A RESILIENT Ross County held firm a place above spirited St Mirren in a scoreless draw that was far from the drab stereotype on a chill Dingwall evening.
Both sides had their share of chances amid the sometimes frenzied action, but neither had the clinical edge required to convert them. Sam Morrow hit the crossbar for the home team in the first half while, in the second, visiting attacker John McGinn had a drive hacked off the line by Scott Boyd.
It was one of a handful of opportunities to win the game spurned by St Mirren in the second half and the confidence they displayed was enough to convince Danny Lennon, the Paisley side's manager, that his men are on the mend after ending a five-game losing streak with a win over Dundee on Saturday.
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Lennon said: "This is a very difficult venue to come to and they are a very hard-working side. But I thought we matched that and showed a bit of quality in the second half. All that was missing for us was a goal, but our endeavour and commitment couldn't be faulted. The final ball was fantastic. We drew a couple of good saves and hit the woodwork. There was everything bar the end product. I am delighted that we are getting there and, more than that, in the manner that we are getting there. I believe we are starting to see a bit of the old St Mirren coming back."
Opposite number Derek Adams was also far from unhappy, having felt it was an even game. The Highlanders' manager said: "I thought it was the classic game of two halves, really. We had the better of the first half and were unlucky not to go ahead with Sam Morrow's header against the bar. In the second period, St Mirren were also unlucky not to have scored and put us under a good bit of pressure."
The visitors' might have had Lee Mair red-carded before the break after an apparent last-man foul on Iain Vigurs, but Adams was unconvinced. He explained: "I don't think Vigurs had total control of the ball and I think that was the reason Steven MacLean didn't send their player off. I don't know if that's right, but that's what I am assuming."
There was a fear that the match might not have gone ahead when the Global Energy Stadium's floodlights failed 15 minutes before kick-off. Fortunately, the back-up system kicked in leaving play delayed by only five minutes.
Adams made one change to his side after Saturday's defeat to Dundee United, with goalkeeper Michael Fraser paying the price for a mistake which led to Johnny Russell's goal. In came Mark Brown, the former Celtic and Hibernian goalkeeper, for his first start in the league. Lennon, meanwhile, named an unchanged side – which was no surprise considering his team's weekend success and the dire period that had preceded it.
The early exchanges set the tone for an open match and after 16 minutes, Richie Brittain set up Morrow, only for the Northern Irishman's header to hit the crossbar.
At the other end, Jim Goodwin and then Steven Thompson came close to breaking the deadlock, before Vigurs was controversially taken down by Mair, who escaped with just a yellow card.
The Highlanders made two changes at the break, replacing Grant Munro with Marc Fitzpatrick and Morrow with Colin McMenamin, and it seemed to make a difference.
St Mirren swapped big men in attack, with Thompson off for Sam Parkin – and it was the Paisley side who fashioned the best chances. McGinn, though, found himself thwarted – firstly by Brown, following which Parkin hit the post with the follow-up, and later by defender Boyd.