Ross County fully focused on crucial trip to Dundee United – Malky … –

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Malky Mackay will put Ross County’s crucial trip to Dundee United on Saturday in the context of a four-game relegation finale to the cinch Premiership campaign.
The Staggies much-needed 2-0 home win over Livingston last week tightened things at the bottom of the table.
County are still in the basement but only one point behind Kilmarnock and Dundee United, who lost 1-0 to St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park in their last outing, while Killie went down 2-0 at Motherwell.
With games against Motherwell, St Johnstone and Kilmarnock to follow the trip to Tayside, boss Mackay looked at the bigger picture.
He said: “You look at the league table and everything is closed up, which is important.
“We managed to win and the two teams above us didn’t so it brings us that little bit closer to each other which is something that gives confidence to the group.
“We have to make sure we keep focused on the game which is right on front of our face and make sure we approach every game in the same manner we did at the weekend.
“Obviously, everyone knows what’s to play for in the four games coming.
“We have to be balanced as far as that is concerned and just make sure we go down there and give our best version of ourselves on the day.
“I don’t think you can (distinguish between games against closest rivals and other two), if you do that then fail in the games against the other two, then all of a sudden you could be in a worse position.
“So I think you just go straight into the game against the team you are playing and try to do your best and see where it falls at the end of the day, just like Saturday. No doubts it will be a tough game.”
Juventus moved to the brink of Champions League qualification with a 2-0 Serie A win over Cremonese on Sunday, though their victory was marred by another injury suffered by Paul Pogba.
With one eye on Thursday’s decisive Europa League semi-final clash with Sevilla, Massimiliano Allegri made seven changes to his line-up, handing Pogba his first Serie A start since returning to Turin.
Pogba’s outing lasted just 24 minutes as he was substituted in tears after appearing to suffer a thigh injury, and though his withdrawal initially affected Juve, fellow midfielder Nicolo Fagioli broke Cremonese’s resistance with a powerful drive after half-time.
Bremer headed a late second as Juve went eight points clear of fifth-placed Milan with three games remaining, leaving them favoured for a top-four finish, provided their 15-point deduction is not restored.
Juve struggled to break Cremonese down in a low-key opening, and they suffered a huge blow when Pogba pulled up innocuously, before exiting the field visibly upset seven years to the day after his last Serie A start.
Danilo was unable to convert the rebound when Marco Carnesecchi spilt Bremer’s header 32 minutes in, and that was as close as the Bianconeri came before being booed off at half-time.
Federico Chiesa blazed over the crossbar as Juve sought an improvement after the break, while Adrien Rabiot forced Carnesecchi into action with a powerful 25-yard strike.
Chiesa turned provider as Juve broke the deadlock after 55 minutes, though Fagioli was deserving of all the credit as he hammered the winger’s lay-off into the roof of the net from 20 yards out.
A VAR review denied Juve a second goal when Arkadiusz Milik converted with 16 minutes remaining, but the contest was over five minutes later when Bremer reacted quickest to nod in following a corner.
What does it mean? Juve edge towards finish line
Juve’s hopes of Champions League qualification have been under threat on several occasions this season, including when they were hit with a 15-point deduction in January, and more recently when they ended April with a four-match winless run in Serie A (D1 L3).
However, Allegri’s men have hit form just as their rivals have faltered, winning three successive games to move well clear of Milan.
Off-field matters could yet have an impact, but on the pitch, Juve know any further slip-ups from the Rossoneri will confirm their place in the top four.
Pogba woes continue
Pogba returned to Turin from Manchester United with much fanfare last year, but it’s fair to say his Juve comeback has not been successful. 
Beset by injuries since pre-season, Pogba has made just six league appearances this campaign, featuring for a total of 84 minutes.
Fagioli steps up
Following Pogba’s withdrawal, Juve needed somebody to step up and provide some attacking inspiration.
Fagioli, who spent a period in Cremonese’s youth system and enjoyed a loan spell with the club last season, did just that. 
Following his thunderous strike, he is one of just two midfielders born this century to score three goals and register three assists in Serie A this term, alongside Udinese’s Lazar Samardzic.
What’s next? 
It’s all to play for as Juventus head to Sevilla for the second leg of their Europa League semi-final tie on Thursday, following a 1-1 first-leg draw.
Jamie Walker gave Bradford the first-leg advantage over Carlisle following a 1-0 win in their Sky Bet League Two play-off semi-final.
The Scottish midfielder scored the only goal in a close encounter at Valley Parade – a game watched by the largest crowd at this stage in the fourth tier.
The 20,575 attendance saw Carlisle pile on the pressure in the second half but Mark Hughes’ Bradford held on to take a slender lead to Brunton Park next Saturday.
Just goal difference had separated the two sides in the final league table – and their previous encounters had produced only one goal.
The opening exchanges were predictably tight in a raucous atmosphere.
Ben Barclay’s header was saved by Bradford goalkeeper Harry Lewis and Joe Garner hit the bar, although play was pulled back for a handball against the Carlisle forward.
The home side went in front from the resulting free-kick, Alex Gilliead and Andy Cook heading on from Lewis’ long kick before Scott Banks played in Walker to fire past Carlisle’s Tomas Holy.
As Bradford maintained the pressure, Walker was close to a second as his cross-shot flashed across the Carlisle goal.
Owen Moxon’s set-piece delivery looked the best route back for Carlisle. Jack Armer headed wide from their first corner and Corey Whelan was also off target on the end of a Moxon free-kick.
Bradford had another chance in added time at the end of the half as Banks surged forward into the penalty area but Holy was out to narrow the angle and save his toe-poke shot.
Carlisle, who had won only one of their previous nine Valley Parade visits, pressed for a response early in the second half and Alfie McCalmont’s first-time volley was held by Lewis.
Adam Clayton then lost possession in Bradford’s half but Garner delayed in the corner of the penalty area, allowing Romoney Crichlow to steal the ball away.
Carlisle manager Paul Simpson swapped both strikers on 58 minutes to bring on Ryan Edmondson and Kristian Dennis.
Edmondson quickly won a corner but Barclay could not get a proper connection on his header.
Carlisle continued to enjoy the upper hand and their best chance fell to Edmondson after a mistake from Crichlow but he shot across the face of goal before Armer drove into the side-netting.
Edmondson’s aerial presence had given the visitors an attacking edge and he should have scored from Armer’s cross but he headed past the post with Lewis beaten and looked visibly annoyed with himself.
Bradford were hanging on as Dennis burst through but Lewis did enough to force him wide and he shot behind the goal.
Defeat meant Carlisle have won only two of their last 12 games but their strong second-half showing will give them hope for the return.
A frustrated Mikel Arteta apologised to the Arsenal supporters after a crushing 3-0 loss at home to Brighton all but ended their Premier League title hopes.
Second-half goals from Julio Enciso, Deniz Undav and Pervis Estupinan earned the Seagulls a deserved victory at the Emirates that means Manchester City need one more win from their final three games to defend their crown.
City could be champions on Saturday night if Arsenal lose at Nottingham Forest with the gap between the top two now four points, and Pep Guardiola’s side holding a game in hand on the Gunners, who have failed to win five of their last seven matches.
“A really different feeling to the feeling that we all had last Sunday (at Newcastle) when we felt proud and we felt that we really did what we needed to win in certain moments. Today is completely the opposite,” Arteta admitted.
“We have to apologise to our people, especially for the second half.
“What I have to accept first is what happened in the second half and digest it.
“After that until it’s mathematically over… the second position is secure. That’s not going to change. We have to digest and that will take a few days.
“At the moment it’s just frustration. The feeling that we gave the game away in the second half. We fought really hard to be in the position that we are in and today we were in a critical moment to keeping hoping and digging for that dream.
“When you have to play in these moments you cannot do what we did in the second half.
“Then we have to look. If a team is capable of doing that when it comes to the biggest stage, there’s a lot of things to analyse and think about because it cannot happen.”
Manchester City’s 3-0 victory at Everton earlier in the day had ramped up the pressure on Arsenal but they started strongly despite losing Gabriel Martinelli to an ankle injury after 19 minutes.
Gabriel Jesus tested Jason Steele midway through the opening 45 and Leandro Trossard clipped the crossbar with a swerving effort before Bukayo Saka dragged an effort wide from 14 yards at the end of a stop-start half.
Brighton punished Arsenal’s profligacy straight after half-time when Estupinan followed up his blocked cross with a scuffed centre that Enciso headed home for his third goal of the season.
Arteta made a raft of changes after but the visitors stayed in control and picked off the hosts with Undav able to lob Aaron Ramsdale in the 86th minute before Estupinan grabbed a deserved goal with a close-range finish in stoppage-time.
A reflective Arteta added: “Obviously what the team has done over the last 10 months is very different to what anybody expected and that generates a lot of expectation as well enthusiasm, happiness and joy.
“That’s something that has to be managed in the right way and after we have the responsibility to make sure the team performs and I am responsible for that.
“So, I hate the feeling of letting people down when they are expecting something. That’s the biggest regret I have today and I have to apologise for that.”
It was a different set of emotions for Brighton boss Roberto De Zerbi, who laughed off comparisons with Jose Mourinho after he wheeled off down the touchline to celebrate Undav’s goal.
He did insist, however, that nothing had been achieved by his sixth-placed side.
“Yes I am very delighted for the performances. I think we deserved to win but then really happy, really proud because the last five days were very difficult after the defeat on Monday (against Everton),” De Zerbi stated.
“We have 58 points and not enough to qualify for Europe.
“We have another four games, tough games, Newcastle, Southampton, City and last game Aston Villa and we have to fight to deserve to qualify because 58 points is not enough to play Thursdays next year.”
May 11, 2023 SPL
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