WHEN manager Jim McIntyre recently urged his Ross County team to become more ruthless in front of goal, the one man who probably felt exempt from the criticism was goalkeeper Gary Woods.
How ironic then that the on-loan Leyton Orient shotstopper was yesterday the culprit in just such a costly piece of slackness in front of his own net.
A sluggish touch before clearance allowed St Johnstone’s David Wotherspoon to net the opener with a telling block and put the hosts immediately in trouble.
A thrilling battle ensued with Wotherspoon netting again but County storming back to 2-2, before Saints skipper David Mackay swirled in the winning free-kick in the final minutes.
That made it a club record seventh successive away victory for Saints, although manager Tommy Wright only had present-day considerations on his mind. The Perth outfit continued to pile pressure on Aberdeen and Hearts in the race for European places and Wright said: “That’s us apparently broken the record, not that it really bothers me – it’s three points.
“We’re closer to Hearts and it keeps us in touch with Aberdeen. It’s an excellent day and I’m really proud of my players. They’ve come here and performed how I knew they would.”
Wright’s men had been pretty much flawless wherever they played of late, with eight victories and a draw from their previous ten outings.
County quickly gave themselves a mountain to climb. From a Martin Woods pass-back, keeper Gary Woods took a poor touch and Wotherspoon was sharp to close in and block the clearance into the net.
County, rattled as they were, soon began to work the Saints defence but Wright’s men were typically stubborn and well-drilled.
The Staggies’ best move came after 16 minutes as Liam Boyce and Stewart Murdoch, worked a one-two on the right.
Murdoch then delivered a telling ball into the danger area for the Northern Ireland international whose header was well blocked by keeper Alan Mannus.
County were lacking that spark in their final strike and delivery and should have levelled a minute later as a terrific Richard Foster cross from the left set up Murdoch for a close-range header.
However, with the goal beckoning, the ex-Falkirk and Fleetwood Town midfielder skewed his effort wide.
When Tony Dingwall stuck another effort from the left edge of the box beyond the far post, County were to pay a hefty penalty.
Two minutes before the break, Wotherspoon struck again, in deadly fashion. Tam Scobbie rolled a free-kick straight down the left channel and Wotherspoon skillfully cut inside Marcus Fraser to curl a wonderful right foot high beyond Woods’ reach.
It was game on again for the Staggies after 68 minutes when Jackson Irvine’s cross from the right caused disarray in the Saints defence and Boyce claimed his 13th goal of the season with a near-post touch.
Seven minutes later they were level through an own goal, substitute Alex Schalk’s swerving corner smacking off Murray Davidson’s head before nestling in the net.
Just as a draw looked certain, Andrew Davies gave away a foul on Michael O’Halloran and Mackay stepped up to swerve his shot around the wall to snatch victory.