Ross County may have returned to bottom spot in the Premiership but the bigger picture shows them a point closer to the ultimate goal of Premiership safety following their stalemate with Motherwell.
The Staggies were not able to find a breakthrough in a scrappy game against a resolute Motherwell side with a paucity of chances at both ends throughout the 90 minutes.
Partick capitalised on County’s dropped points with a 2-1 victory over Hamilton but there are still four games left before those standings are truly relevant.
Accies are now within three points of the Dingwall men, ahead of a vital encounter between the two sides in Lanarkshire on Saturday.
County drew 1-1 with Hibs a fortnight ago and co-managers Stuart Kettlewell and Steven Ferguson opted to remain unchanged with skipper Andrew Davies free from suspension but unavailable due to family reasons.
Despite Hibs’ late goal denying the Staggies all three points that day, the result kept momentum going into the post-split fixtures which began with the visit of a Well side buoyed by reaching the Scottish Cup final.
The Steelmen were already in the relative luxury position of having little to play for, with their 12-point margin above the relegation play-off place making them all but safe ahead of next month’s showpiece encounter with Celtic at Hampden.
It was the visitors who threatened first, with Allan Campbell’s shot from the edge of the area turned past the post by Scott Fox inside two minutes.
County began to gain encouragement with in-form striker Alex Schalk at the heart
of much of their attacking.
The Dutchman nearly had an opening when Michael Gardyne’s pass narrowly evaded his run, while defender Charles Dunne was forced to head a Schalk cross behind on 15 minutes.
Schalk’s resulting corner set up a fine chance for Chris Routis, who headed wide. That was the Frenchman’s final act as he was caught by a flailing leg among the cluster of players, limping off to be replaced by Jason Naismith.
Another corner from Schalk set up the towering figure of Harry Souttar but Trevor Carson comfortably held the effort.
It was a livewire performance from Schalk and he was once again involved in the best chance of the first half, teeing up Billy Mckay who unselfishly picked out skipper
Marcus Fraser but his effort was blocked by Dunne.
There was a lack of rhythm to the game with a number of County’s players appearing to grow frustrated at some of referee Alan Muir’s decisions, while the Steelmen created the better chances at the start of the second half.
Souttar was forced to knock behind under pressure from Curtis Main following
Chris Cadden’s delivery on the hour mark before a Carl McHugh header from the resulting corner was cleared off the line by Max Melbourne.
Fox was called upon midway through the second half to tip Ryan Bowman’s long-range strike wide before Main’s header drifted wide.
County created fewer chances in the second period, with a Melbourne shot blocked and a Craig Curran header gathered by Carson.
The introduction of Curran and David Ngog freshened up the forward line and Motherwell defender Cedric Kipre was twice forced to make crucial interventions to nod behind Schalk’s corner with the Frenchman also making a strong block from Fraser’s effort.
Both sides pushed for a winner with Schalk fizzing a strike over, while Main was off target at the other end as both sides had to settle for a point.
ROSS COUNTY (3-5-2) – Fox 7, Fraser 7, Routis 4 (Naismith 17), Souttar 7, Gardyne 6 (Ngog 80), Schalk 7, Draper 8, Lindsay 6, Mckay 6 (Curran 65), Fontaine 7, Melbourne 8. Subs not used – Foden, Dow, O’Brien, Kait.
MOTHERWELL (3-5-2) – Carson 6, Main 7 (Scott 90), Tait 6, Aldred 6, Kipre 7, Cadden 7, Campbell 6, Dunne 6, Grimshaw 5 (Bigirimana 76), Rose 4 (McHugh 21), Bowman 6.
Subs not used – Griffiths, Maguire, McHugh, Frear, MacLean.
Referee – Alan Muir 4.
Attendance – 3,879
Man of the match – Max Melbourne.