In victory against struggling Accies
Accies might justifiably claim their artificial surface spares teams battles on heavy parks in winter. But few at the Global Energy Stadium were complaining. It was breathless, thrilling stuff in the Dingwall mud. County grasped a lead on the cusp of half time through Schalk at a time when Hamilton had exerted a great deal of pressure, including a Lucas Tagliapietra header blocked on the line by Paul Quinn.
Richard Foster’s free kick was nodded back across goal by Andrew Davies and Schalk showed great alertness to launch himself at it and power a header in off Michael McGovern’s flailing glove.
County then saw their best-laid plans torn to pieces by a foolish Jamie Reckord red card early in the second half. The left back’s hesitancy had Dougie Imrie threatening to wriggle away and race clean through the middle. The foul was a clear sending off offence.
At 1-0 down with 10 men, County ‘keeper Fox pulled off a number of fine saves including one quite jaw-dropping stop from Imrie. But when Accies levelled through Imrie, there looked to be no way back for a home side increasingly on the ropes.
With great resolve, County shored up in the face of heavy pressure – and then began to probe forward themselves. Accies were incensed with the free kick award 22 yards out when County skipper Andrew Davies tumbled under an Ali Crawford challenge.
McShane, already County’s established dead ball specialist, stepped up with ice in his veins and swirled a wonderful free kick strike in the top corner of the net.
Defeat left Martin Canning’s Accies side just a point above the dreaded play-off spot.
There was deep unhappiness, though, over referee Greg Aitken’s decision to penalise Ali Crawford with a free kick on Andrew Davies, leading to McShane’s winner.
“We lost the game to a wonder strike but it shouldn’t have been a free kick in the first place,” said Imrie.
ROARING: Ross County’s Alex Schalk celebrates putting his side ahead