ROSS COUNTY may be destined to lift the Division One title and gain promotion to the SPL for next season but they will have to wait a while longer following Dundee’s win over Ayr United.
Any slip up by Barry Smith’s side, who lie in second place, would have allowed County the opportunity to win the championship at home to Raith Rovers this weekend. But goals from Jamie McCluskey, Steven Milne, Jake Hyde and Ryan Conroy were enough to delay the inevitable, despite a late flurry from Ayr, who scored through Mark Roberts.
The destination of the trophy still remains in no doubt but the arithmetic won’t stack up for a title party in Dingwall quite yet.
For Ayr, the team in this game with something really to play for, it was an unsatisfactory evening as they blew a chance to put more space between themselves and second-bottom Raith Rovers as they attempt to avoid the end-of-season play-offs.
United were forced to shuffle their team after just 13 minutes when Eddie Malone limped off injured. And that was to prove significant as his stand-in, winger Adam Dodd, was exposed for the opening goal.
Stephen O’Donnell pinged a long diagonal ball over the makeshift defender and his hesitancy allowed McCluskey to steal possession. The former Hibs and St Johnstone player homed in on Ayr keeper, Kevin Cuthbert before slotting a shot home through his legs.
Dundee should have gone two up before half-time when Matt Lockwood picked out Leighton McIntosh inside the box but the youngster shot over from ten yards. Ayr almost equalised with the final act of the first half when Michael McGowan, taking a free kick after Craif McKeown fouled John Robertson, found the target but goalkeeper Rab Douglas saved at his near post. And the veteran was in action again early in the second half, first saving a Michael Moffat shot and then somehow keeping his follow-up header from crossing the line.
Ayr were punished for that miss just after the hour as Dundee added a second. It was a goal of utter simplicity, as a long kick from Douglas evaded the defence and fell for Milne, who slotted past Cuthbert.
The visitors got one back on 77 minutes through Roberts, who shot home from 12 yards out after Dundee failed to clear a ball which bobbled around in their penalty area. And they should have levelled four minutes later when Roberts went through one-on-one with Douglas but the keeper saved.
Any hope Ayr had was scuppered when sub Jake Hyde fired home in the dying seconds and their misery was compounded in the dying seconds when Conroy slotted a shot past Cuthbert