YOANN Arquin always seemed scripted to hog the spotlight in Dingwall as he lined up against the club who had chosen to jettison him just a fortnight previously.
Scorers: Ross County - Boyce 82; St Mirren - Kelly 16; Mallan 87
In the end, the controversial Frenchman was prominently involved for reasons he wouldn’t have chosen. An apparent stamp – although both managers later questioned the red card – on County’s Lewis Toshney had the Martinique international sent off after only 37 minutes of this contest between the Scottish Premiership’s two lowest-ranked teams
What followed justified the “heroic” tag and any measure of hyperbole from a St Mirren perspective. Leading 1-0 through Sean Kelly’s early strike, caretaker boss Gary Teale’s men fought tooth and nail, often using the ball with keen intelligence against the inevitable blue surge in their faces. County passed up a golden opportunity when recent signing Craig Curran shot straight into keeper Mark Ridgers’ arms before Liam Boyce levelled with eight minutes left.
However, the Dingwall side’s frailties – they have just one win in 11 home games this season – resurfaced with another defensive lapse as young Stevie Mallan scored a winner with three minutes left to send the 250 travelling fans wild with delight. Teale, who will appeal Arquin’s red card, was reluctant to dwell too much on the furore at the expense of praising his team’s courage, but just couldn’t contain himself in the end.
“The boys were tremendous – their shape, organisation and togetherness,” Teale said. “That’s what we really needed to come to the fore. I don’t want to talk about it too much but a refereeing decision, again, has nearly cost us.
“To be sending people off like that in Scottish football, where the margins are so fine, they are huge calls – and they are affecting us.
“It nearly did again today, but I’m loathe to talk about it because all the credit should go to the players. To come up here, with the pressure on, after how everyone built the game up, and then go down to ten men and get a winner so late in the game, it speaks volumes for the players.
“Everything I’ve asked from the boys they’ve given me. I couldn’t have asked for any more. As I’ve said from the start, I’m confident we can start climbing away. Hopefully this is a big stepping stone.”
The away side’s breakthrough came after 16 minutes when Kelly was sharpest on to the rebound after John McGinn had breezed through the middle of County’s defence and seen his strike parried by County keeper Toni Reguero.
Saints’ wanted man Kenny McLean was an absolute standout and kept troubling the hosts but the game was turned on its head by Arquin’s rash moment. Tussling for the ball with Paul Quinn and Toshney, the big striker appeared to bring his foot down on the latter. Fourth official Matt Northcroft intervened before referee Brian Colvin flashed a straight red.
Another big moment came after 54 minutes, when Boyce and Carey combined to release Curran on goal but the Englishman shot straight at ex-County youth keeper Ridgers.
Eight minutes from the end, County looked to have salvaged at least a point when Boyce glanced in a close-range header from Jake Jervis’ flick-on. But with three minutes left, County’s were left stunned as Kelly’s superb cross from the left was met by Stevie Mallan, who dived to head home from close range.
Ross County: Reguero; Toshney (Boyce 46), Saunders, Quinn, Reckord; Irvine, Brittain, Woods, Cardle (Maatsen 59); Carey; Curran (Jervis 76). Subs not used: Brown, Boyd, Burgess, Ross.
St Mirren: Ridgers; Naismith, McAusland, Tesselaar, Kelly; Goodwin, Osbourne; Mallan, McLean, McGinn; Arquin. Subs not used: Kello, Ball, McLear, Reilly, Morgan, Baird, Wylde.
Referee: B Colvin. Attendance: 3,005.
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