Some major departures from Dingwall this summer has seen a massive job get bigger as County look to improve on a disappointing year in the eyes of Jim McIntyre, as they eye up top six place.
The only place to start is up front; the departure of Liam Boyce to Burton Albion has given Jim McIntyre a real headache as he tries to find a solution after losing his top goalscorer from the past few seasons. Two forwards have been added to the group, with Thomas Mikkelsen joining from Danish club Odense while Billy McKay, the former Inverness striker, signing from Wigan. It is difficult to replace like-for-like with McKay coming as close as County will get, I suspect, in terms of a natural goalscorer. Mikkelsen offers a different threat with the Dane providing a more physical presence up top. When you add this to the directness of Alex Schalk then it gives a good mix. With Craig Curran, Ryan Dow and Greg Morrison all in contention also, the Staggies aren’t short of options despite losing their most influential player.
A consistent back-line is something in which McIntyre will hope to implement this term after chopping and changing far too often for his liking last campaign. Suspensions and injuries hampered any kind of consistency and maybe this is a big reason why experienced central defenders Paul Quinn and Jay McEveley have left the club. Sean Kelly is the only defensive addition so far, providing versatility with the former St Mirren man able to cover centre-back as well as left-back. This is probably the thinnest area of the squad, in my opinion, and needs more reinforcements if the Staggies are going to compete for a place in the top six. Andrew Davies is the only natural centre-back, with other options being Sean Kelly and Marcus Fraser, more natural full-backs, and central midfilder, Christopher Routis. Another natural centre-back joining the ranks could be beneficial to the Highlanders.
The final two signings this Transfer Window by McIntyre so far are in the midfield area. Jim O’Brien has made his loan move permanent while Celtic have loaned out youngster Jamie Lindsay to County. This also an area which needs more depth added to give the cover and competitiveness required to gain a top six spot. Alongside Lindsay, Ross County’s very own youth product Dylan Dykes; Routis and Tim Chow are the only options at present in that role. Another one, at least, is required, in my opinion. While, out on the flanks, Michael Gardyne and Jim O’Brien bring experience to the side with Ryan Dow also able to operate in a wider area. With the loss of Chris Burke to Kilmarnock, McIntyre may look to replace the experienced head to bolster his tranks in this area of the park, too.
To conclude; I would say that, like most teams at this stage, they have a strong squad which only needs tweaks to make it even better. The defence has a good base with Scott Fox continuing in goal and an experienced head in Andrew Davies holding the spine of the side together. If they can add another defender; a midfielder and a wide player, I think Ross County have a good chance to compete for a top six spot in this season’s Scottish Premiership.