County on the verge of Pre­mier­ship re­turn as Graham helps him­self to a hat-trick

Evening Times - - LADBROKES PREMIERSHI­P - ALI­SON McCON­NELL AT SOM­ER­SET PARK

ROSS County all but se­cured a re­turn to the Lad­brokes Pre­mier­ship at the first at­tempt af­ter a comeback tri­umph against Ayr United last night. A per­fect hat-trick from Brian Graham can­celled out Calvin Miller’s 12th minute opener and while for­mally the High­landers re­quire one more point from their re­main­ing two games, their goal dif­fer­ence of 20 re­al­is­ti­cally makes that an ir­rel­e­vance. Iron­i­cally, Ross County’s ri­vals, In­ver­ness Cale­do­nian This­tle, host Dundee United to­day. Should In­ver­ness take any­thing from that game against sec­ond-placed Rob­bie Niel­son’s side then a glass will be raised from the other side of the High­land di­vide. “My­self and Steven [Ferguson] will go along to the game as we al­ways do,” said Ross County co-man­ager Stu­art Ket­tlewell. “One of the first mes­sages I came into tonight was from John Robert­son say­ing fan­tas­tic and well done. It is a touch of class and we did the same to them when they played Hearts in the Scot­tish Cup be­cause we are try­ing to push High­land foot­ball. We want the two teams back in the Pre­mier­ship. “In a play-off, I’d want In­ver­ness to go up. Yes, there are ri­val­ries and fights on the way but it is a friendly ri­valry.” Ayr took the lead when Miller, on loan at Som­er­set Park from Celtic, turned the ball in at the back post. How­ever, with the in­ter­val loom­ing, Ross County drew level when Ross Doohan dived to punch away a Josh Mullin cross but only into the path of Graham who drilled low into the net. It got bet­ter again for the vis­i­tors af­ter the break when Graham bul­leted a header home. Michael Gar­dyne then teed up Graham for his hat-trick. There was a melee at the fi­nal whis­tle as County cel­e­brated; Ayr sub­sti­tute Ross Docherty was red-carded in the tun­nel for throw­ing the ball into Daniel Armstrong’s face from close range while the County player took a book­ing for his part in the al­ter­ca­tion.

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