ST MIRREN goalkeeper Mark Ridgers is glad he was able to play a key role in his side’s dramatic 2-1 win over fellow strugglers Ross County at Dingwall.
Ridgers returned to the club which gave him a start in his career and pulled off a fine save to prevent County taking the lead at a crucial point in the match between the bottom two sides in the Premiership.
The 24-year-old somehow kept out a close-range effort from Jackson Irvine shortly after County had got back on level terms eight minutes from the end.
Ridgers said: “I was changing direction but I stuck a hand out and kept it out. It was instinctive. It was my job to keep the boys in the game.”
Sean Kelly had given Saints the lead early on but they lost their momentum after the Paisley side were reduced to ten men when another former County player, Yoann Arquin, was sent off for a challenge on Lewis Toshney just before the break.
County eventually levelled through substitute Liam Boyce but Saints had the final say when Stephen Mallan netted a dramatic 87th-minute winner.
Ridgers added: “It is a case of building from here and trying to catch the teams above us.
“We’d probably have taken a draw when it was 1-1 but it’s ended up being a massive three points.”
Before the dismissal of Arquin, Ridgers felt the Saints were well on top.
He said: “We could have been 3-0 up. Kenny [McLean] struck the crossbar and we had other opportunities to score before that.
“It’s not like it was backs against the wall. The red card swung it in County’s favour but we went on to snatch the points.”
Ridgers, however, also had a degree of sympathy for the club where it all began for him. He said: “Ross County were brilliant for me. They made me push on when I was younger. I have a lot of respect for this club.”
Defeat has left County three points adrift of their opponents at the foot of the standings but manager Jim McIntyre is confident his side can rescue the situation.
He said: “Nothing was going to be decided on this game. It was a sore one to take but I’m confident we will bounce back.
“If we want to get ourselves out of trouble, we have to up our consistency levels. It is fine talking about it but we have to stand up and do it and that starts at home. There is going to be a big effort required.”
County made a promising start to the match but it was Saints who had a great chance to take the lead in the fifth minute. Kenny McLean got behind the home defence and his cutback found Jason Naismith in space, but the full-back’s effort was deflected behind for the first corner of the match.
McLean burst through the County defence again in the 11th minute but his ball across the face of goal found no takers.
The visitors took the lead in the 16th minute when John McGinn breezed past Paul Quinn and, when his shot was parried by Antonio Reguero, Kelly followed up to slide the rebound home.
Buoyed by the goal, Saints went all out for a second and, after Kelly fired a low shot just past Reguero’s left post, McLean just cleared the other upright with a snap-shot a couple of minutes later.
McLean was a constant threat to the County defence and he rattled the crossbar in the 30th minute after a good run and pass from Arquin. McLean popped up again five minutes later when he got on the end of a Mallan pass, but he skied his effort well over.
Saints were well on top before they were reduced to ten men in the 37th minute when Arquin was sent off.
County made a change at the start of the second half, with Boyce replacing Toshney, as the home side went two up front.
The hosts opened up the Saints defence in the 54th minute when Boyce spread the ball out to Cairey and his ball inside found Craig Curran but, with only Ridgers to beat, he fired straight at the keeper.
Another good build-up from County saw substitute Darren Maatsen try his luck from the edge of the 18-yard box but his fierce drive flashed narrowly over the crossbar.
Cairey went close with a free-kick which just cleared Ridgers’ left post, and Woods then forced a save from Ridgers as County pushed for an equaliser.
The pressure paid off in the 82nd minute when Boyce nodded in from following a flick-on from substitute Jake Jervis.
And, with three minutes remaining, Saints hit the winner when Mallan headed in a Kelly cross.