Dingwall experienced not so much four seasons in a day but four shades of winter yesterday as Ross County sent an icy chill through Championship rivals, moving eight points clear at the summit with a game in hand.
Play opened in a gale, before rain, then sleet and then a swirl of snow engulfed the Global Energy Stadium. That the afternoon ended in gentle spring sunshine seemed to mirror perfectly the mood of the home contingent.
Given Dundee United’s Maryhill mishap, should the Staggies beat Falkirk in Tuesday night’s home game in hand, an 11-point margin will cushion them entering the final quarter of nine league matches.
A fifth league win in a row was delivered by goals from Josh Mullin and Brian Graham, but it was never a comfortable afternoon given the icy elements and Morton’s dogged determination.
“As long as we keep taking care of our own business we will give ourselves a chance,” County co-manager Stuart Kettlewell stressed. “As soon as we take our eye off the ball, that’s when we will lose focus.
“We know our standards were not good enough in the first half. We were very pedestrian. We believe we can play better, but it was an important win.”
Initially, the hosts’ attacking efforts lacked conviction, but they should have edged ahead after 28 minutes. After a well-worked passing move, the ball was fed to Kenny van der Weg on the left. The Dutchman delivered an excellent cross and Declan McManus, tearing in at the far post, only just knocked it wide.
It took the Staggies ten second-half minutes to find the breakthrough. Van der Weg fed Gardyne on the left and the winger’s delivery created panic as the away defence scrambled to clear. It fell to Mullin eight yards out and the wide man had time to steady before thrashing in the opener.
There were some shaky moments for the hosts, with Morton putting in a power of work and refusing to give up the fight, but Graham’s second proved the killer.
County blooded Don Cowie after 78 minutes and the veteran midfielder’s work immediately eased the pressure. Cowie swept in a fine cross from the left with the outside of his foot and Graham, ghosting in at the far post, tucked away his header for his eighth of the campaign.
Morton boss Jonatan Johansson felt his team failed to heed his half-time warnings after a strong first half.
“It is frustrating because I felt everything was working very well in the first half,” the former Rangers striker said. “We couldn’t capitalise.”