Ayr United had asked the question, leaping back into top spot for some 15 hours after humbling Dundee United on Friday night, but Ross County answered their title rivals in assured fashion yesterday.
Goals from Declan McManus and Jamie Lindsay completed a straightforward victory to restore the Dingwall club’s three-point lead at the Championship summit.
Ending Alloa’s six-game unbeaten run, County co-manager Steven Ferguson knew it was a vital riposte after back-to-back defeats in the league. “It was important we answered the question Ayr put to us last night after their great win over Dundee United,” Ferguson said. “We understand the pressure that comes with being up at the top of the league.”
The Wasps were chasing only their second away win of the campaign, but made the worst possible start with County surging ahead after only 12 minutes.
Andy Graham crashed into a challenge with County namesake Brian Graham, with the ball spinning loose to McManus at the right edge of the area. The former Aberdeen and Dunfermline striker’s low-lashed finish was unstoppable.
A couple of minutes later, County survived a scare after the grounded Keith Watson failed to clear properly and Iain Flannigan’s strike deflected wide.
But the hosts held the upper hand before the break, with Billy Mckay striking the outside of the post from 15 yards from a Lindsay pass. Mckay and Lewis Spence both went close later in the half, but the winning margin remained slender at the break.
Sean Kelly exited injured at the break with a recurrence of his groin problem, with ex-Sheffield United youngster Callum Semple – another new capture for County – coming on as replacement for his debut.
County howled for a penalty as Sam Roscoe bumped Graham over in the box from a Kenny van der Weg cross, but referee Steven Kirkland wasn’t interested.
But the crucial second goal arrived after 62 minutes. Lindsay and Graham exchanged passes and the latter’s lovely through ball found Lindsay in front of goal. The midfielder’s initial strike was blocked by keeper Neil Parry, but the ball sat up perfectly for the ex-Celtic man to nod in the rebound.
Alloa offered more late on, with substitute Jack Aitchison drawing a save down low from Scott Fox, while Alan Trouten went through on the keeper but flicked his shot wide.
“I actually thought we played quite well. Goals change games, it’s as simple as that,” said Alloa boss Jim Goodwin. “But the players deserve credit for the run they’ve been on, six unbeaten, and we always knew this would be a difficult game.”