Ross County romped to a comfortable 7-0 victory against Highland League champions Cove Rangers, to end their disappointing Betfred Cup defence on a high.
The Staggies were out of contention for qualification for the last-16 of the competition following their 3-2 defeat to League 1 side Alloa Athletic in midweek, but triumphed thanks to a hat-trick from Brian Graham and doubles from fellow attackers Alex Schalk and Craig Curran, with Cove having attacker Mitch Megginson sent off for a first-half challenge on Schalk.
County made three changes from the side that suffered defeat to the Wasps, with goalkeeper Scott Fox dropping to the bench and Chris Robertson and Richard Foster out of the squad completely, with a debut for Aaron McCarey between the sticks, and defenders Andrew Davies and Kenny van der Weg returning.
Cove manager John Sheran also made changes to the side that defeated Montrose 3-0 in midweek, with experienced pair Eric Watson and Stuart Duff making way for youngsters Harry Milne and Sam Burnett.
Cove limited County’s threat in the early stages but the home side made the breakthrough on 24 minutes, when Schalk lashed home fellow Dutchman van der Weg’s delivery from the left flank.
The visitors’ task was made even harder 11 minutes later, when former Aberdeen forward Megginson was red carded by referee Mat Northcroft for an over-robust challenge on Schalk, which drew a furious reaction from the home players.
The Staggies made the advantage count with three quickfire goals at the start of the second-half. Graham got his name on the scoresheet when he found the far corner of the net from the inside right channel just two minutes after the break. They made it 3-0 just 90 seconds later, when Schalk nipped in front of McKenzie to bundle Routis’ header into the net.
Graham also secured his brace on 56 minutes, nodding home from another van der Weg delivery, before Curran netted his first goal since returning from a long period on the sidelines through illness when he lifted the ball McKenzie after being released by Routis.
Curran grabbed his second goal nine minutes, converting from close-range following Liam Boyce’s set-up, before Graham secured his hat-trick on 89 minutes when he nodded home substitute Ian McShane’s delivery.