THERE is nothing a manager loves better than to see his team “win ugly”, when valuable points might easily have eluded them. So it was with Hamilton Accies in the Highlands. And it proved an all-too-familiar tale for Ross County.
Scorers: Hamilton - Canning 6
Accies, according to player-manager Alex Neil, have now silenced a body of criticism by proving they can grind out a result as well as dazzle their way to victory when at their best.
Martin Canning’s thumping early header proved decisive and victory took the visitors up two places into third behind Aberdeen and Celtic. Three wins out of four amounts to a sharp recovery from a team supposedly on a downward spiral after their sparkling start to the campaign.
“That’s the one thing that has probably been called into question for us this year,” Neil admitted afterwards. “Everyone knows how well we can play when we’re at it, but people have questioned if we can roll our sleeves up and do the dirty work. I felt we did that today.”
County were also craving a big result, knowing something had to give between St Mirren and Motherwell, but a twin habit of shooting themselves in the foot defensively and missing good chances reared its head again.
The hosts were in disarray defensively after only six minutes. From the first corner of the game, delivered expertly by Ali Crawford,
Canning’s towering leap and arcing header flew high past Toni Reguero into the net.
All of the best early play was coming from Accies and the pressure continued as Mickael Antoine-Curier powered the ball across the face of goal from the right. Stephen Hendrie slid in to score but narrowly failed to connect inside the six-yard box.
The 20th minute brought the Staggies’ best move of the half. A fantastic quick-passing sequence saw Jamie Reckord and Martin Woods play a one-two before Joe Cardle speared a pass inside from the left only for Woods to shoot just over from eight yards.
The hosts began to look more threatening midway through the second period, but still the killer touch eluded them.
“The first-half was unacceptable – and probably the worst since I’ve come to the club,” admitted County manager Jim McIntyre. “It wasn’t good enough.”
Ross County: Reguero; Brittain, Saunders, Quinn, Reckord; Dingwall (Carey 64), Irvine (Maatsen 79), Woods, Cardle; Gardyne (Jervis 55); Arquin. Subs not used: Brown, Toshney, Dunfield, Kiss.
Hamilton: McGovern; Gillespie, Devlin, Canning, Hendrie; Neil (Longridge 74); Andreu (Lyon 90), Imrie, Mackinnon; Crawford, Antoine-Curier (Scotland 82). Subs not used: Currie, Watson, Brophy, Redmond.
Referee: J Beaton. Attendance: 2,966