Ross County 4 – 0 Albion Rovers Scottish Cup 19/11/11

This will be a shorter summary of the tactical themes in the match, with normal service to resume in the Ross County v Raith Rovers match on 3 December 2011. Otherwise have a look at the Jailender website for a summary of the match and other news related to Ross County


Ross County won this match comfortably against an on-form Albion Rovers. Rovers had one good chance late in the second half, and another speculative shot come off the cross-bar, but otherwise found it difficult to create anything in the match.


Ross County went for consistency in their selection, again, with the only inclusion of note was new signing Alex Cooper on the bench. Newly available Steven Craig couldn’t find a place on the bench in what is a highly competitive squad right now.

County played the first hour of the match with something resembling a 4-1-3-2. Lawson sat noticeably more deep than the other three midfielders. Gardyne started the match quite high up the pitch, next to McMenamin, but he always looked to collect the ball from deep positions and run at defenders when he could.

Albion Rovers played a 4-4-1-1 system, but their wide players Hamilton and (especially) Scott got forward to support strong centre-forward Gemmell whenever they could.

Rovers found it difficult to create much in the match, because they were relatively slow in cycling the ball from defence to midfield. The Rovers number 10 Chaplain had a key role to play, but he did not have an effective performance. Chaplain didn’t have a great game, because he was up against Paul Lawson:-

  1. Chaplain didn’t link up well enough with Gemmell up front.  This in itself was because Lawson sat right in front of Boyd and Munro, protecting them from exposure to the counter-attack.
  2. Chaplain didn’t close down Lawson anywhere near quickly enough to put pressure on him.

Lawson, by contrast, had an influential match.  County were always able to play their way out of defence and switch the angle of attack from right to left (and vice versa), because Lawson was almost always available.


The nature of the movement of the two teams can be seen in the second of the diagram formations above.

Albion Rovers were quite orthodox in their attacking patterns.  Hamilton on the one side looked to stay wide, so County’s left-back Fitzpatrick always had to look over his shoulder.  On the other side, Scott looked to join the action in the centre, rather than keeping width on the left-hand side.  One of the two central midfielders, more so McStay, got into the last third of the pitch on occasion.

Albion Rovers’s biggest difficulty was getting behind the County defence.  Without the full-backs getting forward and doubling-up on County’s own full-backs, Rovers had to play in front of the County back four.  Until the end of the match when 17 year old Reilly came on and got behind Munro with an opportunistic run (before shooting wide), Rovers’ attempts at goal were restricted to outside the penalty box.  County were happy to defend deep and in numbers when needed, as they have done so well recently in the league.

Ross County were much less rigid, as is shown in the same diagram.  The diagram doesn’t show the willingness of the County full-backs to get forward, which is almost a trade-mark approach under Derek Adams.

With pretty much the same side, with only minor changes in selection, since the 4-0 win at home to Ayr at the start of October, County have been able to perfect their attacking patterns.  It is interesting to see (generally speaking) the difference in approach on the two wings:-

  • On the left wing, Fitzpatrick will run into space, over-lapping Vigurs who combine together.  Fitzpatrick will often receive the ball high up the pitch, from being played in by a deep-lying Lawson, or by Brittain looking to switch the play from the right flank.
  • On the right flank, there is often an interchange of passes and positions among right-back Miller, midfielders Brittain and Kettlewell, and forward Gardyne.  Gardyne will drop off, collect the ball and either run directly at defenders, or would play another player in.  Vigurs, nominally a left-sided midfielder, would be the closest player to McMenamin up front at this point.

In the last half hour, County played more of a flat 4-4-2, with Corcoran on the left wing, playing as a traditional winger.  His pace in the last period of the match created a few more chances for County to get some more goals and they were unfortunate not to do so.


As Derek Adams said that the match felt like it was played in a cemetery, in terms of the atmosphere, in the end it was because the difference in quality between the two teams meant that it looked like a training match.  Ross County were professional in their approach and would have tested most SFL sides in their current form.

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