Today Ross County F.C. were defeated in the second round of the Scottish Communities League Cup by First Division side Raith Rovers F.C.. On the face of it this result doesn’t make a great deal of sense- how does a club that has conceded only one goal (and that was to defending champions Celtic F.C.) in its first four Scottish Premier League matches suddenly give up four goals in a span of less than 40 minutes? Let’s take a look…
We’ll start by looking at some numbers, specifically the number of minutes that each County player has logged in the club’s first four SPL matches.
Two things to note before moving on: First, players in red, obviously, have not played a competitive match for the club so far this season. Second, Stuart Kettlewell missed two matches through suspension after receiving a red card in the club’s preseason match against Dutch side Den Bosch, otherwise he would likely be at the 360 mark as well.
Now let’s look at the squad that manager Derek Adams put together for today’s match against Raith Rovers-
As you can see, five of today’s starters (red) had not played yet this year and only two (green) were squad regulars with the senior team. It’s also worth noting that goalkeeper Mark Brown signed for the club yesterday and had not played a competitive match since last May.
On the bench were two more starters plus two (blue) U21 players.
You’re probably already way ahead of me, but let’s go ahead and put it out there: County took a dive.
I’m not suggesting that any player gave less than 100%, but what can be expected of this line up?
Defensively, Brown was probably still learning the names of the players in his back line, and within that back line were Kovacevic and Bateson who have logged zero league minutes this season, never mind played with Boyd and Fitzpatrick. If Derek Adams wanted to he could have put Munro and Tokely in front of Brown, and with the presence of Russell Duncan in the midfield there would have been a core of four players on the pitch who played together for years when they were all at Inverness Caledonian Thistle. But he didn’t do that.
In the midfield, rather than the normal quartet of Kettlewell, Vigurs, Britain, and Corcoran it was clearly a three man “B” squad. This is not so much a knock against Lawson, Duncan, and Scott, as the first two have done well this year, but they aren’t used to playing together and they were sandwiched between a makeshift back line and a “hope for the best” trio of attacking players. And speaking of those forwards…
Up front Byrne and Morrow looked good in preseason, but not so good that they have made their way into the starting eleven- or even been used as subs since the league season has begun. Thrown together with Glen you have three players who don’t play together on a regular basis and who simply can’t be “match sharp” at this point in the season.
I’m not particularly happy with the club’s approach to this match, but keeping the big picture in mind I’m not going to let it bother me too much. Five players got their first 90 minutes of action this season and if being out of one of the cup competition early on means that the club’s prospects for survival in the SPL are improved, I can live with it.
Let us remember, after all, that the goal is survival for at least one more season in the Scottish Premier League so that I can see them play when I make my next trip to Scotland.