Match Report - By Steven Mew
Premiership side Ross County proved too strong for City in the Betfred Cup group stage yesterday evening, netting twice in each half to run out comfortable 4-0 winners at Glebe Park.
With just nine outfield players available on Saturday, Manager Barry Smith had little option but to play himself but he could breathe a sight of relief last night with several players returning to the side, allowing the 45 year old to take his rightful place back in the dugout.
There was a familiar face in the away dugout with County Co-Manager Steven Ferguson serving City as a player between 2005 and 2007.
Defender Dougie Hill came back into the fold after serving a one match suspension, St Johnstone loanee Olly Hamilton returned from injury whilst international clearance had finally come through for Luke Watt and Christopher McLaughlin. Paddy O’Neil also replaced Lewis McMinn in goal as Smith made 5 changes to the side that lost against Forfar at Station Park.
The full time visitors started brightly with Simon Power and Josh Mullin striking off target and Power would again threaten when bore down on goal but his effort was straight at O’Neil.
County would come closer on 14 minutes when McKay managed to take the ball round O’Neil but Scott Reekie was on hand to block the effort on the line.
The Staggies would deservedly open the scoring with 33 minutes on the clock. A corner was floated into the box for ROSS STEWART – the big striker controlled the ball on his chest before thumping a powerful volley which flew in via the underside of the bar.
Skipper Marcus Fraser headed over the bar from a deflected cross before County doubled their lead on the stroke of half time. Some neat exchanges on the edge of the box ended with a ball being threaded through for ROSS STEWART who slotted between the legs of O’Neil.
It wouldn’t take the visitors long to assert their dominance in the second half as they netted a third just 4 minutes after the break. Ross Stewart was played in on goal and although his shot looked to be sneaking into the far corner, his strike partner BILLY MCKAY made sure as he bundled home at the back post.
Matthew Knox curled a 25 yard free kick harmlessly wide for City before County keeper Ross Laidlaw was called into action for the first time on the hour mark. Luke Watt floated a ball over the top for Olly Hamilton to latch on to – the young loanee made a run down the right before striking for goal but the Staggies keeper was equal to the shot at the near post.
The visitors completed the scoring on 75 minutes following a scintillating counter attacking move. It all originated from an attacking City free kick which was headed out of the box and five touches the later the ball was in the net, with substitute BLAIR SPITTAL taking down Harry Paton’s pass superbly before slotting beyond O’Neil.
City spurned a glorious opportunity to pull a goal back ten minutes from time when substitute Lee Duncanson crossed into the box for Matthew Knox at the back post but he couldn’t keep his volley down.
At the other end, City were caught out by another ball over the top to Blair Spittal – the ex-Dundee United man produced a fine save from O’Neil who pushed away the blistering strike from 25 yards.
City had the ball in the net five minutes from time when Dougie Hill bundled home from McLaughlin’s deflected cross, however the referee had already blown for a foul on the keeper.
Following the game, Manager Barry Smith lamented his sides defending at some of the goals however felt his side showed plenty of effort and commitment whilst playing some good football in spells against strong opposition.
Barry said, “We gave away cheap goals which doesn’t help matters but I cannot fault the players for effort and attitude. We are still carrying a few boys who haven’t had a full pre-season and lack of game time but they stuck at it and we will get better. These guys are getting valuable minutes on the park through the League Cup section.
“We tried to pass the ball and kept the ball well in certain areas. In the second half we had quite a few balls into their box and (Matthew) Knox was unlucky with his volley at the back post.
“Ross County’s transition from defending to attack was very quick and very good. Sometimes when you have a team that isn’t quite fully fit, you can get caught with that. Tonight we lost two goals from our free kick and our corner.
“We might not be getting results just now but we are working our socks off and the fitness gained in these matches against full time opposition will stand us in good stead for the future.