Ross County 1 - 0 Partick Thistle: Curran’s winner

Ross County ace Craig Curran celebrates what turned out to be the winning goal. Picture: SNS

Ross County ace Craig Curran celebrates what turned out to be the winning goal. Picture: SNS

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IF ROSS County live to fight another season among Scotland’s elite, few recollections from this particular match will enter the supporters’ treasure chest of memories after another defiant survival act.

Scorers: Ross County - Curran 33

What will surely not be forgotten, though, is the manner in which games like this were won, with grit, fierce desire and unflinching endeavour. Partick showed the same on a day when there was barely a cigarette paper between the sides.

From the finest of margins, though, come big consequences. Partick, if victorious, would have jumped 10 points ahead of the Dingwall hosts. Instead they were drawn much deeper into the scrap at the bottom of the table.

Craig Curran’s winner also generated clear dark blue water between County and rivals Motherwell and St Mirren a month exactly after finding themselves six points adrift at the bottom after a 4-0 hammering in Aberdeen.

“Could I have believed we’d win four-in-a-row a few weeks ago? Certainly not, with the run we were on,” manager Jim McIntyre admitted.

But those doubts aside, his mantra, both to the squad and in media interviews, was always stubbornly resolute in suggesting a corner could, and would, be turned.

“The one thing we tried to keep instilling in the players was belief. We did think there was a group there capable of winning matches,” the former Queen of the South and Dunfermline manager stressed.

“Four in a row is really fantastic, we’re pleased with that, but it is back to the grind on Monday. We’ve a tough game at Hamilton now.”

A sure measure of Ross County’s resurgent form had come in McIntyre’s naming of an identical side for the fourth game running.

Partick – having broken a run of five defeats with victory over Dundee United – made one alteration with injured Christie Elliot making way for Dale Keenan at left back.

No quarter was given in a scrappy start, but the Jags were first to threaten seriously after nine minutes. James Craigen collected the ball eagerly in midfield, drove on, and released Lyle Taylor with an angled pass into his stride at the edge of the penalty box.

The striker’s wild mis-hit nearly took out a Jail End regular.

Then a tricky, winding Kallum Higginbotham run on the left evaded County full-back Marcus Fraser after 11 minutes. Higginbotham cut in a dangerous ball to the centre of the box, but Steven Lawless snapped his 16-yard shot just over the bar.

The ball was ricocheting around the park like a pinball, the fast and frantic football holding little finesse but plenty of grit and desire.

But the home breakthrough was decent enough after 33 minutes, sparked by some great skill from Raffaele De Vita on the left.

The Italian wide man, darted inside with great poise on the ball and crossed to find Liam Boyce chesting down in the box.

The Irish striker’s stretched leg was enough to force a parry from keeper Paul Gallacher and the rebound bounced high to Craig Curran.

Even then, the Liverpudlian frontman had work to do to get some power on the ball but placed a lovely header into the corner of the net from eight yards.

After the break, there was little in it, Michael Gardyne sniffing out a chance but drilling low and wide, before Partick threw on frontman Kris Doolan just ten minutes into the second period.

But Alan Archibald’s side were really up against it just before the hour as they were reduced to ten men.

The previously excellent Higginbotham clattered through the back of Gardyne without obvious malice and was given a straight red. It was a tough call on Partick, but looked correct under the letter of the law.

If anything, this cemented Partick’s resolve and the rest of the match was a breathless battle, full of timely blocks and lucky escapes.

County, though, prevailed and the momentum is with them entering the final weeks. For their Glasgow opponents, just one win in the last seven outings is ominous.

Ross County: Brown. Fraser, Boyd, P Quinn, Reckord, Gardyne (Carey 90), Irvine, Woods, De Vita, Curran (Kiss 84), Boyce (Jervis 78). Unused subs: Reguero, Meite, Cardle, Sernas.

Thistle: Gallacher, O’Donnell, Frans, Balatoni, Keenan, Osman, Bannigan, Lawless (Stevenson 69), Craigen (Doolan 55), Higginbotham, Taylor (Wilson 69). Unused subs: Fox, Richards-Everton, Fraser, McDaid.

Referee: A Muir. Attendance: 3,358.

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