More performances like this will see Ross County sweep away most of their Championship opponents, even if it took the introduction of two substitutes for them to make the breakthrough against Falkirk.
County were dominant from the start but did not allow themselves to become flustered by the lack of a goal to show for it. The hosts always looked assured in the belief their persistence would reap rewards, which came courtesy of the first touch of Jamie Lindsay, who made a quicker than expected return from an ankle injury.
The points were wrapped up in stoppage time courtesy of fellow substitute Declan McManus and it was no less than County deserved against a Bairns side fresh from a rollercoaster week, which saw Morton manager Ray McKinnon drafted in on the eve of the match to replace the sacked Paul Hartley.
The result returns the Staggies to the top of the league and continues their promising home form so far this season, with their four victories in all competitions already equalling their Dingwall haul from the entirety of last season.
The manner of County’s victory will have come as huge satisfaction to Staggies supporters – at times this looked like a Premiership team trying to dismantle stuffy Championship opponents. The standards set during the Staggies’ six-year top-flight stay do not appear to have been abandoned, with the wide areas a particular source of joy on this occasion, and Michael Gardyne a standout performer.
After suffering their first Championship defeat by McKinnon’s Morton the previous weekend, Stuart Kettlewell and Steven Ferguson reshuffled their forward line for the visit of the Bairns. Brian Graham and Billy Mckay were drafted in, while Keith Watson also returned from injury, with McManus, Sean Kelly and Tony Dingwall dropping out.
McKinnon’s whirlwind exit from Cappielow meant he faced County for the second time in seven days, although he took position in the stand to leave interim manager Gordon Young in charge.
County got off to a rapid start, with the visitors appearing startled by the pace of their attacking play at times. The hosts could have netted after r a minute when Callum Morris nodded over from Josh Mullin’s free kick, before Watson took aim with a rasping drive from 25 yards which drifted just wide.
County continued to threaten, with Gardyne at the heart of the attacking threat, seeing a delivery headed over his own goal by Patrick Brough, before Ross Draper headed marginally past the post from Watson’s delivery.
For all County’s domination, Falkirk nearly took the lead on 18 minutes when Scott Fox was required to make an outstanding save to claw Dimitris Froxylias’s long-range strike over the crossbar.
The Staggies remained on top throughout the remainder of the first half, however, with Mullin seeing an effort blocked by Bairns skipper Aaron Muirhead following Brian Graham’s knockdown, before Gardyne saw a sublime effort matched by a fingertip save by Leo Fasan.
County did not lose their momentum after the restart, with Graham seeing a header from Mullin’s cross tipped away by Fasan, before Mullin was also denied by the Italian goalkeeper after working a neat one-two with Mckay.
Graham saw a header from Gardyne’s cross land on the roof of the net on the hour mark, before roles were reversed when Graham set up the winger for a shot which was beaten away by Fasan.
County did not push the panic button and their persistence paid off on 68 minutes.
Just 60 seconds after replacing Draper, Lindsay was on hand to prod home from eight yards after Bairns defender Thomas Robson failed to clear following another Fasan save from Gardyne.
County never looked like relinquishing it and, although Graham’s goal was chalked off for offside, the second arrived in stoppage time when the attacker laid off McManus for a sidefooted finish to cap an impressive display.
ROSS COUNTY (3-5-2) – Fox 6, Fontaine 6, Morris 7, Draper 6 (Lindsay 67), Gardyne 8, Mckay 6 (McManus 62), Vigurs 6, Mullin 8, Watson 7, Graham 7 (Stewart 90), Cowie 7. Subs not used – Demetriou, Keillor-Dunn, Munro, T. Dingwall.
FALKIRK (4-3-2-1) – Fasan 7, Kidd 6, Muirhead 6, Dallison 6, Sammut 6, Lewis 5, Froxylias 6 (Irving 62), Harrison 5, Brough 5 (Robson 65), Haber 5 (Mackin 76), Russell 5. Subs not used – Mutch, Petravicius, Owen-Evans, Greenwood.
Referee – Nick Walsh 6.
Man of the match: Michael Gardyne.