A cold virus had ravaged the Kilmarnock camp and Storm Frank was said to be beating a destructive path northwards. Last night, though, it was Hurricane Michael that blew in with a mighty force to floor the visitors.
Ross County attacker Michael Gardyne turned in an electric performance with two goals and an assist. In the process, the 29-year-old set an all-time scoring record for the Highland club in the national league era, with his double surpassing Sean Higgins’ previous club record of 59 by one.
Killie deserved great credit for the battling qualities that saw them take a 2-1 lead early in the second half, against the run of play, but Gardyne’s magic ultimately settled it.
Kilmarnock’s injury troubles left them one man short on the bench with five out injured and half a dozen battling flu symptoms.
The forecast gales were happily yet to reach Dingwall by kick-off but Killie immediately faced strong gusts of County pressure.
Craig Curran was first to capitalise after 12 minutes. Jackson Irvine’s intelligent pass was the catalyst, releasing Gardyne behind his marker on the left. His low ball was perfectly-weighted for Curran to clip into the net from a few yards out, despite keeper Jamie MacDonald’s valiant attempt to palm away. It was Curran’s seventh goal of the campaign.
Given County’s dominance for the first half hour, Killie’s reply came as a complete shock as they scored with their first effort on goal. After taking a pass from Josh Magennis, Tope Obadeyi showed good control and a turn of speed to nip past Jamie Reckord into the right of the box. Through on the goalkeeper, he then lashed into the far side of the net from a tight angle.
County were then caught cold inside two minutes of the second half with Steven Smith’s corner picking out Magennis unmarked and the forward struck from 12 yards for his ninth of the season.
But, within three minutes, County were level again with pressure culminating in a Irvine ball to Gardyne to the left of the box. The former Kilmarnock loanee’s left-foot finish was electric, beating MacDonald with power.
Gardyne surpassed even that moment six minutes later, released again on the left with a rapid run, shuffle and similarly deadly repeat strike.
Killie were on the ropes for a lengthy spell thereafter and Liam Boyce saw a powerful left-foot strike superbly parried by keeper MacDonald.
There were one or two shaky moments in the five minutes of stoppage time but County held out to close in on fourth-placed St Johnstone.