The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire)

Woes mount for Adams as Staggies succumb to third defeat

Scottish Premiershi­p: Disappoint­ing start to season continues for County


Played three, lost three. Last season's top-six finish may hav e exceeded expectatio­ns, but Ross County's start to the new campaign has been a major disappoint­ment.

Manager Derek Adams haddescrib­ed the3-1defeat to Partick Thistle as the worst result of his County career but, after this mauling at McDiarmid Park to a free-flowing St Johnstone, Adams admitted Saturday's defeat was equally as painful.

It was a display of ruthless attacking swagger from St Johnstone who played beautifull­y from Aberdeen and Motherwell have been widely tipped to finish second behind Celtic this season but St Johnstone continued their fine start to the season with a 4- 0 win against Ross County.

Forty-one-year-old Stevie Banks made his St Johnstone debut in Saturday’s encounter with number one Alan Mannus out with a shoulder injury and enjoyed a very comfortabl­e start to finish and could easily have won this onesided encounter by more than four goals.

NigelHasse­lbaink, David Wotherspoo­n, Stevie May and Dave Mackay got the goals with man- of- thematch Wotherspoo­n also missing a first-half penalty.

County's success last season was based upon a watertight defence so Adams will be particular­ly concerned his side has conceded nine goals in three games.

However, the season has only just begun and there must be no panic just yet. Financiall­y-stricken Hearts remain 11 points behind after starting the season with a 15-point deduction, while fellow Premiershi­p strugglers St Mirren, with afternoon. He said: “St Johnstone have always been a tough team to play. We know what we are doing at the back and we have flair players who can go and create something.

“We will just carry on doing our jobs and see where it takes us, but hopefully that is as high up the league as possible.

“To qualify for Europe next year would be great. We are enjoying a good spell but you have to show respect to the other teams only one point, visit Dingwall on Saturday in a match the Staggies can ill-afford to lose.

However they won't avoid a fourth consecutiv­e defeat if they play as poorly as they did at McDiarmid Park on Saturday.

Unsurprisi­ngly, Adams shuffled his team following the Partick defeat, making six changes.

Captain Richard Brittain, who had missed the opening two games of the season through suspension after being sent off in preseason, returned to face the club for which he had signed a pre- contract agreement but, after a change of heart and a lengthy dispute between the two clubs, remained in the Highlands.

Thepantomi­mevillain of t he piece was j eered throughout the match by the home support in a difficult afternoon for the former Livingston midfielder.

Ivan Sproule also returned from suspension, Scott Boyd came back after injury, while there were starts for new signings in the league as there isn’t much between us all.

“All the press have said Celtic will win the league and Aberdeen are probably going to be second and then it is a struggle for everywhere else in the league. That is what it could be like but we fancy our chances. We will go about our job quietly and try to get as high up the league as possible.”

This was the Saints goalkeepin­g coach’s first start since January 2011, when Melvin de Leeuw and Steven Saunders as well as 19-year-old attacker Steven Ross.

St Johnstone settled quicker and it was no surprise when they took the lead after 14 minutes when Murray Davidson's low cross wasneatly turned into the net by Hasselbain­k he faced Ross County in a Scottish Cup fourth-round replay, in which he was the hero for Dundee United by making two saves in a penalty shoot-out to help his side progress to the next round.

He was barely involved in Saturday’s match but was happy enough with his contributi­on. He added: “The team were tremendous from the back four forward. They put in an awful lot of effort and played really well. I –a terrible visitors.

Staggies defender Boyd was slightly fortunate to escape with only a booking for a cynical foul on May but things went from bad to worse for the visitors when former Hibernian player Wotherspoo­n curled home the resulting free

start for the wouldn’t take anything away from our team as I think we were the ones who made Ross County look not as good as they usually are.

“I’m not really too fussed with how many we score – it is the zero at my end that I am bothered about. After we missed the penalty all Ross County needed was a goal to get them back in it but we were determined to make sure that wouldn’t be the case and we went on to win comfortabl­y.” kick with a sumptuous finish with only 18 minutes on the clock.

The Staggies were shellshock­ed with their passing becoming disjointed and lone forward Ross cutting a desolate figure in attack, starved of service on a day when he would have been desperate to impress.

The Saints pressure was relentless but only their profligacy prevented a third being scored before the break. Countyhad goalkeeper Mark Brown to thank in the 38th minute when he guessed correctly to save a Wotherspoo­n penalty after the midfielder hadbeenbar­ged over in the box by BenGordon. But the hosts had another goal to cheer four minutes into the second half when May, the Peterborou­gh United transfer target, cut inside pastGordon­before rifling a low shot under Brown.

Boyd was fortunate to avoid a second booking for a clumsy foul on May on the edge of the area in the 62nd minute but again County were made to pay when Saints captain Dave Mackay curled the free kick around the wall and into the net. It took County until the 80th minute to muster their only shot on target but Sproule's tame effort was easily held by St Johnstone's 41-year-old debutant Stevie Banks, who will have enjoyed few easier games over the course of his lengthy career in goal.

County face St Mirren andHiberni­an in their next two Premiershi­p matches – with a long journey to face Stranraer in the League Cup sandwiched in between – and Adams' side will be desperate to pick up points in both matches in order to extend the gap between themselves and the chasing Hearts.

But to do it the County manager will need to find the answer to a back line which has proven to be too porous so far this season.

 ??  ?? OVER AND OUT: Dave Mackay, back, towers over Ross County’s Graham Carey
OVER AND OUT: Dave Mackay, back, towers over Ross County’s Graham Carey
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