Yokerbhoy looks ahead to tomorrows game, and concludes we should enjoy it…
This Sunday we take the long and chilly road up to Dingwall to take on recently promoted Ross County. The highlanders are going to undoubtedly find themselves in the midst of a 5-team relegation struggle (Hearts should pull away from this zone as the season progresses but you never know) which might even prove to be quite exciting if you’re into that sort of thing.
It is always a potential banana skin every time we visit one of those pokey wee remote stadiums, especially less
than 72 hours after a European tie, ( Surely just a coincidence ? -Ed ) where adverse weather conditions may have a part to play and no opposition can ever be taken lightly as the hectic month of December begins and we continue our unrelenting quest for the NINE.
That said, we will be facing what is probably the weakest team in the league at this moment in time, a team that has failed to win in their last eight fixtures.
Since that 6-0 grilling they suffered at our hands in mid-October they’ve managed two draws and four defeats, including home defeats of 4-0 and 3-1 to the huns and the sheep respectively. Although their on-loan keeper from Chelsea, Stanley Baxter, is competent enough and probably slightly better all round than their regular goalie Ross Laidlaw, their main problem lies in their defence where they’ve been leaking goals left, right and centre.
Their fullbacks have been below par, Marcus Fraser’s form has been erratic to say the least while big Fontaine has been slow, clumsy, awkward and full of mistakes. Despite his vast experience, the Englishman has been horrendously poor for a while now and gives the distinct impression that he’s past his best, a mere shadow of his former self.
It’s a bit of a mystery why co-managers Steven Ferguson and Stuart Kettlewell keep centre back Watson and right back Richard Foster on the bench as they are both seasoned campaigners who would probably make a difference. The entire defence has been largely inept and immobile. Time and time again they’ve been found guilty of ballwatching, poor positioning and standing off opposing attackers as they advance towards their goal area. They’re also woefully weak at defending set-pieces. The acres of space they leave in the final third and their frequent lapses in
concentration are likely to be severely punished when the good ghuys come to town.
A Staggies fan with a sense of humour commented online the other day that maybe they should use both of their
goalkeepers in their line-up when they face us to try and keep the score down.
Despite those serious defensive issues, County do score goals and at times can look quite a decent team when coming forward as they’re swift on the break and have an ability to create chances with both Stewart and Graham posing a goal threat up front. However, they also try a lot of route 1 stuff, which doesn’t come off too often while in recent games they haven’t been using the wide areas of the pitch enough.
In midfield ex-Celt Joe Chalmers has probably been their most consistent performer but for some strange reason was left on the bench in their last game against St Mirren. Their midfield will be weakened through the enforced absence of our own Ewan Henderson while Michael Gardyne, arguably their most creative player, wasn’t even on the bench last week though I’m not sure if it was due to a suspension or through injury.
Although they can be creative in this area of the park, they are also a bit lightweight and quite easily overrun, especially by superior teams. For that reason they might be tempted to utilise the giant Ross Draper alongside Chalmers against us.
The Dingwall mens’ second biggest problem (after their defence) would have to be their stamina, as they have had a very strong tendency to fall away badly in the second half. They totally capitulated during the later stages of that 6-0 wupping we dished out to them recently at CP but similar symptoms have been evident in other recent matches, notably last Saturday when St Mirren had them pinned back inside their own half for practically the entire 45 minutes after the interval.
Most of this could be put down to physical fitness issues although I reckon there must be a strong psychological element in there as well.
On our side of the fence the big talking point has been the Odsonne Edouard injury (if he was injured at all that is) brought up by his exclusion from Neil Lennon’s selection the other night against Rennes. Lenny had referred to it as a ‘niggle’ while Lewis Morgan in his post match interview had coined the term ‘injury’. Was this just an excuse to rest him or was it something he picked up in training or was it a knock he had been carrying since the Livingston game last Saturday?
Whatever it was, I’m quite sure he won’t be risked against Ross County unless he really is 100%. Assuming he is fine but in need of a wee break, I’d maybe have him on the bench to provide Leigh Griffiths with his first start in several months. This could be a great opportunity for our former talisman nº9 to see where he really is fitness and sharpness wise and show what he can do against a rather accommodating defence. After 60 mins or so our hotshot nº22 can enter the fray or indeed a false nº9 such as Christie or Morgan.
A strong attacking line-up would be in order at Victoria Park with just a couple of changes taking place from last Thursday’s team selection. I’d maybe rest Ajer and Christie giving valuable game time to Bitton and Rogic. This will be a game in which two of our brilliant youngsters Jerry Pingpong and Mikey Johnston can really shine and I feel
we could be in for a real super show once again. I’d possibly be tempted to put young Afolabi on the bench as he is a very exciting prospect who has now recovered from injury.
We want to be constantly on the front foot and not give that County back line any respite whatsoever as they are fragile and accident prone. A couple of early goals and who knows what might happen. Their defensive frailties coupled with the frightening speed in which our players can move the ball could create the perfect storm. We just need our front runners to have their shooting boots on.
Without wishing to come across as over-confident (every respect must be granted to the
opposition as always) I just have this gut feeling that we’ll all be in for another beautiful Sunday!
Frimpong Bitton Jullien Taylor
Forrest Rogic Johnston
Subs: Gordon, O’Connor, Ajer, Ntcham, Christie, Morgan, Edouard or Afolabi
Prediction: Ross County 0 Celtic 5 (Jullien, Grffiths, Forrest (2), Johnston )