Michael Gardyne struck a double as Ross County withstood a second-half comeback from Motherwell to edge a five-goal thriller in Dingwall.
On becoming Ross County manager, Owen Coyle made a simple pledge. Every slate was clean. Every player would get his chance.
Underlying Coyle’s promise, though, was the slightest hint of threat. The former Burnley and Blackburn Rovers manager indicated he would seek to add his own “flavour” to the squad mix come the winter months.
Many more performances like Ross County’s first-half display and the seasoning could be light. More of the second half and the recipe may be altered more radically.
Initially, against League Cup finalists with three wins and a draw from their last four Dingwall visits, County went on the rampage. Michael Gardyne netted twice and set up another for young Davis Keillor-Dunn, all before the break.
But Ryan Bowman struck back early in the second half and Louis Moult’s late header had the hosts in a sweat as they clung on at the end.
Coyle, though, is content the Dingwall team have now amassed 10 points from the last six games after gleaning just four from the first seven.
“We knew we would have to battle to earn the right to play, but we scored some wonderful goals,” he said. “The disappointment is we could have managed the game a bit better at 3-0 up.
“We are progressing but there is still more to come from us – and that will take time – but the boys are giving us everything.”
Motherwell exerted early pressure and, after 12 minutes, a Moult header hit the net only to be denied by the off-side flag. Within the next minute, the hosts were ahead.
A deep Routis free-kick found Davies nodding across the 18-yard line. With Motherwell slow to react, Michael Gardyne’s brilliantly timed volley tore past keeper Trevor Carson.
There were home flutters as a Peter Hartley header struck the bar before the home lead was doubled after 26 minutes.
Gardyne was again instrumental, spotting the untracked run of Davis Keillor-Dunn into the left side of the box. The 19-year-old novice stayed impressively calm to lift a left foot finish past Carson.
The Staggies were pulsing in confidence through the remainder of the first half and the third arrived four minutes from the break – with Gardyne again the hero.
O’Brien’s drive was knocked off the line by Cedric Kipre but Gardyne’s reaction was swift on the rebound, slotting past Carson from eight yards.
Well boss Steve Robinson made a double change at the break, taking off Andrew Rose and Charles Dunne. Remarkably, the two replacements combined to cut the leeway three minutes after the re-start.
Elliot Frear’s cross, after eluding Gardyne on the left, swirled onto the head of fellow substitute Ryan Bowman who rose to flick a perfect header high into the far top corner.
County finally cracked with 11 minutes left. Chris Cadden found space to deliver from the right and Louis Moult rose in typical fashion to net his 12th goal of the campaign with a trademark header