Rinse and repeat.
Ross County systematically dismantled a woeful Dundee United, repeatedly hammering the right flank for four out of their five goals as Billy Mckay took his hat-trick with the glee of a child let loose in a sweet shop.
Josh Mullin was outstanding, going to the well so often against his counterpart Jamie Robson and coming up with pails of water for everyone. The defeat proved to be end of Csaba Laszlo’s rein with United announcing the departure of their Hungarian manager yesterday afternoon following 44 games in charge.
County made two changes from the goalless draw with Caley Thistle as Iain Vigurs and Mullin replaced Brian Graham and Don Cowie.
Both of these sides had a chance to go top on Saturday afternoon and will see a return to the top flight as a must, particularly for United who are in their third season outside the Premiership. The game had a tinge of an old pals reunion with Billy Mckay, Callum Morris, Keith Watson and Michael Gardyne coming up against their former club, with Stewart Murdoch and Craig Curran in the United ranks doing likewise.
With only 11 minutes on the clock, Mckay popped up with one of the right-place, right-time goals that became a staple of his time at Inverness, lurking around the six-yard box when Matej Rakovan palmed Josh Mullin’s cross straight at him. From that distance, he could not miss.
Their lead lasted little more than six minutes as Pavel Safranko was allowed to meet Fraser Aird’s deep cross at the back post and finish, relatively unchallenged. However, Mckay’s haunting of his old side continued, with the striker ghosting into the box unmarked to again meet a cross by Mullin that Rakovan had parried, this time jabbing in with his right foot from 12 yards.
Mullin was exploiting Robson every time he got the chance, with United affording the ex-Livingston winger numerous opportunities to break into the right channel and deliver into the box.
While Robson was struggling, Rakovan was having a day to forget between the posts with the Slovakian culpable for the third goal too. Sean Kelly’s right-wing free-kick was allowed to come across the penalty area without anyone touching it, and the ball crept inside the far post to give the visitors a two-goal cushion at half-time.
If the mood against Laszlo was bad before the game, the two goals in a minute at the start of the second half turned it toxic. Again, United failed to defend their left flank, as this time Mckay turned provider for Mullin to finish off a sweeping counter-attack, before Mullin laid on his third assist of the day for Mckay to complete his hat-trick.
Four of County’s goals came via balls into the box from the right, with Mullin outstanding and repeatedly able to pick out Mckay, who could not have had three easier finishes.
United’s dissipation continued with the sending off of Murdoch, who had been on the pitch three minutes when he was given a straight red for stamping on Jamie Lindsay.