Ross County’s transformation under Derek Adams gathered pace after an assured, almost swaggering victory over troubled Motherwell.

Leapfrogging the Fir Park side into eighth place in the Premiership table, it was a third clean sheet and second victory for the Staggies from three home games since sacking Malky Mackay three weeks ago.

Simon Murray struck early with his 11th goal of the season, while a sumptuous first of the campaign from Yan Dhanda had the hosts cruising by the break.

VAR overturned an off-side flag for Ben Purrington’s third after 56 minutes as the Steelmen slumped to a 12th straight match without victory.

County are a team suddenly overflowing with confidence, full of energy and ideas, and that confidence served to drain the visitors of those very traits long before the final whistle.

From 11th place when Adams arrived, County now sit a point off the top six and, until tonight at least, just three off the Hearts in the third European spot.

There was an Adams and Stuart Kettlewell reunion between the technical areas, but no time for sentimentality.

The County boss signed the now-Motherwell manager for the Dingwall team from Clyde in 2009.

A fruitful spell together in the Highlands had brought them the old First Division title, fifth place in the Premiership and a Scottish Cup final.

Kettlewell, later County manager and sacked here in December 2020 after defeat to Hamilton, was always assured a warm welcome from the fans.

But last night was all about three points - with the great need in both camps.

Adams was able to name an unchanged starting 11 having secured a scoreless draw against Kilmarnock and a 1-0 victory over St Mirren in his first two matches.

County had rested at the weekend with their Livingston trip frozen off.

But Kettlewell, trying to halt an 11-game winless run, made three changes to the team that grabbed a 3-3 home draw to Dundee in stoppage time on Saturday.

Harry Paton dropped out, suspended after a red card at the weekend, with Job Obika and Calum Butcher relegated to the bench.

Callum Slattery, Theo Bair and Conor Wilkinson were restored to the starting line-up.

The Staggies had conspicuously opened Adams’ first two games in charge in full-blown attack mode.

Sure enough, they were at it again.

Motherwell kicked off but within two minutes, County won a corner and James Brown’s delivery was met brilliantly by Simon Murray with a backward header at the front of the six-yard area.

Well keeper sprinted to referee David Dickinson protesting there had been an obstruction in the box.

Motherwell reacted within eight minutes with Bair blasting just wide from outside the area and Ross Laidlaw forced into two fine reaction saves in quick succession from Slattery and Stephen O’Donnell.

But it was 2-0 for County just inside 18 minutes, with a moment of sheer class from midfielder Yan Dhanda.

Jack Badwin knocked the ball forward and the ex-Swansea City man controlled the awkward ball, then flashed inside away from his marker.

A curving right foot strike from 20 yards left keeper Kelly with no chance.
County’s confidence grew to a swagger as the half progressed and, on 39 minutes, they should have grabbed a third.

A brilliant rapid-passing move from Dhanda, Murray and Connor Randall set the latter clean in on Kelly, but the Liverpudlian stubbed his shot straight at the Fir Park keeper.

Kettlewell’s unhappiness shone in three half-time changes, with the next goal crucial.

Motherwell looked pumped up for the fight, sharper to the ball, with replacement Georgie Bent’s darting run on the left and dangerous low cross threatening to set the tone.

The recovery bid faltered, though, after a couple of stray passes and another superb County move for the third.

Dhanda’s lovely cross from deep right was met by White’s head, with the attempt parried by Kelly.

Purrngton strode onto the rebound to score, but the off-side prompted a VAR check which, after a couple of minutes, went the hosts’ way.

Well didn’t throw in the towel at 3-0, with Gent’s close-range header tipped over the bar by the ever-alert Laidlaw.

Moments later, Gent’s superb delivery from the left should have set up Mika Biereth in front of goal, but the Danish loanee from Arsenal flicked the ball beyond the far post from a few yards out.

Biereth then saw a goalbound, angled attempt knocked off the line to safety by Will Nightingale.

The game was dead as a contest and County saw it out with composure despite two late bookings bringing a stoppage time red card for defender Will Nightingale.

Motherwell also went down to 10 men, but for seconds only after an awkward fall injured Dan Casey.

Having added a healthy return of goals to the mix last night, the home side’s solidity brought a third clean sheet to what, not so long ago, was one of the leakiest.

They will need to change it for Saturday’s trip to St Mirren, but things are looking up in Dingwall.