ROSS COUNTY gave Jim McIntyre their vote as manager last week over illustrious, glamorous alternatives such as John Hartson and Winston Bogarde.
Scorers: Ross County - Boyce 78; Motherwell - Vigurs 49; Sutton 54
After seven years of guidance from the successful George and Derek Adams partnership there was no doubting that times were a-changing but, sadly for County, that couldn’t translate into transformation of result.
Remarkable strikes from Iain Vigurs and John Sutton proved enough in the end for Motherwell to break a run of four defeats without scoring, despite Liam Boyce banging in one near the end for the hosts.
Yet there was much to admire in County’s plucky display, particularly in the first half and then again in their reaction to the loss of two goals. Acknowledging as much, McIntyre, just four days into his new job, said: “I thought in the first half we had the edge on the game and created a couple of good opportunities. They were positions where we really have to be pulling the trigger and getting our shot away. I thought the reaction from the players was really good.
“The second-half goal changed things. Motherwell came out better in the second half and scored.
“The most pleasing thing for me was the way we reacted. It took the wind out of our sails for ten minutes but for the last 15-20 minutes we had a real go. They kept fighting and kept sticking in and that’s encouraging.
“They gave us everything and that was the most important thing.”
Motherwell remain in tenth spot but it will be the morale boost that matters most, while County stay anchored, pointless at the bottom, with St Mirren. The Dingwall team, as well as trying to launch the McIntyre era in positive fashion, needed to avoid the ignominy of a sixth straight Premiership defeat that would equal Aberdeen’s infamous top-flight run of 1999.
Matters approaching the game were only marginally better for Motherwell, locked as they were in a four-game run of defeats without scoring.
Confidence shouldn’t have been high in either camp but County survived an early scare. Sutton’s opportunist curler from the semi-circle spun just the wrong side of Antonio Reguero’s left-hand post.
Buoyed by their new “singing section” generating atmosphere, though, County began to pressure.
Michael Gardyne, back for a third County stint after two years at Dundee United and Kilmarnock, dodged a sliding challenge at the left of the box and drove low into Dan Twardzik’s grasp. A minute later, Joe Cardle – buzzing with energy – was next to see a determined strike deflect for a County corner.
The pattern continued with a fine home move ending with a Jake Jervis cross and Gardyne stretch and nod wide. All that was missing for McIntyre’s new side was the opener.
Mark O’Brien scythed recklessly through Cardle after 28 minutes but, luckily for the defender, the card was yellow. County kept pushing and a Jackson Irvine back-heeler set-up Gardyne for another crack at goal that flew just wide.
Motherwell, though, mustered better late on in the first half – and struck just four minutes into the second. A Jordi Balk foul had ex-County favourite Vigurs lining up and the Well man swerved a wonderful dead-ball strike high beyond the diving Antonio Reguero.
Another goal was quick to follow. Just five minutes later, Sutton collected the ball 35 yards out and caught Reguero napping with an audacious 35-yard looping strike into the net.
The game died a little – before County came storming back late on. Graham Carey’s skill in slicing into the box along the bye-line led to a cross which substitute Liam Boyce swept in from a few yards.
County went very close again on several occasions late on, but Well manager Stuart McCall said: “We scored two fantastic goals and it needed that to win it. We can be a lot better.
“The key thing now is we have players coming back to a good level of fitness and a strong squad now.”