Partick Thistle took complete command of a game that was either side’s for the taking to record an impressive away victory which ended Ross County’s six-match unbeaten run.
With very little to separate the sides in the first-half, goals after the interval from Liam Lindsay, Kris Doolan and Chris Erskine sealed the points for the Jags.
Liam Boyce’s late header came as too little, too late, but County remain sixth despite the loss.
Both sides had to deal with the challenging conditions brought on by Storm Barbara, albeit not bad as had initially been feared early in the week. Weather issues aside, County had every reason to be optimistic ahead of the visit of Alan Archibald’s side, who were without a win since October and came into the game bottom of the Premiership table. The Dingwall men had occupied that position just over a month ago, but a fine run of six games without defeat, culminating in last Saturday’s 2-1 victory against Aberdeen, had catapulted them into the top-six.
Two changes for the Staggies from the side which struck late to defeat the Dons, both of which were enforced. Kenny van der Weg sat out the first of a two-game ban following his red card against the Reds, replaced by Jay McEveley who returned from a suspension of his own, while Saturday’s matchwinner Ryan Dow was drafted in for the injured Michael Gardyne, out for the rest of the year with a hamstring injury.
Partick had raised concerns about travelling conditions for supporters ahead of the trip north, with gale force winds at one point forcing the closure of the Kessock Bridge during the afternoon. The stormy weather made for testing playing conditions, with County, backed by the wind in the first-half, doing the early probing, midfielders Tim Chow and Christopher Routis seeing their early long-range efforts drift wide.
County looked to press the visitors high up the field and feed off scraps in the opening stages, but Thistle showed their passing capabilities in spells. The Jags struggled to put pressure on goalkeeper Scott Fox, who spent five years with the Maryhill side, with Sean Welsh firing well over with their first attempt on 13 minutes.
The game lacked rhythm however, with neither side able to build up a sustained period of pressure. In a rare moment of promise, Tony Dingwall showed neat footwork to carry the ball into a decent shooting position on the edge of the Jags’ box on 35 minutes, but his low effort lacked purchase and was comfortably gathered by Tomas Cerny – the first save of the match for either goalkeeper.
That appeared to force the Jags into action, and they came close two minutes later when Chris Erskine sold Paul Quinn before seeing his rasping strike palmed away by Fox, who was alert to smother Ryan Edwards’ follow-up header. Steven Lawless struck straight at Fox from the edge of the box moments later, before Welsh nodded over from Callum Booth’s cross, with Thistle finishing the first-half on top without finding a breakthrough.
The Glasgow side carried their momentum into the second-half however, taking the lead five minutes after the interval. Welsh produced a fine corner from the right, which held up perfectly for Lindsay to plant a powerful header past Fox who was helpless to keep the effort out.
County looked to strike back, with Alex Schalk replacing Craig Curran in an attempt to inject more pace to the forward line. Leading scorer Liam Boyce was presented with an opportunity on 58 minutes, however his looping effort from Routis’ free-kick went well over.
The Staggies were stung by the Jags again just after the hour mark though, with Thistle putting themselves firmly in command. It came from another corner, with Lindsay working the ball back out to Booth whose initial delivery had been half-cleared, with his follow up cross bulleted into the net by attacker Doolan from close-range.
County had a mountain to climb but Boyce should have narrowed the deficit moments later when a fine touch put him clean through on goal, but he struck straight at the onrushing Cerny in a potentially crucial moment.
It was game over on 78 minutes however, as Erskine was slipped in following a loose pass by substitute Jonathan Franks, with the midfielder lashing high past former team-mate Fox to the delight of the hardy travelling support.
Boyce’s 11th goal of the season came as little consolation for the Staggies, who face a tricky trip to a seemingly unstoppable Celtic side on Wednesday.