I am writing this with bitter disappointment, a feeling which is more than familiar amongst Ross County fans this season, as the nervous ending to this eventful Premiership season beckons even closer now.
An injury struck St Mirren team travelled to Dingwall off the back of a narrow Scottish Cup victory over Inverness, putting them into the quarter finals. This could be huge for their somewhat average season, but before that they had the task of facing a County team fighting to retain Premiership status yet again. This was always going to be an interesting encounter, as last time these sides met, the Saints won in what was seen as a very controversial manner, through a late penalty giving them all three points.
The two sides lined up quite differently tonight, with the opposition setting up with what looked to be a three at the back format. County went with the standard four back. In the first 45 we seemed to utilise the fact they only had 3 defenders quite well, playing the ball in between them towards Billy McKay up top.
Youngster Jay Henderson had a very early chance however it was deflected, although this put instant pressure amongst the County ranks. The 19 year old gave Leo Hjelde a torrid time all night, with a few driving runs down the right, his skill and pace often proving too much for the young Norwegian.
The Paisley side started the opening 15 or so minutes a lot better, however the home side took the lead. Target man Jordan White stabbed home after 18 minutes, a composed finish after some scrambling in the box. The assist went to Jordan Tillson, who also had a chance at the end of the first half, forcing Alnwick to tip it over the bar.
County had a very resolute half, limiting St Mirren to few chances. However that was soon to change as the second half got underway, as we were caught on the back foot, with the experienced Richard Tait swinging a brilliant ball in right onto the head of ex Staggie Lee Erwin, who just simply couldn’t miss from close range.
There was a spell around the 65th minute where County had a series of three or four corners, applying pressure onto the St Mirren box, but we failed to capitalise on the attacking spell with both John Hughes and Jim Goodwin shortly after being forced to roll the dice. It was the latter who’s changes payed off, substitute Colin Quaner driving past the defence, executing a good layoff to Durmus who poked the ball past the helpless Laidlaw, and just like that the tide changed with a flurry of St Mirren chances.
The three County changes at this point made a slightly more positive impact on the field than the players they replaced, with Harry Paton putting his best efforts to help the team search for an equaliser with some driving runs. Charles-Cook also put in a few dangerous balls, however nobody latching on the end of them. John Hughes started to grow a frustrated figure as the game was slipping away, and the home side’s chances at taking anything from the game seemed to grow even slimmer. Jason Naismith was forced off due to injury, Blair Spittal replaced him as the defender’s night was cut short.
It went from bad to worse as County were penalised by Bobby Madden as he pointed to the spot, after Leo Hjelde handled the ball. The ever reliable Jamie McGrath made no mistake in slotting home from 12 yards.
The same message that has been the case most of the season which is ever present again after this performance. Simply not good enough. If we want to continue to play Premiership football next season then we have to step up in these remaining three games, as last night St Mirren clearly wanted it more in the end, with their substitutions proving to be decisive.
All in all it was a bad day at the office last night for the men in navy blue, however notable mentions should go to Michael Gardyne, Jordan Tillson and Billy McKay. Their work ethic tonight should set an example for some of the other’s who had an off day.