County will have to consistently avoid moments of naivety like the one that saw Jordan Tillson give away an unnecessary free kick on the edge of the area- one that Scott McMann of the Accies hit home.
Possible Ross County lineup:
Naismith – Donaldson – Iacovitti – Lakin
Kelly – Vigurs – Tillson
Danger Man- Devante Cole
With three goals in his last four matches, it should come as no surprise that Cole is once again the Steelmens’ biggest threat. It’s getting to the point that the name “Cole” is interchangeable to the word “goal”, and the Staggies defence will need to make sure he doesn’t get any space to get any shots off.
Cole has scored in his last two appearances against Ross County, who clearly haven’t done a good job at containing the Englishman. What a time it would be to manage it if they were to tomorrow…
Staggies One to Watch- Iain Vigurs
In a mixture of reason and sentimentality, our captain has to be the one to watch tomorrow. His passion for the badge aside, he was near faultless against Hamilton, and helped relieve the pressure every time he put his foot on the ball. Vigurs has the ability to make the transition from defence to attack seamless, and in a game where the Staggies are likely to come up against sustained pressure, the skipper will be vital.
Vigurs knows perhaps more than anyone in the Ross County squad what tomorrow means. He knows what he and his teammates have to do.
The Staggies have gone through so much this season. They’ve experienced the pain of having to part company with the beloved Stuart Kettlewell. They’ve gone through several sustained winless runs. They’ve been embarrassingly seen off by their fiercest rivals. Despite going through all this, they’ve been good enough to have their fate in their hands. We’ve all been critical of Ross County this season, and rightly so. Now though, it’s time to get behind every player wearing that navy blue shirt.
One last push.