A dreadful encounter was settled by a truly appalling decision as in-form Kilmarnock secured their place in the draw for the fifth round courtesy of a late penalty so questionable it goes beyond controversial
Steve Clarke, the Killie boss, was happy enough though. “It is always the main thing to be in
the hat for the next round draw,” he said. “It was a war of attrition, but we will take the win.”
This may have been a match-up
between two top-flight teams, but you would never have known in an opening which was decidedly drab. Both sides failed to create any clear openings.
Aaron McCarey in the County goal helped a drive from Eamonn Brophy over the bar, while his opposite number, Jamie MacDonald, dived bravely to deny new County striker Inih Effiong. Indeed, it was indicative of the half that the closest either team came was Rory McKenzie’s wayward cross clipping the woodwork.
Unfortunately for the 3,595 suffering souls looking on, neither the entertainment nor quality levels picked up after the restart. Only a header from County’s Jason Naismith came remotely close to breaking the deadlock as the toil continued.
All the drama was crammed into the final three minutes as referee Bobby Madden awarded a penalty for an apparent foul on McKenzie by Tim Chow, who was dismissed for the incident, when there didn’t seem to have been any contact. Sub Lee Erwin blanked out the County protests to scuff home from the spot.
Ross County manager Owen Coyle was in no doubt his team had been on the receiving end of a shocking decision. He said: “You can accept getting beat by a better team, but I didn’t feel this was the case. It was never a penalty, never.”
Then, in the final attack of the game, County keeper McCarey – pushed up for a corner – was utterly convinced his header had crossed the line only to be blanked by both referee and assistant.