Ross County cruised into the last eight of the IRN-BRU Cup with the minimum of fuss against a gallant but ultimately outmatched Montrose in Dingwall.
County co-managers Steven Ferguson and Stuart Kettlewell fielded a much-changed team from the one which is currently sitting second in the Ladbrokes Championship but they still had too much in reserve for the Gable Endies.
Montrose struggled to cross the halfway line for the vast majority of this game as the Staggies pinned their League 1 opponents back for almost the entire 90 minutes. One goal and one near-post save was the limit of the action at home goalkeeper Scott Fox’s goal with the rest of the match played in and around 30 yards of the visitors’ goal.
Iain Vigurs, Jamie Lindsay, Davis Keillor-Dunn and Don Cowie had so much time and so many options on the ball and the only surprise was that the final margin of victory was not greater. It really should have been.
The cup tie gave County the chance to rest some players and it is fair to say the team which faced the Gable Endies was an experimental one with Ross Draper featuring at centre-half and Tony Dingwall featuring at right back.
Declan McManus was also partnered by Ross Stewart in attack.
The Staggies should have been ahead inside the opening 15 minutes with a rapid break forward ending with Stewart playing the ball to Don Cowie who found McManus but the striker failed to direct his header on target.
The home fans did not have long to wait for the opener, however, and Montrose’s resistance was finally broken in the 20th minute.
Stewart Petrie’s side tried to play on the counter but as time wore on they found themselves camped on the edge of their own box and County found a gap to exploit as Cowie threaded a ball through the sea of white shirts to Stewart who fired low past Allan Fleming in the visitors’ goal.
It was one-way traffic towards the Montrose goalkeeper and he was called into action again as he made a fingertip save to turn Cowie’s rising shot from a Draper cross away for a corner.
Something had to give and eventually County’s probing was rewarded four minutes from the break.
Davis Keillor-Dunn cut in from the left and beat Sean Dillon before seeing his first shot blocked by a Montrose defender but the midfielder reacted quickest to the loose ball and beat Fleming from close range to double his side’s lead.
Having worked so hard to get their two-goal lead County will be disappointed at how they gifted Montrose a lifeline in the final minute of the first half as captain Liam Fontaine seemed to misjudge a bouncing ball and Craig Johnston nipped in to prod the ball past Scott Fox to halve the arrears.
County were unhappy at conceding a goal and they quickly regained their two-goal lead at the start of the second half as Jamie Lindsay played in Keillor-Dunn who drilled the ball into the net.
The rest of the game was played as if it was a training match.
Poor Scott Fox should have brought an umbrella.