Early promise once again, but undone by slack defending.
Ross County showed plenty early attacking promise in their League Cup third round clash against Hibs, however consecutive free headers in the first-half from Dominique Malonga proved enough for the Championship strugglers to progress.
Alan Stubbs’ side saw off County’s advances relatively comfortably in the second-half, despite Dylan McGeouch’s reckless late dismissal.
Both sides approached the tie sorely bereft of confidence; County have lost their opening seven Premiership fixtures, while Hibs have won just two out of six Championship matches since relegation from the top-flight in May.
Indeed, Victoria Park was the scene of Hibs’ last three points on the road, with the Easter Road side having failed to win an away league encounter, barring last season’s play-off, since a 2-0 win over the Staggies on Boxing Day last year.
Ross County manager Jim McIntyre rang the changes from Saturday’s 3-0 defeat against Aberdeen at Pittodrie, with centre half duo Tim Dreesen and Ben Frempah stepping in for the sidelined Scott Boyd and Darren Barr.
Captain Richard Brittain was dropped to the bench along with Michael Gardyne, being replaced by Filip Kiss and Melvin de Leeuw.
Meanwhile the visitors made three changes from a side that similarly tasted defeat at the weekend, as Liam Fontaine, Liam Craig and Jason Cummings replaced Sam Stanton, Jake Sinclair and Matthew Kennedy from the side beaten 1-0 by Queen of the South.
County looked to set the early tempo and McIntyre had clearly given his players encouragement to shoot from distance given the wet conditions, with both Rocco Quinn and de Leeuw having efforts deflected behind in the first four minutes.
Hibs remained a live danger at the other end, with Dominique Malonga firing inches over from 20 yards.
Despite the Staggies showing the greater early attacking intent, it took a heroic clearance off the line by Kiss to prevent Hibs taking the lead through Paul Hanlon’s header on 19 minutes.
However as if the scare didn’t act as a strong enough warning, County fell behind just two minutes later when Liam Craig supplied a delivery from the left, finding Malonga totally unmarked to steer a header inside Mark Brown’s near post.
County should have levelled less than two minutes later however, with Yoann Arquin dragging wide after being put clean through by Joe Cardle – the sort of chance the hosts couldn’t afford to pass up many more of.
Arquin was wasteful again on 34 minutes, clinging onto the ball too long when presented with a glance of goal thus allowing Jordan Forster in to clear.
The poor finishing came back to bite the home side two minutes later, as Hibs doubled the lead with a goal virtually identical to the first, Lewis Stevenson this time supplying the cross for Malonga to nod home.
The goal prompted McIntyre into a shake-up four minutes before the break with Fenlon – who had been exposed in his right-back position for both goals – replaced by captain Brittain. County came within inches of pulling one back before half-time, with Kiss seeing his lofted shot headed off the line by Craig.
Just three minutes into the second-half, however, the Edinburgh side nearly added a third, this time David Gray exploiting the opposite flank before crossing for Jason Cummings to fire off the post.
County threatened on 51 minutes when Arquin’s drilled shot forced a fine block from Mark Oxley, before the home side introduced Michael Gardyne and Liam Boyce in a clear signal of attacking intent, with the pair combining in a move that saw Northern Irishman Boyce head over from six yards.
However the Dingwall side lacked the urgency to narrow the deficit in the second-half, with Hibs defending resolutely. The visitors were reduced to ten men with nine minutes left when Dylan McGeouch saw red for a reckless lunge on Cardle.