WITH Dundee enshrouded in crisis at the bottom of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League, it is forgivable to forget that the Dens Park club are not the only newcomers to the top flight this term.
In a season that has taken its toll on the Taysiders, fellow new kids on the block Ross County also faced the prospect of having to adapt and settle into their new surroundings last summer. It's fair to say, in contrast to Dundee, they haven't looked back since.
Saturday's victory over then-second Motherwell was no fluke; a glance at their recent record of six wins and two draws in eight games would more than back that up. So would the testimony of Dundee, Hibernian, Aberdeen St Johnstone and St Mirren, who have all been defeated by Derek Adams' men. The Fir Park club were added to the list as of 5pm on Saturday, however, the result was beyond doubt far earlier.
"We've got good players here and all pulling in the right direction," Sam Morrow, the Ross County forward, said. "But we've no aspirations about where we want to end up, we're just going about our business.
"The target at the start of the season was survival and we've not changed that. We're happy just ticking along and seeing where it takes us. If it's the top six then brilliant, if not, then we won't lose any sleep over it. That is six wins and two draws in the last eight games so that's nearly a third of the season unbeaten, we're doing well. We'll keep just trying to play well."
Adams' earnest bunch have proven to be more than equipped to deal with some of the Premier League's most dangerous sides, and that was abundantly clear on Saturday. The blend of youth and experience created a potent mix that Motherwell simply didn't have the stomach for.
This was evident none more so than the partnership between Morrow and Ivan Sproule at the apex of the County attack. The Northern Irish pair, who played at Hibernian together under Tony Mowbray, combined against the visitors' young central defensive pairing of Shaun Hutchinson and Adam Cummins, with Sproule netting calmly on 34 minutes before Richard Brittain and Iain Vigurs completed the raid in the second half. "Ivan and me have known one another for a long time," said the 27-year-old. "We know each other's game inside out and play to our strengths."
For Motherwell, it was simply one to forget. Much praise has been heaped upon McCall's side over the course of the season, and quite rightly, for their will to pass and move the ball quickly and to entertain. However, a pitch to rival Bondi Beach is not conducive for such a premise, with the Fir Park side failing to adapt their game with any great conviction.
Despite opportunity knocking on McCall's door this week in the form of James McFadden, the chance to extend their lead in third has passed the Lanarkshire side by after successive defeats to Dundee United and Ross County within four days. The weekend's efforts are by no means typical, but the Motherwell manager will nevertheless be concerned at the lack of consistency – you have to go back to September for the last time they won two games in a row – threatening to derail their season.
"That's as poor as we've been for a long, long time," admitted Keith Lasley, the Motherwell captain who will lead his side to face Celtic on Wednesday. "We're still in a good position, albeit it could be better, the last two games weren't great for us. We've got a difficult game on Wednesday and need a reaction from Saturday."