Aberdeen had no meat pies at Pittodrie last night after their suppliers withdrew the product from their menu amid the horsemeat scandal but they were also lacking beef on the pitch against a solid Ross County side, who now sit in a remarkable second place in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League alongside their Highland neighbours Inverness Caledonian Thistle.

Gary Glen's late goal, scored after the Aberdeen defence dithered in their efforts to clear, earned the Dingwall side three points. Suddenly, the meeting of the top flight's two Highland clubs on Saturday assumes even more lustre.

"We dealt with a difficult pitch well," said Derek Adams, the County manager. "We had a lot of control of the game. There weren't many chances but we had more shots than Aberdeen did. It's a big victory for us. I wasn't surprised by the amount of control we had because we have the talented players to do that."

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If this was, as some claimed, an audition for Adams ahead of a move to Pittodrie in the summer when Brown's deal expires, then certainly he caught the eye as he steered his side to a ninth consecutive game without defeat. Brown had praised his counterpart's achievements in surging to fifth place before last night and could not have failed to consider Adams had done so with a team containing many players off-loaded by other top-flight sides and others who had journeyed with him from the Irn Bru First Division.

For his part, Adams simply brushed aside suggestions that Aberdeen would be his next managerial port of call, insisting that he was fully focused on his current job and pleased at the remarkable progress his side had made in their debut season in Scottish football's top tier.

What is not in any doubt, though, is that Aberdeen are struggling. Hitherto, crowds had remained decent despite their inconsistent form but Pittodrie was soulless last night, just over 6000 fans an indication of the indifference felt around the city during a season in which only four home wins have been earned.

County might have had that statistic in mind as they displayed a confidence with their passing game with Paul Lawson afforded plenty of space in his role just in front of his defence.

There were occasional moments of concern for the visitors, though. Jonny Hayes proved problematic down the left against Mihael Kovacevic and, with the help of 17-goal striker Niall McGinn, made inroads which were worrying for goalkeeper Mark Brown. That was certainly the case when Hayes, refusing to accept Ryan Jack's shot was going out at the far post, collected on the byeline and, from a tight angle, forced Brown into an acrobatic save.

More than half an hour had been played before Jamie Langfield was called into action at the other end as Ivan Sproule, enjoying a purple patch since his January move from Hibernian to Dingwall, forced the Aberdeen goalkeeper into a finger-tip save with a stinging shot.

Aberdeen's need for three points prompted them to force the issue more in a second half that brought more direct play from both sides but, aside from a Sproule shot saved by Langfield, there was little for the fans to enthuse about.

Peter Pawlett and Gavin Rae both tested the County goalkeeper with long-range efforts but the second period belonged to County, who moved the ball around with confidence and style and left their hosts looking ragged and weary. They were rewarded with nine minutes remaining when Glen's opportunism paid off, the striker pouncing on a ball from fellow substitute, Steffan Wohlfarth and lashing in from close range as the home defence stood off.

The few Aberdeen still in the rapidly-emptying ground made their feelings known at the end, booing and jeering their team off the scarred pitch, and not for the first time this season. Brown's post-match spin, then, would have raised eyebrows: "We have, in terms of defeats, one of the best home records in the SPL, having lost only three other games at Pittodrie in the league," he said. "But we were not unfortunate against Ross County, who took the chance they had.

"It had draw written all over it but we were slack in defending. I have no excuses. Ross County are a determined, battling team and I take no credit from them. The fans deserve better than they got."