I thought the penalty had to be a dive. There’s no way Efe would clatter into the player like that, I was sure! The error wasn’t even schoolboy stuff. Ambrose and Mikael Lustig were caught square-on, the latter not goal-side of his man, and therefore unable to see the run. The incident is symptomatic of an error-prone season for the defence.
Referee Craig Thomson got that one right but missed Craig Gordon being held at County’s second goal. Unlike Efe’s split-second intervention, this was a clear and persistent infringement and should have been spotted. County can also consider themselves unfortunate to concede a penalty for an awkward hand ball, and Stefan Johansen should have received a red card for his late lunge at an opponent.
Notwithstanding the foul for County’s second, they then got two free headers within 8 yards of our goal at a corner kick. The man-to-man system is in no way better than our zonal system if your players cannot follow the flight of the ball.
I’ve said often enough before that teams can steamroller straight through the middle of us – when we play so expansively, we need real authority to control things in the middle of the park. The authority coefficient visibly increased when Scott Brown arrived but not sufficiently so.
Erik Sviatchenko looked the part when he came on. Always available for a pass, keen to take a touch, and regularly played 30-yard forward balls. It is no great stretch to suggest he could be our best defender.
What did we learn from yesterday? Primarily that we’re not good enough in many positions:
Kieran Tierney continues to shine as an 18-year-old left back. Sviatchenko and Simunovic may establish a solid central defensive partnership, but we have little more to boast about in defence.
When we are up against a disorganised Hamilton Accies, our nippy wee guys will do a lot of damage, but not every game suits nippy wee guys. The qualifiers won’t.
This is not the time to ask questions about the manager. I don’t know who it was in the media who first suggested he needed to win the treble to keep his job, but it’s absurd.
We’ve won the treble 3 times in the 70 seasons it’s been available. The league title is a vastly easier competition post Rangers liquidation, but very few times in those 67 seasons we didn’t win the treble did Rangers deny us both cups. This result is no worse than our previous two exists in this competition to Morton and St Mirren, or countless before them.
The first thing you do when you get rid of your manager is attempt to recruit a better talent. Can you imagine who would be interested in a job where you had to win the club’s fourth treble in your first two seasons or face the sack? It’s no way to run a club and would guarantee a downward spiral.
The manager’s strategic job right now is to improve the squad this month, build a defensive unit as sold as we had last season, and identify targets for the summer to prepare for the Champions League qualifiers. None of this would improve by lurching off plan right now.