Yokerbhoy gives us another in depth look at our opponents ahead of what will be a rare home game over the next few weeks…
For the third time this season we take on Ross County FC, a team whose style (or rather whose defensive shortcomings) has made them comfortable for our lads to play against so far, as the hefty scorelines in our favour over the last two fixtures would suggest.
Their goal difference and defensive record (i.e. goals conceded) still stand out as the worst in the league but, even so, they manage to pull off some fine home results from time to time, notably their recent wins against Hibs and Killie.
At Xmas time though, they completely caved in and were routed 4-0 at Livi (at least we’re not the only ones who have a bum time at the Macaroni) when that gangly big rascal of a nº 9, London Bikes, ran riot with an impressive hat trick.
County are an erratic side, something which could be partly explained by their bad lack through injuries to players while frequent tinkering with team selection by the co-managers could well be another telling factor.
What appears to be more relevant to me though, is their record against ourselves and the huns, where we’ve given them a couple of hidings (especially at CP) scoring 10 goals in the process, with the uglies bashing the staggies up in Dingwall four nil at the end of October.
Maybe it’s a bit early to call it a clear tendency but there is, at the very least, a strong suggestion that they fold a trifle easily when facing one of the big two, even at home.
In an attempt to plug some of the gaping holes in the centre of their defence as well as improve cohesion and ball distribution from the back, the Staggies have signed CB Coll Donaldson from ICT for an undisclosed fee.
The 24 year-old was signed a few years back from Livingston by QPR but he didn’t quite make the grade down in London. However, he featured regularly for Dundee Utd over a couple of seasons before going on to perform consistently well for ICT. He’ll notice quite a step up when he starts to compete in the SPFL but I expect him to be a first team regular as he simply can’t be any worse than those who’ve featured for the Highlanders in that position so far this season. Fellow CB Liam Fontaine, whose poor run of form continues, was suspended for the midweek game but is likely to line up at Celtic Park.
In midfield, one of Ross County’s better performers in recent games has been Aberdonian pub brawler Iain Angus Vigurs, now looking more comfortable in a deeper role. Having spent about half of last season on the sidelines through injury, ‘Vigorous’ is building up some good consistency, linking up well with fellow midfielders Josh Mullin (who was MOTM the other night against Hearts thanks to his ball-winning ability and tireless box to box running) and ex-Exeter (no stutter intended) lynchpin Jordan Tilson.
Having hamstring victim Ross Stewart out for anything up to two more months is a crushing blow for County’s attacking options as he is not only their top scorer but also their best overall player. Either veteran ex-Hibs forward Brian Graham (also just back from suspension) or Billy McKay could deputise on Saturday but another option could be Oli Shaw, purchased only a few days ago from Hibs and who made the bench the other night against the diet huns.
The 21 year-old was a great prospect a couple of seasons ago, netting against us on two different occasions but had fallen out of favour at Easter Rd since then. He’s mobile, quick thinking with nimble fast feet and a decent finisher although he has always seemed a bit lightweight. If he were to fill out a bit more and get regular game time for the staggies, he could carve out a successful career for himself, possibly at a much bigger club.
County paid what for them is a considerable sum, and will be expecting great things.
Stewart is not the only serious injury loss for the highland outfit – creative wide boy ‘Midge’ Gardyne will be out for 3 to 4 months while Cowie (midfield), Draper (DM) and Grivosti (CB) are also ruled out for the Parkhead encounter.
Ewan Henderson, of course, won’t be allowed to play. Thats because he’s been recalled to Celtic.
Recently he has been drifting out of the picture somewhat with quite a number of mediocre performances relegating him to the bench. Which, frankly, means he wasn’t learning and has been brought back to Lennoxtown before he ends up asking people if they want fries with that.
The current run of things at the club suggests that predicting the Ross County XI for Saturday’s game will be just as hard as predicting the Celtic team selection but I’ll give it a go:
Fraser Donaldson Watson (or Fontaine) Kelly
Spittal Vigurs Tillson Mullin Erwin
Back in the east end, our team should take a bit of heart from a more than decent performance and result at the Rugby Park midden the other night. Playing at home I’ve got a feeling that Lenny might just change things around a bit and deploy both Jamesie Forrest (who we’ve been told will be ready to make a return) and Mikey Johnston to make full use of the wide areas in a 4-2-3-1 but with Griffiths and Ntcham doing well at the moment, who’s to say he won’t go with something similar to what we’ve seen at Firhill and Kilmarnock.
I reckon the teuchters will set up very defensively (even though they’re extremely poor at defending) as most teams that come to Paradise usually do, and try to somehow stay in the game up until the closing stages before bringing on a couple of forwards towards the end if they’re still in it by then. After all, despite Stewart being crocked, they’ve still got about 4 strikers vying for that leading attacker’s position.
One thing about them is that they’re not a team that likes to employ a high press (probably through lack of fitness) and their own shaky defence hates being pressed hard (even Livi had a field day by utilising that very tactic on them in December) so we should go for exactly that, an unrelenting high press. Not a moment’s respite for their defenders and they are likely to capitulate.
Bauer Jullien Ajer Taylor (or Hayes)
Forrest Rogic Johnston
Subs: Gordon, Taylor (or Hayes), Jozo, Ntcham, Arzani, Klimala, Griffiths
Prediction: Celtic 4 County 0 (McGregor, Rogic, Edouard, Griffiths)