Ladbrokes Championship: Ross County 2 Dunfermline 1: 24/10/18
The road signs said Inbhir Pheofharain and even through the low lying mist it was definitely Dingwall. The Dunfermline squad was out for the warm up well before their opponents. There were three changes to the Pars line up Robbie Muirhead, Faissal El Bakhtaoui and James Vincent replacing Myles Hippolyte, Andy Ryan and Aidan Keena.
Ross County’s starting eleven showed five changes from their last league outing, the home defeat to Dundee United two weeks previous - Callum Morris, Stelios Demetriou, Ross Stewart, Don Cowie, and Declan McManus came in. Ross Draper and Davis Keillor-Dunn were relegated to the bench while Iain Vigurs, Sean Kelly and Liam Fontaine were missing altogether.
This match had been put back a week due to Ross County’s involvement in the Irn Bru Cup and since both clubs received byes in the Scottish Cup they were free to play this catch up fixture in the Ladbrokes Championship. A win for the home side would take them to within two points of league leaders, a win for Dunfermline would take them to within four points of fourth placed Inverness Caley Thistle.
County kicked off attacking the goal at the east end of the stadium and forced a corner within two minutes. That was delayed while Malaury Martin was treated for a knock on the face and when the corner was taken short and duly delivered it was overhit and the defence cleared. Another corner followed three minutes later after a swift County attack and although the delivery created more danger the hosts sent the ball out of the ground.
An eighth minute free kick from the left in line with the 18 yard line was sent towards the six yard box by Don Cowie and the ball skimmed behind off a Pars head. When Cowie delivered the corner from the right Josh Mullin met the ball with volley that found the net via a head flick from Billy McKAY to put the Staggies into an early lead. 1-0
When Joe Thomson was fouled 24 yards out the Fifers had an opportunity from a free kick in a central position. Kallum Higginbotham ran over the ball and Muirhead struck a fierce attempt round the six man wall to test Scott Fox.
The Pars were then reduced to ten men after Higginbotham was shown red for an incident involving Stelios Demetriou and already behind by one goal, there were 76 minutes for Dunfermline to play with a one man disadvantage.
A 21st minute corner by Martin was held by Fox and there was a neat break from El Bakhtaoui to Thomson who tried but failed to play the ball off a defender for a corner. There was a let off for the Pars as Cowie was able to get a shot in, Ashcroft slid in to block and McManus curled his shot outside the far post.
Vincent was yellow carded in 31 minutes when Demetriou again went down dramatically. Next Ross Stewart had a go from 25 yards but sent his effort over the crossbar.
A 36th minute County corner saw Morris get in a shot and in defensive play Longridge and then Vincent cleared the danger. The involvement was to be the former Pars defended last involvement as he was replaced by Ross Draper with what looked like a hamstring causing the problem.
Dunfermline broke with El Bakhtaoui and then Williamson creating an opening for Vincent but his shot went behind off a defender. Unfortunately the 41st minute corner was cleanly held by Fox.
There was further hope for the visitors as Martin picked out El Bakhtaoui who switched play to Muirhead but the Pars ran out of steam on the edge of the Staggies’ box.
The home side did show 58% possession at the break, they had 5 corners to their opponents 2 but both sides had only registered one shot on target each. Maybe a man short but at the break the visitors were only one behind and still in the game.
Half time: Ross County 1 Dunfermline 0
In just the second minute of the second half McKay played Stewart through one on one with Lee Robinson and the keeper pulled off a fine save to divert the ball behind for a corner. A Mullin cross was cleared by Williamson and Robinson scooped the ball away from McManus when a strong pass tried to pick him out on the edge of the six yard box.
In 57 minutes after a surging run forward by Danny Devine, Thomson made Fox hold a shot that was destined for the top left. Two minutes later a great break and then delivery from the right by Faiss set up Muirhead with a fine chance but he headed over the crossbar from eight yards out.
The critical next goal that the Fifers were chasing came at the other end. Brian Graham had come on for Ross Stewart and it was the sub who returned an overhit corner from the left side for Jamie LINDSAY to stab the ball home in 61 minute. 2-0
Despite the set back there were good attempts to breakdown the opposition defences. Thomson and El Bakhtaoui were up for the challenge with strong runs and then in 68 minutes Williamson raced up the right, cut inside only to fire a left footed shot well wide.
In 71 El Bakhtaoui evaded the offside trap to race on to a Vincent pass. It looked a tough task to convert as the pack closed down on him but Faiss got in a cross that Fox could only party in front of him but the defence mopped up the loose ball. Aidan Keena was then introduced for Malaury Martin.
Another strong run up the right by El Bakhtaoui got him in for a stinging shot on the angle. Again Fox parried the ball away but straight on to DRAPER off whom the ball ended up in the net. 2-1
Mullin then had an effort blocked by Devine but the Fifers could still smell the scent of a come back. There was more determined play from the Pars who seemed to be finding more space in the middle of the park and next Keena tried a shot from 35 out but it was closed down.
Myles Hippolyte replaced Robbie Muirhead with four minutes remaining and James Craigen for James Vincent three minutes later. Graham had a shot cleared away by Devine and Cowie blasted a great chance wide left.
It had been a great effort from the ten men but it ended with all the points staying in Dingwall.
ROSS COUNTY: Scott Fox: Marcus Fraser (c), Callum Morris (Ross Draper 39), Keith Watson, Stelios Demetriou, Jamie Lindsay, Josh Mullin, Ross Stewart (Brian Graham 59, Don Cowie, Declan McManus (Davis Kellior-Dunn 72), Billy McKay
SUBS NOT USED: Tony Dingwall, Russell Dingwall, Tom Grivosti, Ross Munro (GK).
SCORERS: McKay (9), Lindsay (61)
DUNFERMLINE: Lee Robinson: Ryan Williamson, Lee Ashcroft (c), Danny Devine, Jackson Longridge: Malaury Martin (Aidan Keena 73): Kallum Higginbotham, James Vincent (James Craigen 89), Joe Thomson, Robbie Muirhead (Myles Hippolyte 86): Faissal El Bakhtaoui,
SUBS NOT USED: Lewis Martin, Stuart Morrison, Cammy Gill (GK)
SCORERS: Draper (73 og)
YELLOW CARD: Vincent (31), Ashcroft (83)
RED CARD: Higginbotham (14)
REFEREE: Alan Muir
WEATHER: Rain 6C
NEXT MATCH: Ladbrokes Championship (home) v Morton, Saturday 1st December 2018, kick off 3.00pm at East End Park
50/50 half time draw: ticket number 089272 lifted prize of £549
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