A shivering McDiarmid Park was hardly evocative of the balmy days of August but this was the day Ross County finally rediscovered the spark of their early season form to record their first win in 11 games. It was more comprehensive than the scoreline might suggest and in the crazily inconsistent world of the Scottish Premiership it was enough to rocket them from bottom of the pile to the cusp of the top six.
The visitors must have marvelled at how easy it can be to win football matches after failing to do so for so long. They were admittedly assisted by a wretched performance from a St Johnstone side who, just as they had done previously against Kilmarnock and Partick Thistle, seemed without the drive or nous to get the better of sides below them in the table. Moreover, where Tommy Wright’s men were once renowned as one of the most obstinate defensive units in the league, they now seem unable to deal with any kind of aerial threat, with County the latest to capitalise on their alarming vulnerability at set pieces and crosses.
“You guys like a stat and it’s not been nice for us,” reflected a contented County manager Jim McIntyre on their recent winless streak. “Whether it’s three points or not, you never want to be sitting at the bottom so it’s nice to change that today.”
The road to recovery for the Dingwall side started when a Chris Burke corner was floated into the six yard box and Jay McEveley’s downwards header was enough to breach the flimsy home rearguard to put them ahead. Immediately lifted by this, County comfortably dealt with what little the hosts threw at them before extending their advantage after 37 minutes with a cross from Burke picking out Christopher Routis who nodded it beyond the reach of Zander Clark.
Aside from the ease with which County were brushing aside the hosts, the one other remarkable feature of this game was the sight of both sides having to substitute their goalkeepers as a result of injuries picked up in the opening 45 minutes. The visitors, Scott Fox made way for Aaron McCarey while Clark was replaced by Alan Mannus, fresh back from international duty with Northern Ireland.
The initial impact of all of this was negligible with yet another cross, this time from Liam Boyce, picking out Craig Curran who buried it beyond Mannus to give them an almost surreal lead just past the hour mark.
Despite being well worth this commanding position, it possibly seemed too good to be true for County and they underwent a bit of a wobble, as almost immediately Danny Swanston’s penalty and then a fine finish from Steven MacLean reduced the deficit. However, the required response was always going to be to swing more high balls in to the Saints box and once again it worked – Kenny Van der Weg sending one over for Boyce to seal a so dearly needed victory.
“If you don’t do the basics and defend crosses you lose football matches,” was Wright’s glum verdict. “Ross County were good and deserved the win, but from my point of view all four goals were too easy for them.”