Ross County struck late through Jamie Lindsay’s header to defeat Dundee United and take a major stride towards reaching the second round of the Betfred Cup.
Lindsay’s goal came just four minutes after Staggies goalkeeper Scott Fox made a superb double-save from Nicky Clark’s penalty to keep the scoreline blank.
The Staggies were deserving of their victory against an unimpressive United outfit, who now trail County by five points after only two games.
The meeting of two sides expected to contend for the title provided plenty intrigue at Dingwall, with both aiming to lay down a marker ahead of the new league campaign, however, the Highlanders were decisively more exciting in their play throughout the match.
County made three changes from the side that returned to competitive action with Saturday’s 2-0 victory against Elgin City.
Callum Morris, Ryan Dow, and Tony Dingwall dropped out, with former United players Keith Watson and Billy Mckay drafted in along with weekend goalscorer Josh Mullin.
Michael Gardyne’s shot drifted wide after quick free kick from Sean Kelly, while at the other end Frederic Frans nodded a Paul McMullan set-piece over the bar.
County were dealt a blow on 38 minutes when Liam Fontaine was forced off with a hand injury after a collision with Rakovan, with both sides close to opening the scoring from corners.
Watson was involved at both ends, with his header from Mullin’s corner cleared off the line by McMullan, before the Staggies player performed his defensive duties by getting in the way of Adam Barton’s effort less than two minutes later. Fox was called into action for the first time to parry away a long-range effort from the lively United substitute Declan Glass.
The Staggies came closer to a breakthrough as the second half wore on, with Ross Draper’s headed knock down picking out McManus for a low shot which was gathered by Rakovan, before Gardyne curled a 20-yard effort just wide.
United were awarded a spot kick on 81 minutes when Gardyne was adjudged to have tripped Sam Stanton by referee Willie Collum. Attacker Clark saw his initial effort saved by Fox, who then did brilliantly to turn the former Rangers player’s effort over the bar.
The decisive moment arrived just four minutes later when the Staggies broke to great effect, with substitute Dow sending in a sublime cross from the right flank which was met by Lindsay’s guided header from six yards.
Ross County (4-4-2) – Fox 8, Fraser 7, Kelly 7, Fontaine 5 (Morris 38), Draper 7, Gardyne 8, Lindsay 7, Mckay 6, McManus 6, Mullin 5 (Keillor-Dunn 60), Watson 6. Subs not used – Munro, Dykes, Dow, Dingwall, Paton.
Dundee United (4-1-3-2) – Rakovan 6, Murdoch 6, Booth 6, Frans 6, Barton 6, McMullan 6, Clark 6, Stanton 6, Smith 5 (Glass 57), Rabitsch 6, Wardrop 6. Subs not used – Robson, Allardice, Scobbie, Edjenguele, Louis, Siegrist.
Referee: Willie Collum 7
Man of the match: Michael Gardyne.