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Richie Brittain praises Ross Stewart’s killer instinct after Staggies fight back to earn Betfred Cup win over Arbroath

Ross Stewart bags Ross County three points from the spot against Arbroath.
Ross Stewart bags Ross County three points from the spot against Arbroath.

Richie Brittain believes Ross Stewart is learning to find better goal-scoring positions after hard work on the training ground.

The Ross County talisman pounced twice – once from the spot and again with a fine header – to salvage full points for County against determined Arbroath

The Staggies came from behind to keep alive their hopes of topping League Cup group D, having struggled to find their flow in the first half and falling behind to a rocketed Dale Hilson free-kick early in the second.

But Stewart’s first goal of the season from open play and his third penalty kick finish of the campaign turned the match on its head.

Brittain said: “One of the things we’ve been speaking about with Ross Stewart is getting himself within the goal frame when the ball is in that wider area and getting on the end of crosses.

“He managed to do that tonight, so fair play to him.

“There is never an easy game playing against Dick Campbell’s team and we knew what they would bring.

“Credit to them, they gave as good as they got.

“But the task at the start of the game was to win and we managed to do that.

“Their goal made it really difficult at that stage early in the second half. They took their chance superbly – it was a great strike.

Dale Hilson (centre) celebrates his goal to make it 1-0 to Arbroath.

“It is never easy going a goal down at any level against any opposition so to come back and score two goals was credit to our players.”

With home manager Stuart Kettlewell serving the third and final instalment of his touchline ban, County made five changes from the side that threw away a three-goal lead at the weekend, before seeing off Montrose on penalties.

There was a first start in central midfield for Charlie Lakin, signed on loan from Birmingham City, while skipper Iain Vigurs was rested on the bench.

Arbroath, with six changes from their 3-1 win over Montrose, showed plenty of confidence and energy early in their third game in a week.

County offered the first genuine threat after 14 minutes with Connor Randall’s dipping delivery from the right picking out Ross Stewart in front of goal, only for keeper Derek Gaston to push the ball over the bar from point-blank range.

Arbroath, pushing for a play-off spot in fifth in the Championship before Covid-19 lockdown struck last season, were proving feisty and tenacious in defending their final third and that 100% record in the group.

Five minutes before the break, Regan Charles-Cook could not quite stretch his toes far enough to connect at the back post after Hylton whisked a low ball across the face of goal.

County threatened 90 seconds into the second period with a powerful Ross Stewart cross from the right finding Billy Mckay at the back of the box.

Mckay controlled but fired over the bar.

But there was a shock to follow for the hosts as Arbroath surged in front after 49 minutes.

Tremarco’s foul on Bobby Linn set Dale Hilson up, easily 25 yards out, and a thunderous strike fizzed past the leaping Ross Laidlaw and high into the net.

Both teams made double changes and there were some nervy moments for County before parity was restored after 65 minutes.

Connor Randall’s cross from the right held quality and Ross Stewart was perfectly placed to hammer a header past Gaston at the back post.

Stewart heads in to make it 1-1.

Three minutes later, the Staggies were in front.

More pressure on the away box ended with Gaston losing a race for a 50-50 ball on the right side of the box and cutting down Regan Charles-Cook for a penalty.

Stewart sent Gaston the wrong way from the spot.

Arbroath pressured late on and were unlucky to see a Michael Ruth header rise just over the bar.

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