THE meeting of these two clubs was akin to a football equivalent of a contraflow, and the final scoreline simply emphasised that, when it comes to both results and the feelgood factor, they are continuing to motor in very different directions.
For County it is now six wins out of the past seven matches in their bold bid for survival and, over the piece, they earned due reward yesterday for sticking to their gameplan despite some testing moments.
After Raffaele De Vita’s second- half strike confirmed yet another three points for the Dingwall side, the only small cloud in an otherwise bright blue sky for them would have been learning that Motherwell remain on their coat-tails following their victory at Kilmarnock.
“I thought we got our first goal against the run of play, as United had us under severe pressure,” admitted County manager Jim McIntyre.
“The goal settled us down though and we settled into the game. In the second half we were excellent and deserved the win.
“I said a couple of weeks ago that I expect the relegation battle to go to the wire and I don’t think that’s changed. The only thing we can affect is our own results. The response from the players to the position they were in and the quality of our play has been fantastic.”
How United could do with bottling some of the positive spirit that simply oozes from all within the Dingwall club at the moment. It’s now six league games without a win for United, whilst the controversy over bonus payments relating to transfer fees was swirling around Tannadice like a blustery wind yesterday.
As Jackie McNamara ruefully reflected, it wasn’t the happiest of circumstances to be marking his 100th game in charge.
“I’m disappointed with the result. I thought in the first half we were good for long spells and I don’t think we deserved to be one down from their first attempt on goal,” he insisted.
“We got back into it and the second half was a lot flatter but I don’t think we deserved to lose it.”
Asked about the furore over his contract terms and them being made public, McNamara admitted disappointment with the turn of events but added: “It’s not an excuse for losing a game of football. It’s obviously personal and I’m disappointed what’s happened.
“I think the club put out a statement that covers everything – why they brought me here, why they’ve changed things around, why every-thing’s happened in the last two years. We have a massive game on Wednesday to prepare for [away to Dundee] and that’s what I’ll do.”
It all started well enough for McNamara and his men, with Nadir Ciftci and Aidan Connolly, in their very contrasting ways, stretching the visitors’ defence to near breaking point at times.
But, with their new-found belief and resilience, County were hardly likely to be easily knocked out of their stride and, after withstanding some uncomfortable moments, they pushed upfield and got themselves in front after only 12 minutes.
The goal was simple yet stunningly executed, with Martin Woods’ corner being bulleted into the net by Jackson Irvine.
It could have been worse for United almost immediately afterwards as De Vita took a tumble on the edge of the home penalty box under a challenge from Sean Dillon.
Indeed it was somewhat ironic that, only minute later, United were awarded a spot kick after Marcus Fraser barged Connolly to the ground as he lined up a shot. There was no doubt that it was the correct decision and Ciftci restored level terms and some contentment amongst the home support.
Parity was to prevail for a long spell either side of the interval after this but County, slowly but incrementally, increased their grip on the game, with Irvine a real force through the middle of the park as well as an attacking threat.
He had seemingly put his side in front once more with a near carbon copy of his opener from another Woods corner, however an infringement was signalled for a foul by Liam Boyce on Radoslaw Cierzniak and a free kick awarded.
The respite was to be fleeting though as, five minutes later, Filip Kiss crossed, Irvine sent yet another header goalwards and although the United goalkeeper touched it on to the post, De Vita was at hand to drive the ball into the unguarded net.
Dundee United: Cierzniak; Dillon, Souttar, Fojut, Dixon; Spittal (Anier 80), Paton (Telfer 75), Rankin, Erskine; Ciftci, Connolly (Muirhead 83).
Ross County: Brown; Reckford, Boyd, Quinn, Fraser; Kiss, Woods, Irvine, De Vita (Dingwall 76); Curran, Boyce (Palazuelos 80).
Referee: S McLean. Attendance: 6,187.
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