• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

St Johnstone 0 Ross County 1: Tunnel vision proves a hard habit to break

IT would take a moment for some of Ross County's players to make their way over to their supporters on Saturday evening.

Nigel Hasselbaink prepares to challenge Ross County defender Evangelos Oikonomou. Picture: SNS
Nigel Hasselbaink prepares to challenge Ross County defender Evangelos Oikonomou. Picture: SNS

A few had started down the tunnel already, a two-month wait for an away win having left them a little short of practice and conditioned instead to make their way out of wherever they were playing without too much of a fuss. That was a routine which the Highland side had got down to a T but which was disrupted at the weekend by a W, a win that allowed County to dig themselves out of the relegation play-off place in the SPFL Premiership.

They are still in a hole of sorts, since the play-off spot is only two points below them and could again swallow up County within a week. The lower half of the top flight can be an arid landscape for clubs which have already found league points difficult to cultivate and County had been ploughing fruitlessly through their away fixtures, in particular.

Saturday's victory was the first time that they had won outside the Highlands this season - their only other away win came in January, just 20 minutes down the road in Inverness. Any further and Richard Brittain, the County captain, might have been tempted to fish out a pair of ruby football boots and click his heels together.

There is a need for County to continue to expand their horizons if they are to ensure they see a new dawn in the Premiership. Trips to Motherwell on Saturday and then Celtic Park later this month are still to come before the split, and it will be necessary for County to step out of their comfort zone again if they are to keep the play-off place at arm's length. If they are to fend off the prospect of relegation then it will be only by that much.

"It's been really tight and I think it will be that way until the end of the season," said Mark Brown, the County goalkeeper. "From January onwards our results have been reasonably good but the teams round about us have been picking up points as well."

He was aware too that one of the clubs which had been loitering around 11th place had managed to drop those points again on Saturday, an evening kick-off in Perth having enabled County to catch up on St Mirren, who were playing at Tannadice. The Highland side would overtake them in the league a couple of hours later. "I knew about the St Mirren game, because I knew that for some time they had [Dundee United] beaten," said Brown of a match which ended 3-2 to Dundee United.

"But we are not going to move up the league just because other teams are dropping points; it is our performances which are going to take us up the league."

A season can be viewed in such simple terms, albeit an attempt to stay up during this campaign has been complicated by the play-off. County did sufficiently well to win in Perth - Melvin de Leeuw scored midway through the first half - but they also let slip certain truths of their season. They have improved markedly since January but have kept clean sheets in just three of their matches since the turn of the year; a record which might have been sullied further had it not been for the judiciousness of an assistant referee in stoppage time. Steven Anderson scored with a header, only for that effort to be ruled out after St Johnstone substitute Chris Iwelumo was seen using a fist to send the ball back across the box.

"Not one of their players claimed anything so it was a great spot by the linesman," said Iwelumo, the St Johnstone striker.

It allowed County to celebrate, even if it took a moment.

Contextual targeting label: 
Football

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

219997