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Ross County have never beaten Rangers but back in 2001, they came mightily close

Ross County's Steven Mackay celebrates with Don Cowie during the CIS Insurance Cup, Quarter-final game between Ross County and Rangers at Victoria Park in 2001.
Ross County's Steven Mackay celebrates with Don Cowie during the CIS Insurance Cup, Quarter-final game between Ross County and Rangers at Victoria Park in 2001.

Way before he was calling the shots at Hampden, Scottish FA chief executive Ian Maxwell was trusted with a great deal of responsibility at Ross County.

Back in November 2001, the Staggies were in a heated battle with Rangers in a League Cup quarter-final at Victoria Park.

The visitors had been 2-0 up and cruising against their lower league opponents but an 89th minute goal from Steven Mackay gave the Dingwall men hope.

Moments later, Rangers defender Lorenzo Amoruso saw red for hauling down Conor Gethins in the box and County had a chance to equalise from the penalty spot.

The ball was handed to County skipper Maxwell and if he could find a way past Stefan Klos it would put County in a commanding position heading into extra-time.

The German keeper had other ideas, however. He pulled off a fine stop to deny Maxwell and Rangers hung on for a 2-1 win.

Dick Advocaat didn’t last much longer in the Ibrox hotseat, he was replaced by Alex McLeish the following month, and his successor guided the club to League Cup glory.

Defeat here may have hastened Advocaat’s departure but the writing was already on the wall for the Little General after an indifferent campaign.

Ian Maxwell in action against Partick Thistle’s Scott McLean during his Ross County days.

As for County, this was a lucrative tie and a richly deserved sell-out. They had reached the quarter-finals after impressive wins over top-tier Hearts and Dundee.

Goals from Shota Arveladze and Claudio Reyna had the Gers on easy street but County, who at the time were enjoying their first season in Scotland’s second tier, refused to wilt.

After all, they had given the Glasgow side a scare back in February of the same year in the Scottish Cup.

Two goals each from County’s Alex Bone and Rangers’ £12m man Tore Andre Flo had the tie all square before Barry Ferguson settled it in front of a bumper Dingwall crowd.

With a star-studded Rangers team down to 10 men and smarting from an Old Firm defeat at the weekend, it looked like the stage could be set for a famous upset if Maxwell could convert his spot kick.

Maxwell, in fairness to him, has bounced back pretty well. A defensive stalwart during his time in Dingwall, he made 171 appearances for the club and was involved in two promotion campaigns between 1998 and 2002.

After leaving County, he pitched up at St Johnstone, St Mirren and Partick Thistle.

Once he hung up his boots he moved upstairs at Firhill to great acclaim and his work with the Jags attracted the attention of the SFA, who hired him as chief executive in May 2018.

The odds are stacked against County tonight with Rangers in excellent form and gunning for the league title.

Fingers crossed the match is as dramatic as this one was.

The teams on November 28, 2001

Ross County: Bullock, Maxwell, Irvine, Webb, Perry (Mackay 87), Robertson, Cowie, Hastings, Boukraa (McCormick 76), Bone (Gethins 80), Hislop. Subs not used: Anselin, Gonet.

Rangers: Klos, Amoruso, Wilson, Ball, Ross, De Boer (Mols 58), Reyna, Ferguson, Lovenkrands (Latapy 59), Arveladze, Caniggia (Konterman 71). Subs not used: Flo, Christiansen.

Referee: John Rowbotham

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