Owen Coyle has placed great importance on making Ross County’s Dingwall ground intimidating again, the kind of place a visiting player might mumble darkly about on the eve of a match. By and large, in his first weeks in charge, he succeeded.
There was a sense this northerly outpost, somewhere amid all the plush redevelopment, had lost the edginess new manager Coyle remembered from his own playing visits.
Change has been afoot. Hamilton and Motherwell were beaten, while Hearts and Celtic were lucky to escape with wins. For Dundee, this had always been a ground to dread in top-flight football with only one win from eight visits before yesterday’s stirring win.
County remain a work-in-progress for Coyle, but the greater signs of advancement were Dundee’s last night after securing back-to-back victories fresh from beating Rangers.
Mark O’Hara’s rasping first half strike and a late breakaway second to clinch it from Faissal El Bakhtaoui took the Dark Blues level with County and Kilmarnock on points in a pack of three above bottom side Partick Thistle.
It was a deserved win for Neil McCann’s side and the recently-concerned manager beamed with delight after witnessing “a different animal” in Dundee.
“It was two great goals. I have to say though, from a performance point of view, to come away to from a place where the hosts have been really strong at home recently, is pleasing,” McCann said.
“We are starting to show glimpses of our adaptability and flexibility. We came up and showed a different side to our game. After the goal, we became a different animal – a counter-attacking team.
“That is a different side to us we haven’t shown too often this season. That is the first clean sheet for us up here and our first away win this season.”
The Tayside team took the initiative in a strong start, with an early Roarie Deacon strike flashing over the home bar.
Former Manchester United and Burnley attacker Chris Eagles, making his debut, impressed in his early touches and wowed the home crowd after 10 minutes.
A graceful, nippy run cut a swathe past several Dundee jerseys, before working a 1-2 with Jamie Lindsay. Unfortunately for County, the Celtic youngster’s return pass was just too heavy into the arms of Elliot Parish.
It was Dundee that strode ahead after 18 minutes, in a real moment of slackness from the Highlanders. A Deacon header found Mark O’Hara striding forward through the right channel.
As it opened up in front of him, O’Hara sent a powerful, rising 25-yard shot inside the left hand post at chest height with keeper Aaron McCarey well beaten.
A clearly unhappy Coyle withdrew defender van der Weg at the break for striker Craig Curran, with the hosts switching to a back three.
But there might easily have been a second for Dundee early in the second half when home keeper Aaron McCarey spilled a low Faissal El Bakhtaoui strike, but neither Moussa nor Deacon were placed to take advantage.
From the bench, former Caley Thistle striker Billy Mckay almost made a dream impact after 64 minutes flicking an Eagles delivery narrowly onto the roof of the net.
As County committed forward more and more, El Bakhtaoui was catching them on the break. And after a Jamie Lindsay miss in front of goal, the Frenchman clinched it.
A long Glen Kamara ball from defence caught the Dingwall side exposed on the break and El Bakhtaoui tore in to lob McCarey with great calm for the clincher.