Craig Cairns takes his weekly tactical look at the Ladbrokes Premiership, with the focus on Ross County, Kilmarnock and Partick Thistle.
Dons defence can’t contain County
Looking to arrest their slide in form, Derek McInnes lined up with what were effectively four central defenders across his backline. Paul Quinn and Andrew Considine are more than adept at full-back but possess the physical attributes of central defenders and have both lined up there this season. At first this seemed curious against a side so strong in wide areas but it made more sense as the first half progressed and Aberdeen continually battered away high balls that came into the box. That was until Liam Boyce broke free from the attentions of Ash Taylor to meet a Jamie Reckord cross and force Danny Ward into a save.
Until then, Ross County’s best chances had come as a result of cutting Aberdeen open through the middle. The two of these fell to Boyce, who many would have expected to score given the form he is in. In the end, it was a double from his strike partner Brian Graham that did the damage. Both goals came as a result of the home side breaching Aberdeen’s high defensive line with balls over the top - a marked difference from the method the majority of County’s goals have come about this season.
The first saw Boyce find former Aberdeen captain Richard Foster with a high through ball, who then cut inside to feed Graham. The second goal involved the same trio of players - Foster lofting the ball upfield for Boyce to head it on and send Graham racing through on goal. He then curled the ball around the on-rushing Ward to grab his second of the match and settle the game in County’s favour. Manager Jim McIntyre will be encouraged Graham recorded his first league goals for the club. He will also be pleased that, even when he isn’t scoring, Boyce is still heavily involved in most of County’s attacking play.
The rise and rise of big Josh
Josh Magennis everybody! In the last few years he has progressed from goalkeeper, to raw right-back, to a relatively productive right winger and is now leading the line for Kilmarnock. Not only that, he is keeping record SPL goalscorer Kris Boyd out the side and could be on his way to France 2016 with Northern Ireland after aiding their successful qualification campaign.
On Saturday, Kilmarnock rode their luck before eventually emerging victorious against Inverness CT. Danny Devine and Ross Draper had threatened after connecting with Greg Tansey set-pieces, but Killie had fired warning shots of their own when Magennis set up Kallum Higginbotham with his impressive hold-up play. Magennis’s strength and ability to link with the three attacking midfielders behind him was to prove decisive. The two goals were a result of high balls towards the edge of the box. On both occasions, Magennis used his chest to pick out a team-mate. The first found Greg Kiltie, who fired the ball into the net from just outside the box.
For the second, Magennis’s chest control found Higginbotham who instantly fed the ball back to him. There may have been an element of luck to the finish, given the heavy deflection off Devine, but the Northern Ireland international’s recent form is no fluke. Including the goal for his country in the recent round of international fixtures, Magennis has now scored five goals in his last six starts.
Gary Miller proves an able replacement for Dumbuya
After falling out of favour when Mustapha Dumbuya arrived at Partick Thistle, Gary Miller must have wondered when he’d be getting back into the side. Dumbuya began his Firhill career with a man-of-the-match performance in the narrow defeat to Dundee. He instantly endeared himself to the home support, taking advantage of the space created by Robbie Muirhead drifting inside ahead of him and putting in a full-back display the Thistle support have become accustomed to.
A few weeks later, in their next home match, he again terrorised the opposition left-back, this time linking well with David Amoo. In that 3-0 victory over Dundee United, Dumbuya scored his first goal for the club to help them to their first win of the season. Unfortunately, injury prevented the Sierra Leone international from lining up against St Johnstone at the weekend and this gave Miller a chance to reclaim a regular spot in the side.
Even though known as a more defensive option than Dumbuya, Miller more than delivered in an attacking sense. His rasping shot with just under half an hour played gave Thistle the lead before his throw a few minutes later set up Steven Lawless for a similarly impressive effort. Miller's contribution was enough to earn his side three points against one of the form sides in the division.
Nine matches without victory - scoring just three goals in the process - have been followed up with two consecutive victories in which Thistle have scored five times. After lifting themselves off the bottom in the previous round of fixtures, they now sit four points above Dundee United.