With Celtic heading into Wednesday night’s Scottish Premiership fixture with what could only be described as a decimated squad, Ange Postecoglou was faced with a number of incredibly tough decisions concerning his starting XI for the trip to Ross County.
With all of Kyogo Furuhashi, Albian Ajeti, Jota, James Forrest, Mikey Johnston and Giorgos Giakoumakis – in addition to long term absentees Christopher Jullien and Karamoko Dembele – ruled out of the clash due to injury, the 56-year-old manager was left with no other choice than to try and fit a number of square pegs in round holes against the Staggies.
This led to the Greek-Australian coach fielding 19-year-old left-back Adam Montgomery and right-back Josip Juranovic on the left and right of his front three, either side of Liel Abada – who himself is typically a winger.
Subsequently, Liam Scales came into the side at left-back – just his second start of the season – while Anthony Ralston also returned to the starting lineup at right-back.
And, despite the makeshift XI, Celtic just about managed to get over the line against Malky Mackay’s side, with Abada’s 21st-minute strike and Ralston’s dramatic 97th-minute header sealing a 2-1 win for the Bhoys.
However, while both goalscorers undoubtedly played a hugely influential role in the fixture, it was 23-year-old summer signing Scales who really stole the show against Ross County.
Having already impressed during his 15-minute cameo in the 3-0 win over Dundee United earlier this month, scoring Celtic’s third of the match just six minutes into his debut, Scales once again proved to Postecoglou on Wednesday night that he is a player more than capable of doing a job in the Hoops’ first team.
Indeed, over his 90 minutes on the pitch against Ross County, the £90k-rated left-back turned in a performance of the highest quality, enjoying 91 touches of the ball, completing 50 passes – two of which were key – as well as finding his man with two crosses and two long balls.
The former Shamrock Rovers man also made one interception, two tackles and won eight of his 12 duels – a success rate of 67% – with these returns seeing the defender receive a SofaScore match rating of 7.5 – the joint third-highest of any player to feature in the match.
However, aside from his overall display, undoubtedly the £5k-per-week man’s most impressive contribution in the match was his assist for Abada’s opener, latching onto Callum McGregor’s perfectly weighted through ball, before putting the ball on a plate for the 20-year-old to tap home.
As such, while fellow left-back Greg Taylor has impressed following his return to the side after recovering from injury, the Irishman who Frank McAvennie suggested “Ange can’t ignore” definitely lived up to this claim on Wednesday, with Scales’ display giving Postecoglou some serious food for thought ahead of the League Cup final on Sunday.