Joel Sked of the Terrace Scottish Football Podcast casts his eye over three of last weekend’s Ladbrokes Premiership matches and breaks down the key tactics for us.
Dons goal threat reliant on superb crossing
Aberdeen’s winning goal against Dundee came from Adam Rooney’s positioning on the left. It was Jonny Hayes who delivered, firing a low cross into the six -ard box – the corridor of uncertainty – between goalkeeper and defence. Rooney’s predatory instinct and hunger for goals saw him get in front of Paul McGinn and bundle the ball over the line – his 10th in 12 league games.
Scott Bain was in inspired form; thwarting Ash Taylor three times either side of Rooney’s goal as well as denying the matchwinner as well. All these chances came via Aberdeen’s set-piece assault on the Dundee box. The Dons constantly put opposition under pressure with a bombardment of crosses into the box. Even if it is cleared, they are usually first to the loose ball which is then delivered with the opposition still getting back into a defensive shape.
Dundee were keen to utilise the pace of Kane Hemmings in behind the Aberdeen defence. Yet with both Dundee full-backs venturing forward sparingly, Aberdeen were their own worst enemies either side of the half with a lengthy list of transgressions which gave Dundee possession in dangerous areas.
In the end, Derek McInnes will have been pleased with the way his side saw out the game with Kenny McLean and Craig Storie, who put in another matured performance, providing stability in the centre of the park.
Intensity of play key to United thumping Killie
Mixu Paatelainen’s Dundee United side have been playing aesthetically pleasing football for a team involved in a relegation battle. They simply hadn’t been earning much -eeded points.
The Arabs lined up in a 3-4-1-2 shape at the weekend, which saw the robust pairing of Guy Demel and Paul Paton protecting the back three, and Ryan Dow in a more advanced role behind the strikers. Gary Locke had pushed Craig Slater to the point of his midfield. Either side of Slater were Greg Kiltie and Kallum Higginbotham, with the latter cutting in from the left like he used to do during his time at Firhill.
Killie would spend the rest of the half on the back foot as United concentrated their attacks down the right. Dow’s free role allowed him to help Blair Spittal overload Stuart Findlay. With Coll Donaldson and then Mark Durnan pushing up when attacking, it left Higginbotham, and Kiltie, exposed, with neither able to protect Findlay.
With the first goal, Dow moved out wide with the ball and Spittal intelligently makes the opposite run inside where he was teed up by Simon Murray to zip the ball past Jamie MacDonald. The second came from a corner won on the right, Spittal delivering the set-piece on to Durnan’s head before a throw on the left was allowed to be worked easily to the right in two passes. Spittal cut on to his left and his cross drifted into the far corner. The fourth goal had the hallmarks of all of United’s good play. They pressed Killie into the corner before a bit of head tennis was brought under control by Dow who reversed the ball to Spittal to find Rankin at the back post via the head of Conrad Balatoni.
The intensity which United played at made it difficult for Locke’s men. Billy Mckay’s movement and Simon Murray’s energy pre-occupied the backline with United’s wing-backs forcing Killie’s wide midfielders into deep defensive positions. Therefore, Kilmarnock constantly went long towards an isolated Magennis who was confronted with at least two United centre-halves.
United’s formation poses a number of problems for opposition when executed well, with players covering all areas of the pitch. The pressing and energy from the home side meant they swarmed Killie’s half, making it a suffocating 45 minutes for the Rugby Park men.
Kilmarnock’s afternoon was summed up when Sean Dillon was able to break through the defence and toe-poke a fifth past MacDonald.
Combative style sees Accies & Hearts cancel each other out
Accies lined up in a 3-4-3 shape. Robbie Neilson stuck with the same XI and formation that thumped Motherwell 6-0 the previous week.
A mixture of the conditions and the combativeness of both sides meant football was at a premium in the opening stages. It soon settled down, with the Gorgie side dominating possession, while Hamilton made sure they kept their shape. The wing-backs, Antons Kurakins and Darren Lyon, tracked Hearts’ wide men deep to become a line of five, while Hamilton’s three centre-backs gave them a spare man against Hearts’ strike duo.
Hearts were guilty of going direct too often and with space hard to come by in the final third any pass had to be accurate. Miguel Pallardo played a wonderful through pass for Osman Sow, who fired wide, before Prince Buaben was able to the pick out Billy King free on the right, his shot stinging the hands of Michael McGovern.
The game changed seconds later when Igor Rossi was shown a red card. Hearts went 4-4-1 while Hamilton remained 3-4-3. The second half followed a pattern of Hearts repelling Hamilton’s advances down the flanks, while keeping the centre of the park compact to prevent penetrative passes from Ali Crawford. Set-pieces provided Hamilton with their only real threat, as Hearts looked to the pace of Sow on the counter-attack as their out ball.
With both teams more preoccupied with keeping the other out, the match opened up when Hamilton were reduced to 10 men following Jesus Garcia Tena’s tackle on the imperious Arnaud Djoum. With Juanma and Dario Zanatta on the pitch Hearts went close on a number of occasions in the final stages, Hamilton appearing nervous in dealing with crosses into the box.