ROSS COUNTY overcame a poor first half to secure a solid victory over spirited League One side Ayr United.
Liam Boyce struck early for County but thoughts of a torrid night for the Honest Men soon disappeared in a highly-impressive first half display from Ian McCall’s side.
County only really entered comfortable territory five minutes after the break when a rasping Michael Gardyne strike hit the back of the net.
The evening marked a record-breaking 288th first team appearance for home defender Scott Boyd, beating the previous club best set by Mark McCulloch.
Ayr were behind before most of their team had even touched the ball. With just a little over two minutes gone, Jackson Irvine cleverly played in Boyce whose ten-yard strike deflected wickedly off Paddy Boyle before hitting the net.
Ayr quickly recovered and Craig McCracken turned sharply to flash a shot just wide of target after 24 minutes. McCall had substituted both strikers by the break, Alan Trouten exiting injured after 22 minutes and Ross Caldwell removed at the break.
Alan Forrest and Jordan Preston took up the fight and the Premiership side were scrambling again defensively as the second period opened.
Home concerns vanished, though, as Gardyne sliced inside from the right and smashed a 20-yard left foot drive high past Greg Fleming.
When Gardyne hung up a cross from the right soon after, Boyce headed just wide.
A fine save down low from Ayr keeper Greg Fleming then denied Raffaele De Vita, while Brian Graham flicked a shot just wide as County sought to wrap it up.
Ayr kept scrapping, though, and Nick Devlin fluffed a great chance after Mikey Donald threaded him into the home box, but County saw it out.