[media-credit name=”© Gill Williamson” align=”alignleft” width=”300″][/media-credit]Currently top of the Scottish Football League Championship First Division after 17 games with a three-point lead and two games in hand, County have already scored as many goals and won more games than in the whole of the previous league campaign. Not too shabby by any means.
The only blemish on the season so far was an early 5-1 thrashing away to Hamilton, but that blip aside County have steamrolled through the rest of the division and stayed firmly entrenched at the top of the table.
Derek Adams has managed to blend the easy-on-the-eye but not always productive football of his previous reign with a much more clinical edge, meaning Count have been picking up wins where points were often dropped in the past.
Much of that has to do with the addition of Grant Munro at the back, whose experience has seen him stroll through many SFL matches since arriving at Victoria Park and form a miserly partnership with the ever-reliable Scott Boyd at the heart of the County defence.
The midfield has regularly been the strongest part of the County line up in recent seasons, but a settled formation has seen the likes of Richard Brittain and Iain Vigurs really shine and consistently play at a level well above their opponents.
There had been major issues up front at County for some time, with goals in short supply even when the team were playing well in the past. However, Michael Gardyne’s unquestioned talent and trickery has been complemented perfectly by the guile of an injury-free Colin McMenamin to form a potent pairing that has been putting away chances with aplomb.
None of the players mentioned would look out-of-place on an SPL team sheet.
All in all it’s a tidy package, which surely means County fans can look forward to challenging for the title as the second half of the season unfolds?
You would expect so, but this is an extremely tough division. Three points ahead and with two games in hand is potentially a nice cushion, but as seen in the SPL a big lead can quickly evaporate on the back of a few poor results and there’s not much between the sides in the first division.
County had great momentum going prior to Christmas before a couple of call-offs gave Falkirk and Dundee the chance to close the gap, so the pressure has been shifted back onto the leaders and the squad’s mental strength will be severely tested going into 2012.
On the plus side the squad looks very strong, with depth in every department, and you can never fault Derek Adams’ motivation or will to win, which should keep his players firmly focused on closing out the league in the same efficient way as the have soldiered through it so far.
However, winning the big prize of promotion to the SPL is more than just another honour to be added to the County trophy cabinet. It’s an opportunity for a small community-focussed club to play at the top-level in Scotland for the first time, not in meteoric rise and fall fashion like Gretna, but in a sustained, planned way that is testament to the way the club goes about its business of nurturing talent in the far north of Scotland.
It’s also about matching the near neighbours and eternal rivals just over the bridge, so let’s hope they will still be in the same division if County can keep their end of the bargain and be on top of the SFL division one pile come the final round of league fixtures.
Written by Graeme Cleland