Ross County pulled off arguably the result of their Premiership season on Saturday, defeating Aberdeen 4-1 in Dingwall.
The tone for the game was set by Oli Shaw’s first-minute goal, and the win lifts the predatory Staggies off the foot of the division, while the Dons dropped to fourth as a result of their poor defending and inability to make chances count.
What did our two fan view contributors take from the displays of each team?
John Maxwell: County had confidence to keep attackers high – and it caused chaos in Aberdeen defence
Ross County couldn’t have started any better.
I don’t remember the Staggies celebrating a quicker goal than Oli Shaw’s drive after barely 30 seconds. We weren’t quite threatening the late Tommy Ross’s world record hat-trick for Ross County within 90 seconds, but getting two goals in the first 20 minutes gave County such a good foothold.
The squad have clearly reacted well to John Hughes’ management since he has arrived.
From the start of the match, County kept their attackers high up the pitch against Aberdeen’s three defenders – when facing apparently superior opposition using a back-three system, it is always tempting for the wide forwards to tuck in and track the opposing wing-backs, which by itself invites the other team on to you.
Instead, Hughes pushed Shaw, Regan Charles-Cook and Jermaine Hylton right up against the Aberdeen defence. The Reds were uncomfortable for much of the first half, with Hylton particularly impressive with his skill and energy in dangerous areas, forcing mistakes in windy conditions.
Aberdeen inevitably came back into it. Ross Laidlaw was in inspired form to make three blocks in quick succession after the half-hour mark, but couldn’t keep Aberdeen out at the last kick before half-time. It gave Derek McInnes’ side the impetus to attack even more.
An enforced substitution for Aberdeen improved their attacking balance, with Shay Logan overloading County’s left flank. County’s defence retreated, but threw bodies in front of the ball to survive waves of pressure.
Aberdeen’s momentum had already dissipated by the time County scored their third and fourth.
The Staggies are off the bottom and in better shape than a month ago.
Chris Crighton: Aberdeen must ensure they stay third in points-per-game standings, in case curtailment comes
They say the league table never lies. But in these convention-defying times of new normality, it may perhaps be withholding the most important truth.
As Covid-19 graphs hit highs not even seen at the point of the lockdown of last March, and with all football outside the top flight either already on hold or under imminent threat of it, prudent clubs must look to position themselves as beneficially as possible in the event of the whistle blowing early again this season.
As such and, with myriad postponements leaving a significant number of fixtures outstanding, the table’s most important column may turn out to be one which isn’t visible on it: points per game.
On that measure, despite Saturday’s dire pasting, Aberdeen would remain handily third and on course to claim the Europa League spot which non-completion of the Scottish Cup would release.
Whatever fixtures are fulfilled over the next few weeks of what could be borrowed time, it is vital that the Dons do no worse than Hibs – and potentially Livingston – to retain a top-three place in this unofficial standing.
Easier said than done given that the Dons’ next opponents are again in the Premiership basement. For another area in which the league table has not told the whole truth this season is that Aberdeen appear to find it almost as difficult to beat those in the relegation zone as they do its champions-elect.
Of the Reds’ five league defeats this season, three were to the leaders and two against sides entering the weekend dead last.
Next Saturday’s will be Aberdeen’s 10th meeting with a team in the bottom two, with only four being won to date.
It is uncharacteristic inefficiency from a side normally ruthless accumulators against the bottom six.