Yokerbhoy has been studying the runners and riders for the 3pm at glasgow, and offers his conclusions…
It’s been a while since we crossed swords with the Dingwall ding-dongs Dross County. In all fairness though, they’ve started their fresh stint in the top flight very brightly and have surprised a lot of people in the process. They currently lie in 5th place and recently enjoyed an impressive 2-1 away win at Motherwell but still have generally picked up their points against the more modest teams. Not only that but their defence is erratic and prone to off-days, notably when Livi put 4 past them on their own turf a few games ago. It’s quite remarkable that a town of barely 5,000 inhabitants could accommodate a team in the top tier and it has to be said that this 90 year old club has built up quite a history for themselves in recent times. After such a short time participating in the senior national leagues they have already been Scottish Cup runners up and have a League Cup triumph under their belts. All of that in the last few years. Way back at the end of season 66-67 they were probably the second happiest team in Scotland after having just won their first of three Highland League Championships. Having made all those positive comments about them, we Celtic fans will still have bitter memories of recent encounters with the highlanders in which they took industrial ‘football’ to extremes and took points of us with the help of some of the poorest refereeing performances in my living memory.
Among their current playing staff there is quite a Celtic connection as Marcus Fraser, Joe Chalmers and Michael Gardyne are all products of our youth system. Fraser only made one appearance for us back in 2011 but it was a happy occasion since he came on as a half-time sub on a night when we enjoyed a 3-1 home win against Rennes in Europe. He’s now the Staggies’ captain and has performed consistently well for them both in central defence and at right back. Chalmers, who only made 2 appearances as a CB in the Celtic first team around the same time as Fraser made his debut, has now re-invented himself as a ball-winning midfielder and has already notched up a couple of league goals this season. He was signed from ICT during the close season. Gardyne, on the other hand, never made the breakthrough into Celtic’s first team but has forged quite a decent career for himself in Scottish football having played an important role at Dundee Utd for three seasons and is now enjoying his second successful stint at County. Now a 33-year-old veteran, Gardyne can still be a really tricky and competitive wide player/forward/playmaker with bags of technical ability who plays a role similar to Niall McGinn’s at Aberdeen. He can be highly adept at providing killer passes, has a goal in him and will no doubt be considered a danger man when he faces us.
Their defence has been pretty solid so far this season partly thanks to the commanding presence of veteran Londoner Liam Fontaine, who was a very effective stalwart for Bristol City over several seasons and during his recent 4 year spell with Hibs he played in two Hampden finals, scoring the Edinburgh side’s goal in their 2-1 defeat in the League Cup by the very same Ross County as well as playing a key role in that memorable Hibees’ 3-2 pitch invasion day win in the Scottish Cup Final of 2016 against Warburton’s wallies. In central midfield ex-Thistle slugger Blair Spittal (another man with a dodgy surname) has been doing a solid job alongside Chalmers and tends to chip in with the odd goal or two while our own Ewan Henderson, who is on loan, won’t be allowed to play against us. Another contender to occupy a central midfield berth is giant Englishman Ross Draper, who was with ICT for 5 years before joing the Staggies a couple of years ago. The big man was out with a knee injury for a good while but is on the verge of a comeback and could well be on the bench. With last season’s main striker Declan McManus (singer Elvis Costello’s original name was Declan MacManus) being loaned out to Falkirk, the Staggies have been deploying two forwards in there most recent line-ups, Northern Irishman Billy Mckay has slotted in well to partner another youngster, top-scorer Ross Stewart, who is strong in the air, deceptively fast and has reached a tally of 4 league goals so far this season. They are likely to go with a 4-4-2 (or something similar) tomorrow and their team selection may look something like this:
Watson Fraser Fontaine Foster
Gardyne Spittal Chalmers Grivosti
In our camp we’ll definitely see at least a couple of changes from the team that lined up and performed so miserably against Livi the other week. Ntcham has generally done pretty well when called on so far this season but can still be something of an enigma. So many times he has come on as a sub and performed brilliantly yet the quality of his displays on average haven’t reached quite the same heights when he has been given a start. I’m pretty sure he’ll do a fine job for us tomorrow though while his link-up play with both Edouard and Forrest could turn out to be a vital ingredient in our attacking play. Rogic, if fit, might get some playing time and even make an impact but I won’t be holding my breath. Bauer has been playing quite well but I feel that Elhamed, who has fully recoverd from his virus, should be our first choice RB at the moment. It might be tempting to utilise Nir Bitton in the centre of defence as Ajer has been actively involved with his international team and could possibly do with a rest. Mikey Johnston is almost ready to go again but I don’t think he’ll be risked tomorrow. Elyounoussi is likely to play on the left wing, which is not a bad option but I’d like to see Sinky get a start for a change as I’m sure he’ll be hungry and hugely motivated to recapture his form of old. The Ross County LB Foster could prove to be a weak link so if Jamesie can hit top form, he could make great things happen for us down that right flank. The Staggies will no doubt play defensively and play on the counter with an industrial approach to the game but we’re used to that. Patience might be needed but using the width of the pitch and playing our natural free-flowing game, I don’t expect anything other than a comfortable win.
Elhamed Jullien Bitton Bolingoli
Forrest Ntcham Sinclair
Subs: Gordon, Bauer, Ajer, Hayes, Rogic, Elyounoussi, Bayo
Prediction: Celtic 3 County 0 (same score as when we last played them)
Scorers: Edouard (2), Forrest