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Ross County 2 Kilmarnock 1: Sliding scale reveals relegation realities

T HEY could still be dealt further points damage if there is punishment from the forgery allegation, but there is nothing fake about the acute peril Kilmarnock now find themselves in.

Ross County yesterday emerged as the genuine article in a contest jangling with the pressure and palpitations of the Premiership's fraught, five-team scrap for safety.

The hosts, claiming a first-ever victory against Kilmarnock, went ninth, but just two points separate the bottom six teams above Hearts. But Killie, berthed for the last 21 years in Scotland's top flight since promotion under the late Tommy Burns, slipped into the dreaded play-off spot with three matches to play. For County, though, victory was a relief after just one previous win in the last eight outings.

"We were excellent today from start to finish. It was a very good performance and we deserved to win the match," stressed home manager Derek Adams.

Any release of tension, the County boss admits, is difficult for a non-swearing tee-totaller.

"It's obviously tense as there are five teams in a battle to see if they can finish seventh," Adams said.

"It's great for the public and a good way to end the season. It's not great for the managers. It's high pressure."

Given those high stakes, there was nervous electricity in the air at the Global Energy Stadium as play commenced.

County settled first and took the early initiative, but Allan Johnston's side always looked dangerous in rapid counter-attacks when opportunity presented.

The major first-half flashpoint came after 23 minutes. Gordon Slew, taking the ball deep in his own half, set off on a jet-heeled, winding attack.

After several failed attempts to halt the big striker legally, Jackson Irvine seemed to clearly tug him down just inside the penalty box, but appeals were waved away.

If anything, though, the incident only inflamed County, with the opener arriving after 41 minutes. Slew collected a throw-in on the left and fed Melvin De Leeuw who teed up midfielder Filip Kiss. The Slovak, 20 yards out, didn't hesitate in spearing a fierce, low strike past Killie keeper Craig Samson.

The Killie support in the east stand vented their dismay and frustration with a chant urging chairman Michael Johnston to pack his bags.

Killie struggled to muster much of worth in response as the second half unfolded and they found themselves further under the cosh after 76 minutes.

The indefatigable Slew made ground on the far left and slipped the ball into the penalty box for Richard Brittain.

As the County captain wheeled around marker Lee Ashcroft, the Killie defender nicked his heels. Brittain sent Samson the wrong way from the spot. Kris Boyd pounced on a Jeroen Tesselar cross for a classic late poacher's goal and there was late Killie pressure and jitters for County.

But "what a load of rubbish" was the final chant of the day from the disillusioned ranks of 200-odd Killie faithful. "The fans are frustrated and rightly so," manager Johnston said. "We're all disappointed and we've got to make sure we get ourselves out of there. It's not been good enough. The table doesn't lie."

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