Ross County squandered the opportunity to reclaim top spot in the Championship on a frustrating afternoon as they relinquished the lead against Queen of the South.
The Staggies needed patience before making their breakthrough in Josh Mullin’s strike 10 minutes into the second half, in a moment which should have opened the door for County to claim a boost going into Saturday’s top-of-the-table encounter away at Ayr United.
But County were unable to see out the match with Andy Stirling’s equaliser meaning the Dingwall men had to settle for a share of the spoils which leaves them a point adrift of the Honest Men ahead of the trip to Somerset Park.
The postponement of Ayr’s match against Caley Thistle on Friday night presented County with the opportunity to return to the summit, and although it was not one the Staggies could grasp, it will present itself again when the Highlanders make the long trip south.
County’s late 1-0 victory over Alloa Athletic the previous week was their third win in succession, meaning they carried momentum into the visit of the Doonhamers. Co-managers Stuart Kettlewell and Steven Ferguson made one change with Ross Stewart replacing Declan McManus.
Queens were without talismanic attacker Stephen Dobbie with the 29-goal attacker sidelined due to a hamstring injury, while experienced midfielder Gary Harkins was also out.
The visitors had the first attempt on seven minutes with Josh Todd angling an effort over from the edge of the box.
County had the majority of possession in the first half but their attack lacked punch and they struggled to put the visitors’ backline under serious threat. Mullin looked the most likely provider of spark with the winger seeing an effort deflected wide before sending a drive over from similar distance. The closest County came to opening the scoring came on 36 minutes as Jamie Lindsay struck the post with a curling cross-cum-shot from a wide left position.
Mullin continued to look dangerous after the interval with his rising 20-yard drive superbly tipped over by Queens stopper Alan Martin.
But Mullin had better luck in the 56th minute when a fluent move culminated in Lindsay releasing Mckay down the right and the attacker’s cutback was swept powerfully into the net by the former Livingston midfielder.
The goal should have given the Staggies the platform to see out the victory but they were met with an excellent response from Queens.
The introduction of Stirling proved to be a cornerstone in the match, with the winger levelling the scoring seven minutes after coming on as a substitute, as he collected the ball from Lyndon Dykes’ cutback before hammering past Scott Fox from 12 yards.
County looked to regain their lead, with the co-managers introducing Michael Gardyne following a lengthy absence with a broken foot in pursuit of a timely intervention but it was another of County’s substitutes who spurned a fine chance at the death with McManus played through on goal but his effort was blocked by the advancing Martin.