Brian Rice’s side needed a result in Dingwall to give themselves any hope of avoiding relegation on the final day. They looked like they were going to get it when Scott McMann fired them into a first-half lead, but goals from Blair Spittal and Charlie Lakin, coupled with Kilmarnock’s draw with St Mirren, means they trail the Rugby Park side by three points with a goal difference variance of minus-16.
It says a lot about the Lanarkshire club’s existence in the premier division that they had more defeats (131) than draws (62) and wins (64) combined across their seven years. Somehow they always seemed to find a way, but on a night where they will consider themselves unfortunate not to leave with at least a point, they finally ran out of luck.
As for County, they require just a point from their last game away to Motherwell, or hope Killie fail to defeat Accies, to confirm their safety and avoid the Scottish Premiership play-offs.
In the first period it was Accies who had the greater success with a similar approach to their hosts – get it up to the big man. David Moyo was tasked with flicking on high balls to advancing runners, while his counterpart Jordan White looked to play a more typical target man role by establishing possession in the Hamilton half and playing from there.
McMann had a three-pronged influence on the opening goal. The left-back won the free-kick on the edge of the area after being tripped by Jordan Tillson. He then pulled rank by demanding the ball from Reegan Mimnaugh. And finally he took advantage of a shoddy Ross County wall but hitting a low drive through a gap and past Ross Laidlaw.
If that was impressive, County’s equaliser two minutes later was equally so. Stephen Kelly knocked it into White who laid it off for Spittal. The midfielder executed a terrific curling finish from 20 yards with his weaker left-foot to find the far corner.
Accies where almost back in front soon after with Ross Callachan robbing Michael Gardyne and firing a low shot off the base of the post.
County were much improved in the second half with the majority being played in Accies’ half while the match was still tied. This was partially down to the away side struggling to find Moyo with the same frequency as the wind often killed Kyle Gourlay’s long kicks before they reached the halfway line.
Even so, they created the first two chances. From similar positions, both McMann and Callachan both failed to find the target with free headers inside the area.
They would rue those missed opportunities when County took the lead on 70 minutes. Lakin, on as a substitute at the unfamiliar position of left-back thanks to an injury to Leo Hjelde, strode onto a pass from White and unleashed a powerful drive that nestled into the far corner.
Accies threw everything at John Hughes' side in the hope of a late rescue, yet they failed to create another opportunity of note after Moyo followed his team-mates lead by heading over from six yards.