Saints 2-1 Ross County

By Stuart Gillespie
Last updated : 17 November 2013

The scoreline flatters County. We destroyed them until they got a goal out of nothing, then when they got reduced to nine men (our kryptonite!) they were arguably the better side. Even then we still had plenty of chances but couldn't make them count and had a penalty scare in the last minute - Jim Goodwin somehow getting away with a blatant handball.

Justice was done in the end. We should have beaten County a fortnight ago until it got a bit wet. Today they should have been dead and buried before we let them back into it and the win moves us up to eighth. The fact it's (or more accurately Goodwin) annoyed their manager who was so happy to see the game stopped a fortnight ago is an added bonus.

We stuck with the same side that had dispensed with Partick Thistle last week, meaning the fit again Lee Mair had to settle for a spot on the bench despite starting the first game against County. Jason Naismith took a knock at Firhill but had recovered sufficiently to start, with the Darren McGregor and Marc McAusland partnership and the same midfield all continuing. Thomas Reilly was our only striking option on the bench with Stephane Bahoken nowhere to be seen.  County started with Richard Brittain in place of fellow ex Saint Graham Carey in one of three changes to the side that started in Paisley the last time. Branislav Micic and Steven Saunders also started with Ben Gordon and Mihael Kovacevic dropping out.

McGregor was in action early on when he cleared away Melvin De Leeuw's weak shot before an even weaker penalty shout, Kevin Luckassen falling down and deciding to appeal for a spot-kick that was rightly waved away. No sooner had that happened than we carved out a great chance, Conor Newton releasing Jason Naismith and Steven Thompson should perhaps have done better than put the cross just past the post. After Marian Kello skinned Luckassen - always funnier when it's your goalie and it doesn't end in disaster - Kenny McLean's bending shot dipped a few yards the wrong side of the bar. McLean seemed to be our designated set-piece taker with varying results, although a corner did find McGregor but the ball bounced off his head and went behind.

We saw a rather impressive use of the advantage rule - even more surprising considering Willie Collum was the ref - when Rocco Quinn tried to stop McLean as we burst forward. We won a corner before the midfielder was booked, Collum then probably correctly turning down a penalty appeal when McGowan went down under Scott Boyd's tackle inside the box. A minute later we were in front, Kelly playing a short pass to McGowan and he worked himself some space before laying the ball off to McLean and he sent a fierce, low shot flying past the hapless Mark Brown. It was a great strike and the passing before it had been top notch too. We'd been on top without creating a great deal but we still fully merited our lead.

We could have been in even better shape before the break. First, McLean sent one wide from a silly distance before Thompson crossed for the well positioned McGinn but he couldn't get his head on it. Had it been the other way around it would almost certainly have been a goal. In the last few seconds McLean looked to have taken a poor corner but it found Thompson, this time his shot creeping agonisingly wide of goal. We'd played well but we needed to keep up the momentum to ensure we didn't pay for the missed chances. It had also started to rain, but not particularly heavy so we weren't in danger on that front even with Collum in charge.

Goodwin had managed to escape a first half booking - despite committing at least three fouls - and was on the receiving end of a nasty challenge early in the second half that saw Stuart Kettlewell deservedly booked. A few minutes later we deservedly doubled our lead, McGowan passing Naismith's cross onto Thompson and, with the striker unable to turn and get a shot in, he passed it to Newton to dispatch past Brown. It was another fine goal and the midfielder is becoming a bit of a goal machine. Thompson nearly added his name to the scoresheet moments later but he was unable to divert Naismith's cross past Brown.

Knowing we're vulnerable against our old players County decided to put Carey on for Kettlewell. He had a chance almost immediately when McGinn was ridiculously unlucky to be booked for a nothing challenge on De Leeuw. Thankfully, despite being booked in the first game, he wasn't sent off and the free-kick from the wide area went straight to Kello. It looked to be just a blip and Thompson almost got our third with a glancing header from McLean's cross but Brown did well to hold it. Carey did manage a few spectacular goals when he was with us but he also went close to hitting some planes and thankfully it was a shot in the latter category he produced when the ball fell to him, his effort almost clearing the stand at the Railway End. McGowan was rather closer - although still miles off target - when he tried his luck from the same distance at the other end.

We had been in total cruise control, but a lapse at the back changed all that. It looked as if a cross would make it through to Kello, but Goodwin decided to head it behind instead. Carey's delivery looked half decent but it bounced off a Saints player's head and then found Steven Saunders, who took it down before slamming it past Kello from close range. Suddenly we were in real trouble and an easy three points looked anything but.

County then decided that if putting on former players was working, why not try another tactic and get yourself reduced to nine men. First to go was Ivan Sproule for a disgraceful challenge on McAusland right in front of the ref. It was so bad that not one County person complained about it and off went the Northern Irishman. As he did so the fans rose for a minute's applause for Saints fan Simon Richardson, who sadly lost his life last week. After that was done Saunders decided he wasn't going to better his goal and decided to get sent off - flattening McGinn and McLean in quick succession to get the quickest two bookings I've seen for some time! Ben Gordon - who'd had a shocker against us in the original game - came on to strengthen the defensive line but we should have finished things off. Kelly was perhaps a bit unsure what to do after terrific play from McGinn and McGowan had him in behind the defence, although Brown still made a good save, before Newton looked like he'd added his second before the keeper turned his shot behind. The same player then fired inches over moments later.

There was a huge scare in the last few minutes as County pushed for an equaliser. We knocked the ball about at the back and you had to fear it would end in disaster. Sure enough it did, a pass not making it to Naismith and he sensibly fouled someone as he raced back. The ball was flung into the box, Kello couldn't grab it and suddenly everyone was after it. Goodwin cleared it, except he had quite clearly used his hand while doing so. Incredibly, perhaps guilty of calling off the original game (aye right!) Collum and chums waved play on and the County players and management were incandescent. It was even clearer than last week's handball against Thistle and how our captain made it through today's 90 minutes without getting booked I'll never know.

That was the last fright and we should have won by more in stoppage time, McGinn bringing a good save from Brown before the keeper denied Kelly once again. It's not a bad day when you're main complaint is you only won by one goal!

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