The final match from round one of the new Scottish Premiership season has been saved for Monday night when Ross County and Motherwell play at Victoria Park. The fixture is scheduled for a 19:45 GMT kick-off slot and will be shown live on television, giving armchair fans and lovers of the Scottish game a competitive start to a busy week.
The terraces of the Dingwall venue will lie empty for this match and it is not yet known when fans will be allowed to return to football grounds to support the game. Clubs need the income that comes from ticket sales, but the gathering of large crowds is still deemed unsafe by the Scottish government who are yet to put in place a timeline for the return.
That means both teams must remain professional and hold their concentration in what will be an eerie silent stadium. The pressure is now on clubs to make a great start to the campaign, give the fans something to cheer from home and make sure they return in large numbers when it is safe to do so. Which side will get off to the perfect start on Monday night?
County must plug a leaky defence
Ross County finished 10th in the Scottish Premiership last season and only narrowly avoided the threat of relegation down to the Championship. The Staggies finished the 2019/20 campaign with their stats reading 7 wins and 8 draws against 15 defeats, 29 goals scored and 60 conceded. The goals against tally is astonishing as Ross County leaked more goals than any other team in the league, eight more than Hearts who finished bottom and were relegated. They also scored fewer goals than the two teams finishing beneath them in the table and that’s something manager Stuart Kettlewell must work on improving.
The manager’s focus in pre-season would have been on making his team much more difficult to beat than they were last season. Plugging the gaps in defence is vitally important if the team are to steer clear of the bottom two but the damage done last season suggests there will be no quick fix for that problem. New players are needed as well as improved coaching methods at the back, but the club continue to operate on a shoestring budget and struggle to attract talent to Dingwall.
Kettlewell was able to bring in a new goalkeeper this summer when signing Ross Doohan from champions Celtic on a loan deal expected to last a season. Doohan played for County as a trialist in a pre-season friendly against Celtic and conceded two goals but he has been capped at under-21 level for Scotland and big things are expected from the youngster in future. Moving to Victoria Park and gaining regular first-team football seems like a good move for all concerned parties.
Motherwell target repeat performance
Motherwell enjoyed a fantastic season last term when finishing as best of the rest behind the Old Firm, only Glasgow giants Celtic and Rangers above them in the table. Finishing in the bronze medal position is a remarkable achievement for Well and everyone connected to the club will hope it’s the start of great things at Fir Park. There’s now no reason why they can’t build on that solid foundation and aim to repeat the feat this year. Challenging Celtic and Rangers for the title is surely a bridge too far but the squad are good enough and ambitious enough to ensure they close the gap.
The visitors will also benefit from involvement in the Europa League this season and they will join the competition at the first qualifying round alongside Aberdeen who finished fourth. That will provide a cash boost to the board, but it will also mean the players will be playing twice a week which may have a negative impact on a small squad. Manager Stephen Robinson doesn’t have big funds to play with, but he must work to get new players in to help shoulder some of the weight.
Motherwell have been quiet in the summer transfer window so far, but they did move to tie down Christopher Long on a yearlong deal after his contract expired in the summer. Long has bags of experience and is a former employee of English Premier League sides Everton and Burnley. He scored 11 goals in his debut season in the Scottish Premiership for Motherwell and spoke in a recent interview of his determination to pick up where he left off. Fans of Well will certainly hope the 25-year-old striker finds his scoring boots early.
Ross County vs Motherwell prediction
Ross County enjoy home advantage for the opening game of the season but won’t have the backing of their supporters. That puts pressure on the players to keep their concentration on the task at hand. The locals are a hard-working side in the middle of the park but must improve in both defence and attack if they are to survive this season. It’s possible the home team would see a draw and share of the spoils as a decent result.
There’s real confidence in this Motherwell team and they have an exciting Europa League campaign to look forward to later this year. They finished third on merit last season but will want to build on that. The away dressing room will fancy their chances of winning this match and starting the season with an important three points on the road. To do that they must remain patient and try to break down an opponent happy to sit back and defend. Getting the first goal is crucial for Well here.
Scottish Premiership odds
The pre-match betting odds available at 22BET prices Ross County at 215/100 to grab a home win on the opening week of the season. Motherwell are betting odds favourites for the three points with 5/4 trading or there’s 245/100 about the draw. Traders offer over 750 markets on this game, including correct score and both teams to score. Some of those should be available for live betting as well.