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Ross County: Four key areas Don Cowie will aim to strengthen this summer

Cowie is overseeing his first transfer window as Staggies boss ahead of the new Premiership campaign, and we've analysed his signing priorities.

Don Cowie. Image: SNS
Don Cowie. Image: SNS

Don Cowie is preparing to oversee his first transfer window as Ross County manager after earning the Staggies job permanently.

Having guided County to Premiership safety in a play-off triumph over Raith Rovers as interim boss, Staggies chairman Roy MacGregor confirmed Cowie will be the man to lead the club forward.

Cowie is now in the process of assembling his backroom staff in preparation for the new season.

Don Cowie along with his backroom staff, during a game against Hibernian at Easter Road. Image: SNS

Although a handful of players have moved on in recent weeks, the Staggies have retained a strong core of the side who steered them to survival.

County have 16 first-team players under contract for the new campaign, with full-backs George Harmon and Michee Efete the latest to commit for the next two years.

Winger Josh Sims is the only out-of-contract player whose future has still to be resolved.

Earlier this month, Staggies chief executive Steven Ferguson confirmed the Dingwall outfit are under way in their efforts to strengthen, and they’ll have a ballpark target of around six players who are ready to make an impact in the first team.

We look at the areas where Cowie is likely to be eyeing up reinforcements this summer.

Between the sticks

Ross Laidlaw looks to have consolidated his place as the Staggies’ first choice goalkeeper, but has become accustomed to fighting for his spot during his time at Dingwall.

After being dropped by Derek Adams in January, Laidlaw had to spend 14 matches as understudy to Fulham loanee George Wickens, although ultimately won his place back ahead of the survival run-in.

Ross County goalkeeper Ross Laidlaw in action against Rangers. Image: SNS.

Wickens has now departed, leaving Laidlaw short of experienced cover.

The Staggies have yet to confirm the status of 20-year-old Logan Ross, although it is understood he is likely to remain at Victoria Park.

Ross has spent time on loan at Brora Rangers in recent years, and should he be farmed out again to continue his development, Cowie will require another goalkeeper to compete with Laidlaw.

Heart of the rearguard

During his interim stint in charge, Cowie predominantly favoured a three-man central defence.

A key part of the regular backline has moved on, however, after Will Nightingale’s loan spell with AFC Wimbledon came to an end.

Ross County defender Will Nightingale. Image: SNS.

Nightingale was an impressive performer for the Staggies, but his family remained in London during his temporary stay, and he is still under contract with the Dons.

The Staggies still have skipper Jack Baldwin and Ryan Leak at the club, who will provide their backline with welcome continuity going into the new campaign.

Teenagers Dylan Smith and Connall Ewan are highly promising options, however, Cowie will likely look to add more experience in defence.

Creative midfield flair

The gaping hole left in the Staggies’ side has come about through the departure of Yan Dhanda to Hearts.

Dhanda was a standout performer in his two years at Dingwall, and his creativity will be a huge loss to the Staggies.

Yan Dhanda celebrates netting against Aberdeen. Image: SNS

Replacing that will be a hugely difficult task, and is sure to be high on Cowie’s priority list.

Teenager Brandon Khela served as a useful back-up option to Dhanda in the closing weeks of the campaign, having joined on loan from Birmingham City.

Although lacking the experience to be a ready-made replacement, Khela showed a glimpse of his capabilities with a stunning finish in the latter stages of the play-off second leg against Raith Rovers.

On top of Dhanda’s departure, the return of Khela to Blues, along with Kyle Turner’s move to Partick Thistle, mean County are very much short in the attacking midfield area.

Options on the wings

Cowie’s typical setup last season was not naturally favourable to wingers – although they could still be accommodated in support of an attacking focal point.

Nevertheless, given Cowie’s front-foot approach in home games in particular, he will certainly want wide options to call upon.

The extent of Cowie’s activity in this area will depend on whether Sims remains at the club, although even with the Englishman on board, the squad looks light in this area.

Josh Sims celebrates with Simon Murray after netting for Ross County against Rangers. Image: PA.

It had been predicted the new season could provide a fresh opportunity for Jay Henderson, however, he will spend the campaign on loan at Championship side Ayr United.

Should Cowie add more options to the wide areas, it would provide him with the flexibility to change his system to one which relies more heavily on wingers.