Best out­fit pre­vail as County fi­nally col­lar High­land ri­vals


ROSS COUNTY’S blue match jer­seys were left be­hind in Ding­wall in a bizarre mix-up be­fore kick-off but it was Ca­ley This­tle who were posted miss­ing.

Only in the clos­ing stages did John Hughes’ men muster the kind of com­pet­i­tive menace they have been renowned for in this northerly meet­ing.

But it wasn’t enough to pre­vent the Ding­wall team book­ing a place in the first League Cup semi-fi­nal in their his­tory af­ter goals from Jack­son Irvine and Michael Gar­dyne.

Greg Tansey’s late re­ply stoked nerves for County, but man­ager Jim McIn­tyre said: “I’m thrilled. It’s been a long time com­ing. In four at­tempts we hadn’t won. It’s nice to get that mon­key off our back and some of our play was fan­tas­tic – we should have scored more goals. We con­trolled most of it and had some real good op­por­tu­ni­ties to kill the game.”

Bizarrely there was a spot of comic con­fu­sion be­fore the match as both sides warmed up wear­ing white strips, with County hastily dis­patch­ing a driver the 14 miles back to HQ to re­trieve their blue kit. Once changed, County were soon in the driv­ing seat, de­spite on-loan Swin­don striker Miles Storey rac­ing through early on to be thwarted smartly by County keeper Gary Woods.

Liam Boyce, County’s North­ern Ire­land in­ter­na­tional, swept a pow­er­ful 20-yard strike over the bar and then met a dan­ger­ous Ding­wall cross with a glanc­ing header just wide. When Martin Woods rock­eted a 35-yard shot off the un­der­side of the Ca­ley This­tle bar, it was clear the hosts were creak­ing.

The break­through fi­nally came four min­utes be­fore the break. Woods’ cor­ner from the left held pace and Irvine, the Aus­tralia in­ter­na­tional, knocked a bril­liant eight-yard header into the cor­ner of the net.

Hughes’ men were in trou­ble again three min­utes into the sec­ond pe­riod. Craig Cur­ran’s swept pass was the cat­a­lyst for a su­perb bit of skill from Michael Gar­dyne, show­ing sub­lime con­trol be­fore flash­ing a 12-yard fin­ish past a help­less Owain Fon Wil­liams.

The hosts were in in­creas­ing dis­ar­ray and a Fon Wil­liams blun­der al­lowed Gar­dyne a goal-bound shot only for Josh Meek­ings to block on the line. There was a flicker of hope for the home side af­ter 73 min­utes as Ryan Christie’s flicked ef­fort struck the post. And it was game on 12 min­utes from the end, with Greg Tansey’s strike from more than 30 yards halv­ing the deficit. But it was too lit­tle, too late from In­ver­ness.

Home man­ager John Hughes was clear on where blame lay. He said: “There was plenty of spirit and com­mit­ment, but we just lacked it in the fi­nal third.”

LETHAL TOUCH: Jack­son Irvine nets the opener for Ross County

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