Ross County enjoyed their most productive attacking display of the season when they cantered to an impressive 4-1 victory over Aberdeen on Saturday.
The Staggies struck four goals in a Premiership match for the first time since April 2018, with the welcome result moving them off the foot of the table.
It was a further show of progress under recently-appointed manager John Hughes, with the Dingwall side having now taken seven points from a possible 12.
Although County last month secured an excellent 2-0 triumph over Hibernian at Easter Road, the victory over the Dons was by far their most compelling statement under Hughes so far.
Hughes made clear his early priority of tightening up County’s defensive unit after replacing Stuart Kettlewell, in the midst of a rut which saw the Highlanders go 12 league games without a win.
Having succeeded in that, the signs of what Hughes’ County side will look like as an attacking force are beginning to show.
The Staggies showed their intent against the Dons from the very first whistle, resulting in striker Oli Shaw netting the first of his two goals after only 37 seconds.
Oli Shaw has often found himself ploughing a lone furrow up front in recent weeks – but tweaks for Aberdeen game resulted in clear shift
Following the previous weekend’s match against Livingston, which County lost 3-1, Hughes made reference to the difficulties faced by Shaw in leading the line by himself.
It prompted Hughes to gamble when the match was locked at 1-1, replacing holding midfielder Jordan Tillson with forward Billy Mckay to help the Staggies get further up the pitch.
Although it backfired on that occasion, it did not deter Hughes from seeking to provide more support to Shaw from the start against the Dons.
Of the Staggies’ five changes, the inclusion of wide players Jermaine Hylton and Regan Charles-Cook from a side which included five natural central midfielders against Livi was notable.
The average positions of County’s side throughout the two matches shows the English duo made a noteworthy difference in holding down more of the play inside the opposition’s half of the park.
The presence of Hylton and Charles-Cook also appeared to have a positive effect on Shaw’s average position, which had been around the halfway line at Almondvale.
Although Shaw had fewer touches against the Dons (27) compared with 34 against Livi, the striker’s respective touch maps show he was involved far less in his own half.
Shaw’s double evidenced the threat he possesses when afforded the right service in the dangerous areas where County want him to be, and his cause undoubtedly looks to have been helped by increased engagement with Hylton and Charles-Cook in the final third.
Hylton was particularly impressive, notching a goal and assist in a performance which saw him rack up 34 touches.
Although Charles-Cook was less lively with 17 touches, the touch maps of both players show they each made a significant contribution to the Staggies’ attacking play.
The Staggies may opt for a more rigid formation when they face Rangers at Ibrox on Saturday, given Steven Gerrard’s men are still unbeaten in the league this season.
On the occasions which present themselves for County to attack, the recent statistics appear to show the Dingwall men have a better chance of getting the best out of Shaw if he is supported by fellow attacking outlets such as Hylton and Charles-Cook.