This was, as Kirsty Allsopp might have put it, all about relocation, relocation, relocation.
For 45 minutes, Motherwell full-back Richard Tait was tormented by County winger Michael Gardyne – but a half-time switch to the left flank paid surprising dividends.
The 27-year-old was so relieved at no longer being turned inside out, he found the confidence to steal into the opposition penalty area and claim the vital first goal.
“Richard was beating himself up but that’s what he’s like,” said home manager Steven Robinson.
“He had a poor first half – as did 10 other players – but he picked himself up and showed great character.
“We got in at half-time at 0-0, which we didn’t deserve, but we put on a very good performance in the second half. We made changes, outfought them and, eventually, outplayed them.”
Ben Heneghan was cautioned after only two minutes for crashing into the back of Craig Curran but any spectators who anticipated fireworks were disappointed. There was little in the way of goalmouth incidents during the early exchanges, although Tim Chow also had his name taken for a cynical trip on Craig Tanner.
However, the longer the game progressed, the more the visitors began to control the tempo and Frenchman Christopher Routis (a substitute for Jim O’Brien, who suffered a torn hamstring) had an ambitious overhead kick saved by Russell Griffiths.
The Motherwell goalkeeper was called into action again to beat away a venomous drive from Gardyne after Jason Naismith and Chow had sliced open the left-hand side of the home defence.
Andy Rose was the third player cautioned, for pulling back Naismith – by this time, the 25th minute, Well manager Robinson was turning puce on the touchline, screaming and gesturing at his players in the manner of a man you would cross the road to avoid.
County dominated possession to an embarrassing extent but did not create enough clear-cut openings, which allowed the hosts to cling on.
Robinson attempted to shake his team from their torpor by introducing Ryan Bowman and Allan Campbell for the ineffective Tanner and Alex Fisher at the interval and the changes had the effect of forcing County on to the back foot.
Perhaps the most telling transformation, though, was shifting Tait to left back. He had previously endured a torrid time but proved to be the unlikely hero.
County captain Andrew Davies swiped at and missed a low cross from Chris Cadden which fell kindly for Tait, who scuffed it low beyond Scott Fox from 12 yards.
County responded almost immediately; Naismith released Alex Schalk but the striker’s shot came back off the crossbar.
The Highlanders could not regain their first-half impetus, however, and they fell behind 16 minutes from the end.
Louis Moult beat Kenny van der Weg to Bowman’s headed pass and was shoved to the ground. Referee Alan Muir dismissed the Dutch defender and gave a penalty.
Moult dusted himself down to convert the spot-kick. Having already lost Davies to another hamstring injury, there was to be no comeback for County.
County manager Jim McIntyre was left to rue missed opportunities.
He said: “The first half was as good as we’ve played for a long time.
“Some of our stuff was fantastic and we dominated the game but you’ve got to take your opportunities when they come along and we were wasteful in the final third – it came back to bite us big time.”