Friday, September 14, 2012

SPL: Dundee United v Ross County

Preparing for his Dundee United side's home clash with Ross County tonight, Peter Houston observed that the visitors look hard to beat.

These days we only expect such powers of deduction in the creations of Steven Moffat.

But give Peter his due. He spent much of the last fortnight polishing Craig Levein's spectacles.

And realising that a team on 39 game unbeaten league run might be a tough nut to crack is more insightful than anything we heard from the Scotland camp on Tuesday evening.

It's been a funny sort of opening to the SPL season.

The international break, United's postponed game, the artificial feeling you always get when the transfer window closes after the season has begun.

There's been a sense that the league hasn't quite bedded down yet.

Maybe the events of the summer have contributed to that. Or maybe it's always like this but I've had more to distract me this year.

It's time to get down to business though.

Starting with another Friday night experiment.

For or against? I'm still undecided although I am in favour of the trial run continuing throughout this season so that judgements can be made based on evidence rather than on the hunch of a chairman or a young marketing graduate looking to make a quick impact.

Both United and County go into this one with seven points, lying fourth and fifth in a concerntinaed league table.

They've got there in different ways though.

Ross County have opened with four draws and an away win against Dundee. They've scored two goals and conceded one.

Critics of manager Derek Adams might use that to label his side as excessively functional.

They're also effectively functional though. And there are far worse things for a newly promoted side to be.

United started out with back-to-back 3-0 home wins over Hibs and Dundee, wins that were every bit as comfortable and deserved as the scores suggest.

Since then they've stuttered on the road. A 3-1 defeat at Kilmarnock led one preposterous tabloid journalist to hammer the final nail in the coffin of match report writing.

That was followed by a 0-0 in Perth, a result that is arguably worse than it sounds in the context of St Johnstone's run of 14 competitive matches without a win.

Still, hardly soul destroying form. And tonight offers a return to the free-scoring comforts of home against a team that hasn't done much scoring anywhere.

County will have their game plan though. And they've been bloody good at putting into action. Of course a 39 game unbeaten run carries with it both luck and a trail of opponents cursing their own profligacy. County seem adept at capitalising on that luck and on the frustration of other teams.

That, as Peter Houston very reasonably pointed out, makes them hard to beat.

Being hard to beat doesn't, of course, win games and it is trickier to see County suddenly delivering a goal rush in the SPL.

They're 4/1 to win tonight with Ladbrokes. If they're going to win I wouldn't expect it to be by much so 1-0 at 10/1 doesn't look a bad shout.

Ladbrokes Game On!
These two teams have cooked up five draws - four of them goalless - in nine league games so far this season. Tonight the draw is 11/4 and 0-0 is 9/1.

That bet would be to put more faith in the visitors's miserly defence than United's attackers.

I'd certainly expect County to be less obliging than Hibs and Dundee were in the first two games at Tannadice this season and United will be without Gary Mackay-Steven while Jon Daly is doubtful.

39 games is also a very long time to get into the habit of not losing.

All runs end somewhere. But 40 not out looks a real possibility.

Which I think means I've convinced myself.

0-0 at 9/1.

All odds from Ladbrokes

Always remembering