Dunfermline 1 - 3 Ross County: Highlanders turn up the heat

Ross County's Josh Mullin celebrates his opening goal. Picture: SNS
Ross County's Josh Mullin celebrates his opening goal. Picture: SNS
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It is far too early in proceedings to get overly excited about individual results, but this is a victory that proved emphatically Ross County’s title credentials.

Flush with new recruits, including former Dunfermline duo Callum Morris and Declan McManus, who were booed throughout, there was an impressive cohesion and incisiveness about the team relegated from the Premiership last season.

Josh Mullin, pictured, speared in a stunning opener after 27 minutes and, although Louis Longridge deservedly levelled within three minutes, the visitors coasted to a richly-merited win with a first-half strike from the excellent Michael Gardyne and a rare Keith Watson goal after the break.

Having taken almost the whole game to break down Alloa Athletic last weekend, this was a different kind of display from the Highlanders, and the way they stuck to their task in both attack and defence left co-manager Steven Ferguson grinning at full-time.

“The goals we scored, sometimes you need something a bit special to beat a team and a goalkeeper like Dunfermline have,” he said. “Thankfully we did the ugly side well today but there were real bits of quality when they were needed.

“There are going to be games where you’ve got to scrap and fight and earn the right to win the game, and I think our players were excellent today.”

Dunfermline were frustrated when referee Craig Thomson waved aside an early penalty appeal and the home side’s exasperation had grown by full-time. They fell behind to a stunning strike in the 25th minute. Williamson gifted possession to County in his own half and in an instant Ross Draper had slipped an inviting pass into space on the right apex of the area. Mullin flashed his drive into the opposite top corner in the blink of an eye.

The lead lasted just three minutes, however. County failed to deal with Hippolyte’s long throw and Longridge coolly stepped inside his marker before drilling his left-foot shot into the roof of the net.

The Fifers had their tails up, but it was County who roared in front yet again two minutes from the break, Gardyne making a bee-line for the box before driving in from 16 yards.

All hopes of a second Dunfermline comeback were extinguished in the 68th minute when Draper nodded on Mullin’s corner and Watson hooked the ball high into the net from six yards out.

“We’ve got to learn from that,” said Dunfermline manager Allan Johnston, “because if we’re to have any chance of challenging at the top of the league you’ve got to defend well, first and foremost.”