Ross County were unable to capitalise on Hearts’ numerical disadvantage, as they went down 2-0 against the 10-men Jambos at Tynecastle.
Hearts defender Callum Paterson put his side ahead on 15 minutes with a fizzing strike from long-range, and despite the dismissal of Jambos captain Blazej Augustyn on 48 minutes, the Staggies were unable to capitalise, with Osman Sow putting the game beyond doubt on 67 minutes.
County manager Jim McIntyre named an unchanged side from the team that defeated Aberdeen 2-0 at Victoria Park the previous weekend, which meant Brian Graham, who netted twice in that game, continued to partner top scorer Liam Boyce up front.
The Jambos made three changes from the team that ended a five game sequence without a league victory last weekend, with a 1-0 defeat of Dundee United. Returing to the side were Paterson, Jamie Walker and Belgian Arnaud Djoum – who was making his first start for the club. Dropping out were Juwon Oshaniwa, Danny Swanson and Miguel Pallardo.
County made a bright start and had the first attempt of the game after just two minutes, with Liam Boyce slipping in Michael Gardyne, whose curling effort from the edge of the box forced Neil Alexander to palm wide. The Jambos’ first attempt came when Sow out-muscled Jamie Reckord, before his cut-back was only partially cleared by Richard Foster, straight into the path of Juanma who hooked over.
The hosts continued to grow into the game however, and took the lead on 15 minutes. As Sam Nicholson worked his way into a shooting position on the edge of the box, both Foster and captain Andrew Davies slid in to tackle the midfielder, with the ball falling to Paterson who thumped a powerful strike past Gary Woods from 20 yards.
The hosts were well on top, and they could have added a second just before the break when Walker worked a neat one-two with Juanma, before seeing his shot tipped over the bar by Woods. The Highlanders did create one final chance on the break before the first-half ended, when Boyce teed up Foster whose shot went harmlessly over.
The Jambos still had time to create another opportunity in first-half stoppage time though, as Nicholson skipped down the inside-left channel before seeing his shot blocked behind for a corner.
The hosts picked up from where they left off at the start of the second-half, as Walker drilled just wide of target from 20 yards.
Just three minutes after the break however, County were handed an unexpected lifeline when Boyce picked up on Igor Rossi’s loose pass to run clear at goal, before the attacker was tugged to the ground by Augustyn, leaving referee Alan Muir with no option but to dismiss the Pole.
McIntyre shook up his side, replacing Stewart Murdoch and Graham with Martin Woods and Craig Curran. The Highlanders initially looked to show attacking promise, with Boyce’s low strike from the edge of the area forcing a good save from Alexander.
However, they were hit by a second Jambos goal on 67 minutes. Walker picked out Sow in behind the defence, with the attacker at first looking to have taken one touch too many as goalkeeper Woods went to ground, but the attacker somehow managed to slip the ball home to double his side’s advantage.
County rallied to try and find a way back into the game, but their day was summed up by an incredible miss from Curran, who failed to find the net from point-blank range after Irvine’s pass had ballooned off a Hearts defender and into the substitute’s path, compounding a miserable day for the Dingwall men.