NAIRN County manager Ronnie Sharp continued his pre-season experimenting as he took another opportunity to have a look at a different system ahead of the start of the 2017/18 campaign.
The boss has been using the club’s friendlies against Scottish League opposition to put his players under pressure and learn about they can do with different formations and a number of his charges playing in unfamiliar positions.
Forfar raced into a five-goal first half lead but County competed better after the break with Jack Maclean netting a consolation after the hosts had added a sixth.
Sharp said: “I learned a few things – especially what we can and cannot do. We found out during the game a few things that we are not good at, so we need to change that over the next couple of weeks and go back to the way we were playing during the second half of last season.
“It was tough opposition but there are certain styles we are struggling with and certain positional play as well. We need to change that and get the confidence up a little bit because when you take on better sides, your confidence takes a hit.
“We have two more friendly games and we might add a third if we can and we need to get everybody up to speed. I thought we did well in patches but it was organisation defensively that let us down. We lost goals from crosses from wide areas which was a problem but we can rectify that over the next couple of weeks.
“We looked alright at times and it was a better performance in the second half than in the first half. Conditions dictated a lot and probably led to us being under a lot pressure in the first half but we were much better in the second half."
Forfar’s five first-half goals all came from cross balls with County struggling to deal with the home side’s deliveries from wide areas.
Sharp stated: “It is a concern but we have been trying out different things and different boys in different positions until we find the right solution.
“I am confident that we have not got a problem – we are doing things we have not done for a year because if we want to progress over the season, we are going to have to change between systems during games and that is what we have been doing right from the start (of pre-season).
“In the three games, there have been crosses that have come in which have been problems for us but hopefully, over the next couple of weeks, we will change back to what we know better and will be organised better defensively. We still have seven or eight boys from last season who know the way we play and we can work on adding new boys into that.”
After the restart, Sharp’s men looked more at home after the manager made a handful of changes to his line-up.
He said: “I thought the boys who came on did well. Even in the first half, we had two or three chances but we need more composure in the last third of the park. That was a problem for us last year against the better teams and when you get into the positions, you have to have composure as Forfar showed. Quality balls into the box will always cause problems and we had that problem against Inverness CT and St Mirren. We will tweak the side and change it about to more what we played last year and we should be OK.”
One of those who came on was young defender Callum Ednie, who featured in an unfamiliar centre midfield position.
Sharp said: “Callum did really well and looked composed on the ball and solid in the tackle. We wanted to play him there in the under-20s last year but we never had the chance. We have had other boys in there and tried them as well and Callum did his chances no harm.”
Dylan Mackenzie played the lone striker role and gave the Forfar back line a difficult afternoon despite his service being restricted.
“Dylan looked lively and made a lot of good runs,” Sharp declared. “We were playing against a League One side with good players – it was not as if we were playing against even a Highland League team. Forfar were promoted last year, so they showed they have quality in their team. You do not get promotion if you do not have quality and they were in the same division as the likes of Elgin last year and were able to get out of that league, beating Peterhead in the playoffs, so that shows the quality they have.
“The boys are being a bit hard on themselves but we said we would deliberately take three really hard games against good opposition to find out what we can and cannot do. We have stuck by that but nobody likes losing and losing a lot of goals. Hopefully, these games will toughen us up mentally for the start of the season.”