A nerveless Richard Brittain stood over the ball against Hibernian on Tuesday, put into practice his usual method of pretending the goalkeeper was not standing there in front of him, then cleanly struck a penalty kick into the net. It rates as the most important goal he has scored because it secured Ross County’s top-flight status for another season.
Manager Derek Adams later said he would not want to see anyone other than Brittain preparing to take a penalty in such fraught circumstances. The midfielder did an about-turn last summer, having signed a pre-contract for St Johnstone, and even though the Perth side now find themselves in a Scottish Cup final, Brittain is glad to have been able to remain in the Highlands and contribute to another successful season for County.
For four years now, Ross County have been steadily progressing. In 2010, it was reaching the Scottish Cup final, two seasons later it was promotion, and then, over the last two seasons, they have managed to preserve their top-tier status. According to Brittain, this latest achievement is better, even, than the then-First Division side’s run to the Scottish Cup final, which included a semi-final win over Celtic.
This week’s success provides the club with the platform on which they can strive to become an established Premiership side, as St Mirren and St Johnstone have managed in recent times.
“This is without a doubt my biggest achievement in football,” said Brittain after Tuesday’s 1-0 win over Hibs.
“People might find that surprising after getting to the Scottish Cup final. But that was five or six games. This is 38 games over the course of a full season and we have been down battling hard for the majority of it. To finally get the win that secures our league status is a massive achievement for us.”
On his penalty, given after Scott Robertson impeded Jordan Slew from behind, he modestly explained: “I just tried to do what I normally do – imagine the goalkeeper is not there and focus on where you want to put it.”
The result means Ross County can leave others to the scrap to avoid occupying a relegation play-off space. He does not care whether others had wished, due to geographical reasons, that it was County who were condemned to a relegation play-off place.
“We are the ones that have to travel up and down the A9 every two weeks,” Brittain shrugged.