There’s an old football cliche hanging in the air after Ross County conceded a late equaliser to draw 1-1 with Aberdeen. “Would’ve taken a draw going into the match but it feels like a loss”. Failure to hold onto their lead has Staggies fans reeling at the final result, despite superior opposition.
Here’s how the two sides lined up:
Counter, counter, counter.
It would be disingenuous not to admit that Aberdeen had the overwhelming majority of the ball. Despite this, they created very few first half chances, while County looked dangerous in the very few (you could count them on one hand) breaks they had. Ross Callachan was played through on goal by Jordan White, but he couldn’t poke his shot past the oncoming, towering Joe Lewis.
At the other end of the pitch (which is where the majority of the match was played) Ross County defended their box very well, despite Austin Samuels causing problems down the left hand side. The tricky striker, on loan to Aberdeen from Wolves, was unpredictable in his play but was ultimately kept under wraps by Connor Randall and Harry Clarke before he could do any major damage.
The Dons kept hold of the ball, but eventually lost it in the middle of the pitch, and County were on another rare break. It fell to early substitute Harry Paton, who shot straight at Lewis in the Aberdeen goal, but it fell to Regan Charles-Cook, who took a touch, and smashed his first league goal for Ross County into the back of the net. It was a well deserved moment for our number 17, and marked his impressive improvement from the player he was last season.
A real test
Despite a chance early in the second half, where Charles-Cook should have done better one on one with Joe Lewis, Aberdeen were really starting to turn the screw. Calvin Ramsay provided the Dons seemingly infinite width no matter how tightly he was marked, and Scott Brown used his experience to get the ball back effortlessly whenever the Staggies looked to be getting a breather. County endured many a goalmouth scramble.
For a brief moment, it became an end to end match. Charles-Cook produced another brilliant piece of play to send Callachan through on goal once more, and this time the midfielder rounded Lewis. However, his shot which looked destined for an open goal was somehow cleared off the line by Calvin Ramsay. It was then Aberdeen’s turn to be denied. Lewis Ferguson’s header looked nailed on to either cross the line or be turned in by Christian Ramirez, but Alex Iacovitti got there first to instead head over for a corner, when the end result looked certain to be worse.
Malky Mackay gambled by setting up his team extremely deep and telling them to make sure it stayed away from the net first and foremost, and this gamble did not pay off. The Staggies endured wave after wave of Aberdeen attacks with no respite for about 25 minutes. During this time, Ben Paton prevented a certain goal from a low Samuels cross, Scott Brown skewed wide when it looked easier to score and Iacovitti, Clarke, and eventually Baldwin making his debut had to head away cross after cross. It was good play from Aberdeen to be as unrelenting as they were, but questions must be asked of Mackay not encouraging the team to be calmer playing out from the back to relieve the pressure.
This is what ultimately cost County. Jonny Hayes found himself through on goal when the Staggies allowed space for a rare moment, and that was all Aberdeen needed. It has to be said though that it was a howler for Laidlaw to spill the ball in front of Ramirez that allowed him a tap in, and it puts his place in the team into question, especially with the loan arrival of Ashley Maynard-Brewer. Our number one has infinite capability to bounce back though, and he thrives under pressure, so hopefully this healthy competition does them both a world of good.
After this error though, Ross County made a number of feeble set piece attempts to regain the lead. Nothing broke through the defence of Gallagher and McCrorie again though, and the final score was 1-1.
After the international break, it doesn’t get easier, as it rarely does in this league. Despite their Old Firm loss, Celtic look a different beast under Ange Postecoglou, and keeping spaces tight is a must, as players like Kyogo Furuhashi and Liel Abada exploit spaces like nobody else in the league. Whether it be Laidlaw or Maynard-Brewer, our goalkeeper will need to be on top form to keep these players at bay.