Motherwell 1 - 2 Ross County: Brian Graham double dumps out Well

Motherwell, who reached both major cup finals last season, fell at the first hurdle here and were jeered from the field at full-time after being comprehensively beaten by the Championship leaders.

Ross County's Brian Graham heads home. Pic: SNS/Craig Foy

Manager Stephen Robinson was disconsolate afterwards. “We’re trying to do things a little bit differently and we’ve brought players in that will, hopefully, help to implement that,” he said. “But you could have Ronaldo and Messi up front and, if the service into them isn’t good enough and people don’t take responsibility to get on the ball, then it’s difficult.”

The first half consisted of 45 minutes of unrelenting tedium but County’s Jamie Lindsay seized the initiative immediately after the restart, bursting through a static home defence only to be denied by goalkeeper Mark Gillespie, who saved bravely at the midfielder’s feet.

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Gillespie then dived to his left to turn behind a side-footed shot from Declan McManus which was bound for his bottom left-hand corner.

County were in the ascendancy and deservedly took the lead when Brian Graham’s downwards header from MacManus’ cross left Gillespie helpless.

Motherwell had replaced former Scotland striker Ross McCormack (making his debut on loan from Aston Villa) with Curtis Main at half-time but his robust approach was no more effective than the former’s more cerebral style, although McCormack clearly needs more game time in order to reach optimum fitness.

Referee Steven McLean then infuriated the locals by ignoring a clear body check on Gboly Ariyibi during the build-up to County’s second, a low cross from McManus which Graham drilled home from two yards out.

The hosts surged forward in numbers, leaving themselves exposed to counter-attacks. Graham struck the crossbar with a rising drive and Gillespie got down well to deny McManus.

Substitute Jake Hastie headed home a cross from Elliott Frear in the final minute but it was too little, too late.

“We proved a point today,” said County co-manager Stuart Kettlewell. “Our players showed what we are all about.”