MELVIN de Leeuw is still fresh enough to the singular rigours of Scottish football to be caught out just occasionally, startled almost, by the sheer, frenetic pace of it all.
Scorer: Ross County: Quinn, 52
It says much of the 25-year-old’s talent and promise, then, that he can still steal the show so splendidly. A goal and assist from the bench turned defeat into victory against Hearts here in Dingwall and he scored in defeat last weekend against Motherwell. At a Global Energy Stadium energised by 2,000-odd Aberdeen supporters yesterday he produced a sublime pass to create Rocco Quinn’s eventual winner.
The summer signing picked up from Dutch second-tier champions SC Cambuur shows elegance, poise and creativity on the ball but can also mix it physically.
County manager Derek Adams said: “Melvin has been fantastic. The positivity around the place is great and we just hope it feeds off on other people in the area.
“It was a very good victory, thoroughly deserved. If we were two or three up at the break it would have been fair. I thought we played very well today. Aberdeen got out of the game what they deserved – nothing.
“Rocco was unfortunate not to get a hat-trick today. Defensively, we were very strong. It’s our third clean sheet of the season. I think it’s our 11th goal of the season today, so I’m delighted with the progress. We’re having a great season.”
Significantly, the Dons have still to record a single win against their northerly neighbours after four attempts in the top tier, with two draws and two defeats.
County, having passed up a healthy clutch of chances, endured something of a backs-to-the-wall finish but never really looked like crumbling.
Early on, young County striker Steven Ross showed tenacity inside the Dons’ box to keep the ball and find Richard Brittain in a shooting position. But the skipper slipped his pass sideways to Quinn, pictured below, and the chance was lost to sharp cover play. After 12 minutes, Peter Pawlett left Brian McLean for dead with a tremendous turn of pace into the left side of the box before the danger was cleared by the back-tracking Quinn.
The hosts held threat, too, with Ross carving space for De Leeuw inside the penalty area, only for the Dutchman to hesitate too long.
The pendulum was swinging slowly in County’s favour after the 20-minute mark, with Quinn fluffing a glorious chance. A sweeping move involving De Leeuw, Ross and Brittain teed up the midfielder inside the box, but his connection was poor.
The frantic pace of the match was hampering quality at times, but there was a pause, at last, just after the half hour as referee Crawford Allan pulled up with a hamstring problem. After a seven-minute delay, fourth official David Somers switched positions with Allan.
Great tenacity and awareness from Ross then set up the best chance of the half. Ross showed strength with back to goal, then turned to drive on, eluding a couple of challenges. His pass found Quinn to the right of the box but the midfielder struck just wide.
Into the second period, after patient build-up, a low Graham Carey cross bounced in front of Ross five yards out, but the youngster couldn’t quite connect. County, though, had only to wait a minute for the breakthrough. De Leeuw’s turn and pass freed Quinn racing through on the right and he thundered his finish under the crossbar from eight yards.
The Dons seemed to have run out of attacking ideas as County went within inches of a killer second when Carey’s cross from the left was flicked just past the far post by substitute Kevin Luckassen’s head.
A flurry of Aberdeen corners heaped pressure on the hosts and stoppage time must have seemed endless for the County support. But the celebrations in the Jail End erupted as the final whistle blew.
“I didn’t think we got to the levels we are capable of,” a clearly deflated Derek McInnes said after the match. “There wasn’t enough tempo or pace generated from us until we went behind. Results like today’s suggest there is still work to be done – as if I didn’t already know that.”
De Leeuw (72)