Ross County’s solid start to the campaign came crashing back to earth with painful flashbacks of seasons past.
After waxing lyrical about defensive improvements last week, a physically and technically superior Hibernian front three blew away Malky Mackay’s back five, leading to the Staggies conceding three goals in just 30 minutes.
Initially, there was excitement at the sheer number of creative players in the side. Ross Callachan, Harry Paton, Blair Spittal and Regan Charles-Cook all took their positions in the XI.
As the first half went on, however, it was clear we were missing balance. Jordan Tillson struggled to be the lone defensive midfielder, while the rest bombed forward, leaving us disjointed.
Jordan White was largely isolated as the lone figure up front, and when he did get the ball, he failed to drag the Staggies up the pitch in the way that saw him become such a success in the latter half of last season.
Keith Watson, as new Ross County captain, should have done better for at least two of the Hibees’ goals. He failed to mark Kyle Magennis and Christian Doidge respectively, and the latter totally ragdolled him throughout the entire game.
Coll Donaldson and Alex Iacovitti did him no favours, often leaving him exposed with their shoddy playing from the back and often poor positioning.
Of course, despite County’s woes, the home side deserve immense credit for the way they pressed relentlessly, no matter where the ball was on the pitch. Ryan Porteous often came flying out of his centre-half position in order to make an attacking Staggies player panic and lose the ball.
A silver lining among the disastrous performance was Arsenal loanee Harry Clarke was given 45 minutes of play after replacing Donaldson. The young centre-back looks like he could be an important player for Mackay, showing his pace, aggression and strong tackling ability.
The second half showed a slightly improved Ross County side, but there is still large amounts of work to be done.
After conceding three cheap goals, it’s clear the notorious defensive issues which have followed County around aren’t leaving anytime soon. Along with that, there is definitely room for improvement at the top end of the park, with zero goals scored in the first two games of the cinch Premiership.