Ross County 1 - 1 Partick Thistle: Staggies late point from spot
Even more promisingly for Ross County, the Sunderland-born wide midfielder’s refreshing swagger is underpinned by a genuine talent, one which was showcased impressively on his first start and home debut.
Reared in Ross County’s youth department and a Development League champion last season, he lit up the Global Energy Stadium in flashes, with great poise and deft movement during a County attacking display that generated chance after chance without reward.
In the end, it took a late Alex Schalk penalty to prevent defeat for the hosts who had trailed the Maryhill men from the 22nd minute after Blair Spittal’s fine opener.
It was a deserved reply for the hosts, given the catalogue of opportunities in both halves, but a bitter sting for the Jags who at least climbed off the table’s foot after breaking a run of eight league defeats stretching back to last season.
“In the second half especially, we had some really good opportunities. We made some good ones first half as well,” home manager Jim McIntyre reflected.
“It was really pleasing we continued to play because sometimes when the goal goes against the run of play it knocks you out of your stride, which it did a wee bit.
“Thistle are a good side, but we said to the lads at half-time to keep doing what they were doing, keep believing and it would come.”
Scott Fox, the home keeper, paid the price for his howler against Rangers before the international break, making way for Aaron McCarey, the former Wolves keeper, who earned only his sixth start since arriving in Dingwall in July last year.
There was terrific confidence and intent from Keillor-Dunn, with the player’s superb fifth-minute cross met by a strong Craig Curran header that spun only just beyond Tomas Cerny’s right hand post.
With only eight minutes played, came County’s best chance of the first half. Michael Gardyne released Thomas Mikkelsen on the right and when the big Dane’s cross was headed by Keillor-Dunn it took a timely Danny Devine clearance to spare the opener.
Keillor-Dunn continued to buzz with ideas when supplied, but from one delivery Mikkelsen headed poorly wide.
Partick began to settle around the 20-minute mark and it was Kris Doolan’s quick-thinking that caught County out for the opener after 22 minutes.
A throw-in was awarded on Partick’s right flank and Doolan spotted an opportunistic burst forward by Spittal and launched him into space. County’s startled rearguard had no time to recover before Spittal scythed a 12-yard shot past McCarey.
The second half opened in battering rain but it failed to douse the fire of either side.
After Partick pressure, County blew further chances before finally grabbing the leveller with 12 minutes to play.
Conor Sammon’s mistake led to Jordan Turnbull pulling down Schalk in the box and the Dutchman levelled calmly from the spot. County might even have won it as a Ross Draper header was brilliantly saved by substitute keeper Ryan Scully.
“A point is a positive because of where we are to get us off the mark but after leading the game for so long it feels like a defeat,” Alan Archibald, the Partick manager, reflected ruefully.