Match Preview - Motherwell (A)
It’s a quick turnaround for us Staggies in getting ready for another Premiership fixture in what is turning out to be a packed schedule for Malky Mackay and his players.
Following a point on the road in Dundee, Saturday sees another trip down the A9 – this time around to take on Motherwell in Lanarkshire with a 3:00 PM kick-off.
Under Ross County favourite Stuart Kettlewell, The Steelmen have been a very strong team.
Initially being appointed as an important figure within Motherwell's youth set-up, Kettlewell was asked to take the team on an interim basis after the sacking of Stevie Hamill.
The claret and amber side quickly hit a run of form leading to Kettlewell’s permanent appointment – his first managerial role since he left us at Ross County.
Despite a strong start to this season where they picked up three wins, including victories over Kilmarnock, Hibernian, and Hearts, Kettlewell’s side is on a poor run of form.
They have picked up ten points this season but have lost their last four matches in the Scottish Premiership.
The ‘Well will be eager to bounce back against us, but catching Motherwell whilst on a negative run could play into our hands, especially as the visiting team.
Motherwell have continued to operate in Kettlewell’s preferred back three system, providing them much solidity. They have scored seven goals this season, whilst conceding nine.
Player to Watch
Making his first appearance in a Scotland jersey against France after a large amount of time being spent unused within squads, Liam Kelly will be aiming to take his performances to the next level to try and stake his claim for a more permanent role within Steve Clarke’s side.
The Rangers academy graduate has been a key man in Motherwell for several seasons now, with his crucial saves earning countless points for the Steelmen.
Liam Kelly, whose brother Sean played for the Staggies, is certainly one to watch – you can expect him to pull off some spectacular saves, so it’s crucial that we are firing on all cylinders come Saturday.
The Staggies finally got back to action on Wednesday after a three-week period with no football. It was a goalless clash in Dundee, with many positives to be had – most importantly a clean sheet.
County did manage to get the ball into the back of the net, but it was chalked off by Colin Steven – causing great controversy in the process.
Despite feeling hard done by, that point could be just what we need to use as a platform to build on.
A win on Saturday could go a long way in bringing back the high levels of confidence which were on display at the start of the season.
It would also be a real statement to the teams around us that we are capable of going that extra yard and grabbing wins against tough teams away from home.
Player to Watch
Another player who has recently returned from international duty for Scotland, Dylan Smith made his first start of the season against Dundee – and massively impressed.
That won’t come as a surprise for most of us fans anymore, as since the youngster came into the side last season, he hasn’t looked out of place at all.
17-year-old Smith has been a regular for Scotland under 19’s - showing his quality and ability whilst playing with the best in the nation at his age, and even with players two years older than him.
With Will Nightingale absent from the squad on Wednesday, Smith could well be in the frame for another start. His calmness on the ball from defence could allow the Staggies to play a shorter game – being weary of the height Motherwell possess in defence.
We struggled against Kettlewell’s side last season – picking up just one point from three fixtures. However, in other matches, we have seen plenty of success.
A midweek fixture in Malky’s first season saw a 1-0 win and three points for Ross County to bring home up the road courtesy of a Joseph Hungbo penalty.
A victory which sticks in the memory against ‘Well from back in 2015 is a 3-0 victory in Dingwall. Craig Curran, Liam Boyce, and a young Tony Dingwall netted for us on that occasion.
Despite picking up wins, it must be said our overall record facing Motherwell isn’t the strongest – having picked up 12 wins in 40 meetings.
That is something Malky and the players will be looking to change – and hopefully that comes true on Saturday.
Goals from Michael Gardyne and Iain Vigurs saw us secure our Premiership status for another season!
Some huge names in Dingwall have played for both the Staggies and the Steelmen, including player and First Division winning manager Derek Adams.
A former Ross County captain has also played for ‘Well – Iain Vigurs moved south after successfully making the step up to the top flight with ourselves.
There are two players who have crossed over and are currently at their respective clubs, and they also very recently played together in Dingwall. John Hughes signed current forward Jordan White from Motherwell, whilst Blair Spittal left the Highlands for Lanarkshire last summer.
Josh Reid, Ross Callachan and Ben Paton remain as the longer-term absentees. There are questions about the fitness of Will Nightingale who was left out of the squad for the trip to the Scot Foam Stadium in Dundee.
Josh Sims made a welcome return to action during the midweek.
Ross County supporters can purchase tickets from the following link: Event information screen - Motherwell FC tickets (eticketing.co.uk)