Ross County took a major stride towards reaching the second round of the Betfred Cup after Billy Mckay’s double secured a 2-1 victory at St Johnstone.
The Staggies had to come from behind at McDiarmid Park after Scott Tanser netted from the spot early on, however Mckay’s brace leaves County three points ahead of nearest Group B challengers Forfar Athletic, who they host on Wednesday.
County made four changes from the side which defeated Brechin City 4-0 at Glebe Park in midweek. Sean Kelly, Liam Fontaine, Keith Watson and Blair Spittal were drafted in, with Marcus Fraser, Callum Morris, Harry Paton and Simon Power dropping out.
Saints began on the front foot, and took the lead from the spot after eight minutes after Keith Watson had upended Chris Kane inside the box. Tanser stepped up to coolly send Ross Laidlaw the wrong way.
The home side spurned two glorious chances to extend their lead, with Danny Swanson sidefooting over from 12 yards after being picked out by Murray Davidson’s cutback, while Michael O’Halloran could only hit the post from an acute angle after taking the ball around goalkeeper Laidlaw.
County levelled with a penalty of their own on 29 minutes however, with Spittal’s pass picking out the run of Ross Stewart who was bundled over by Saints skipper Jason Kerr. Although Mckay’s initial effort was blocked by Zander Clark, the forward showed fine composure to tuck home the rebound.
County completed the turnaround on the stroke of half time, with Spittal once again the provider for Mckay with an excellent threaded pass, which the former Inverness attacker latched on to before slipping low past Clark from 10 yards.
The Staggies enjoyed a fine start to the second half, with Clark doing well to make a double save to deny Stewart and Kelly, while Joe Chalmers also whistled an effort inches wide.
Saints spurned an excellent chance to force a penalty shoot-out when Kane beat the offside trap to go clean through, however his effort was straight at Laidlaw who clutched at the first attempt.