NEALE Cooper, back in the Ross County technical area for the first time in a decade as assistant manager, might have felt the weight of years had he examined the statistics.
• Ross County 1: Vigurs 48
• Dundee United 2: Russell 52; Armstrong 65
After eight previous failed attempts, the hosts were looking for the first win over Dundee United since 1998 during Cooper’s six-year managerial stint in Dingwall. It was a quest that was to remain elusive as United sprang from behind to take an important result.
After Stuart Armstrong’s winner capped the recovery, there was a sense of satisfaction for United manager Peter Houston. “It was a satisfying win – especially after going behind again,” reflected Houston. “I felt we showed a bit more composure in the second half.
“After the break, we go a goal behind but again we showed the great characteristics we have. We kept at it and got the goal back. From then on, I thought there was only going to be one winner.”
County’s form had been resilient at home, with two victories and three draws from six matches here prior to yesterday. Houston’s men, though, displaying the confidence of a team beaten only once in the previous seven games, enjoyed early momentum.
A fine move on the right after five minutes saw Armstrong’s ball in to Jon Daly laid off to Johnny Russell who drew a strong parry from keeper Michael Fraser.
A wild mis-hit by United defender Gavin Gunning after 13 minutes veered into space for Rocco Quinn whose strike from the edge of the box was hurtling under the bar before Radoslaw Cierzniak’s
acrobatic tip over.
United’s Brian McLean hacked off the line from Stuart Kettlewell, but County had the best chance of the half on 32 minutes. A measured Ross Tokely ball into the box somehow parted the Tangerine defence but Sam Morrow’s close-range strike was blocked by Cierzniak.
Cierzniak’s punched clearance three minutes after the re-start led to County’s opener. Richie Brittain recovered the ball wide right and his dink into the area was met by a diving header from Iain Vigurs, who angled the reverse nod from the front of the box into the far corner of the net behind him.
The home lead lasted just four minutes, though. A hopeful United clearance behind the County defence had keeper Fraser sprinting out to the edge of the area. But Fraser wasn’t quick enough to prevent Russell tearing in to clip the ball past trickling him into the empty net for his eighth strike of the season.
United signalled their intentions soon after with the trickery of Rudi Skacel replacing John Rankin from the bench.
The Tannadice men were ahead after 65 minutes. The lively Gary Mackay-Steven delivered a long cross in from the left. Daly reached it with his head on the far byline and the header back across goal left Stuart Armstrong with a simple stoop to nod in on the line.
There was no more scoring in a doggedly fought 90 minutes.
A disappointed Derek Adams drew some positives in defeat. “I thought we played well in the first half and stopped United’s danger players,” the County manager stressed.
“That was good from our point of view. The mistake we make at 1-0 kills us,” he said.