HARD to imagine this time a year ago Ross County couldn’t buy a win. Their transformation since the turn of the year has been remarkable and the savage nature of this beating left Kilmarnock looking haunted.
It’s also hard to imagine just where Gary Locke’s Killie go from here as for all County were miles better the home team were feckless, hopeless and looking very much like a team on a fast track to the Championship.
It was a record Rugby Park win for County, and everything about the performance pleased manager Jim McIntyre. He said: “We were superb in the first half and it could be the best half of my time at the club. We were fluent and real danger from minute one.”
Less ecstatic with what he saw from his charges was Kilmarnock manager Locke who not only saw his team take a battering, but also had to withstand verbal volleys from his own support on a day when one major bookmaker suspended betting on his being the first managerial head to roll. “We were poor,” he admitted. “The goals we gave away didn’t give us any chance and we weren’t anywhere near good enough.
“I am here to do a job and I believe in myself. If you put in this type of performance you deserve criticism. Had I been a fan I would have been criticising too.”
County were ahead inside two minutes with the Killie defence already tying itself in knots. Liam Boyce was afforded all the time in the world just inside the area to open up his body and place a shot past Jamie MacDonald, albeit with the aid of a slight deflection.
If this opener was of the soft variety then the second 90 seconds later was even worse. County got in behind the home defence with utter ease, had the luxury of a few bites at the cherry before Jonathan Franks rolled home a rebound to set off a cacophony of jeers around Rugby Park.
All over the park the visitors were quicker, sharper, fitter and hungrier than their hosts who at times looked like they were wading through treacle whilst towing a caravan.
Possibly the only man in the Kilmarnock side undeserving the howls of derision emanating from the stands was keeper MacDonald who made several excellent stops.
But for all his endeavours a third County goal looked inevitable, although there was more than a hint off offside about Boyce as he tapped home a low Jamie Reckford drive. Suggestion of offside, but a clear-cut case of horrendous defending.
Soon after horrendous went to downright atrocious as County scored their fourth, captain Andrew Davies powering home a Franks corner with the home marking not so much poor as just plain non-existent.
That going in 4-0 down at the break was akin to Kilmarnock escaping lightly tells the take of just how abject they were. Granted they lost players through injury and saw a Kris Boyd free-kick cannon back of the woodwork, but there was an aura of apathy and acceptance to the way the afternoon was going that will have Locke tossing and turning all week long.
With such a big lead it was understandable, and in truth almost predictable, that the second period would turn out to be something of a damp squib. County were happy to go from torture session to training session as they played keep ball against opponents offering little more than an attempt to keep the scoreline down. With a bit more of a clinical edge County could have had six or seven easily, but as it was they spared their hosts further embarrassment.
Kilmarnock: MacDonald, Westlake (Barbour 25), Ashcroft, Connolly (Findlay 10), Smith, Magennis, O’Hara, McCulloch (Splaine 40), Higgingbotham, McKenzie, Boyd. Subs not used: Davies, Hamill, Slater, Kiltie.
Ross County: Fox, Fraser, Robertson, Davies, Reckford, Franks (De Vita 74), Quinn, Irvine Gardyne, Curran (Graham 34), Boyce. Subs not used: Bachmann, Holden, Boyd, McShane
Referee: D Robertson. Attendance: 3,604.