League leaders, Ross County, continued their long unbeaten run with an easy 3-0 defeat over Livingston. Two ex-Lions, Colin McMenamin and Sam Morrow, sent Livi on the long road home with all three points left behind.
Ross County were almost a goal up within just 3 minutes, when Andy McNeil dropped the ball into his own net under pressure from a home attack. However, referee John McKendrick curiously ruled the goal out, deciding that the keeper had been fouled.
Moments later, Livi had their own controversial denial. A long lobbed shot over Michael Fraser by Iain Russell was chalked off for offside, despite furious protests from the Livi attacker.
There were penalty calls moments later for Livingston, with Stefan Scougall seemingly fouled on the edge of the box, but McKendrick merely awarded a free kick just outside the box which Fox could only blast against the wall. Maurice Ross followed this up minutes later with an excellent cross into the box, but sadly for the visitors no one was quick enough to collect it.
Kyle Jacobs was next through on on goal, but rather than shooting he kept running and found himself at too tight an angle to shoot, and ultimate the cross was easily cleared by the County defence.
The home side clawed their way back into the game and began to dominate, almost catching the Livi defence out with a quick counter attack, but Watson was equal to their move. Ex-Lion Richie Brittain then provided an excellent cross which thankfully was cleared for a corner.
However the Staggies finally took the lead on 28 minutes. A corner from the far side was easily cleared by the defence, but County forced the ball back into the box, finding Colin McMenamin at the back post where he easily slotted past Andy McNeil.
Minutes later, the Livi tactics were thrown into the air when a substitution was forced upon the team. Jason Talbot was taken off, apparently having taken a head knock (he was taken to hospital, but given the all clear hours later), with Bollan shuffling the team to bring on Bobby Barr into midfield.
The second half began as an even affair, with the teams exchanging chances. Former Lion loanee Rocco Quinn sent an effort just over with a powerful 20 yard drive, before Iain Russell sent a volley sailing well over at the other end.
Iain Vigurs then had two excellent efforts, one held by McNeil and the other narrowly drifting by the post. Meanwhile, Rory Boulding had tried his luck for Livi, but his drive was deflected wide for a corner.
Russell followed up with a low, powerful shot which Michael Fraser had no problems in bringing under control.
As the half continued, County started to assert their abilities, and began to dominate the game. McNeil almost gifted them a chance, but his poorly handled save was cleared much to the relief of the small travelling Livi support.
McNeil redeemed himself minutes later with an excellent save from Brittain, and another moments later, tipping over Mark Corcoran’s drive.
County weren’t to be denied however, and after McNeil made yet another terrific save, knocking the ball onto the crossbar, it bounced out to McMenamin who made no mistake in grabbing his second of the game in his last contribution before being substituted for Sam Morrow.
The Staggies almost made it 3 moments later, with a shot just over from a wide position by Corcoran. Kettlewell tested McNeil again before the home side finally got their third. Sub Morrow easily beat the Livi offside trap to slide the ball past McNeil into the opposite side of the net.
The Lions were well beaten on the day by a well drilled Ross County side. They had their chances, but never truly tested keeper Michael Fraser at any point in the game. With a bit of a slump in form the team will be desperate to use the cup gap to consider how to bring the early season form back.
Fraser, Miller, Boyd, Munro, Morrison (McMenamin 83), Brittain, Kettlewell, Quinn (Corcoran 60), Vigurs, Gardyne (Craig 60), McMenamin
Subs not used: Malin, Byrne
McNeil, Ross, Talbot (B.Barr 34), Ky.Jacobs, C.Barr, Watson, Fox, Kn.Jacobs, Boulding (Deuchar 70), Russell (McNulty 76), Scougall
Subs not used: Fordyce, Jamieson
Ref: J McKendrick
Match report by Chris Naismith