Ross County were left to rue a string of missed chances as they fell to a 2-1 defeat to Motherwell in the Premiership.
The Staggies had offset the early blow of going behind to Callum Slattery’s goal to deservedly level through Regan Charles-Cook, and for large spells of the second half they were the team on the front foot in the pursuit of a winner.
Tony Watt’s late strike left them empty-handed however, in a result which keeps them 11th but level with bottom-placed Dundee.
The outcome will have been a bitter blow for Malky Mackay who would have felt a first league victory of the season was well within County’s grasp as the game went on, and he will be desperately hoping for a greater cutting edge in the coming weeks.
County’s team selection showed one change from the side which drew 2-2 with Hearts at Victoria Park the previous week, with Ben Paton making way for skipper Keith Watson.
The Staggies were greeted by an away following for the first time this season, with their supporters having been denied access to previous games at Hibernian, Aberdeen and Celtic.
The visiting fans were subjected to early misery however, with the Steelmen taking the lead after less than two minutes. County had missed opportunities to clear the danger before Jordan Tillson was beaten to the ball by Slattery, before the midfielder took aim with a swerving strike from the edge of the box which beat Ashley Maynard-Brewer.
Despite the early setback the Staggies did well to limit Motherwell’s openings thereafter, with Tony Watt striking over from the edge of the box.
County increasingly began to cause problems, with last weekend’s two-goal hero Blair Spittal denied three times by Motherwell goalkeeper Liam Kelly in quick succession. The first effort followed a one-two with Callachan from a quick free-kick on 21 minutes, with the low strike comfortably held.
Spittal’s second attempt forced the best save from Kelly, with his volleyed attempt from an acute angle blocked by the Scotland international, who also did well to thwart another Spittal effort with his legs moments later.
Spittal was at the heart of all County’s threat, with the midfielder unable to keep another strike down on the half-hour mark.
County’s flurry of chances was a mark of their increasing confidence as the first half progressed, with a goal all that was missing from some of their very fluent attacking play. Their leveller did deservedly arrive on 38 minutes however, with Charles-Cook angling a delivery from the left which Jordan White failed to connect with, however the ball carried enough pace to deceive Kelly before bouncing in at the far post.
Charles-Cook was booked for a challenge on Mark O’Hara shortly after his breakthrough which was to prove his final action of the afternoon, with Joseph Hungbo brought on in his place.
County survived a spell of early second half pressure from the hosts, with Maynard-Brewer standing tall to block a Kaiyne Woolery effort before a follow up header from Watt came back off the crossbar.
The Staggies were denied by the woodwork themselves on the hour mark, with Callachan’s lay-off teeing up Hungbo whose strike clipped the crossbar on its way over.
Hungbo was proving to be a lively presence following his introduction, with the on-loan Watford winger showing plenty pace and trickery, and he tried his luck with a shot from distance which drifted just over on 68 minutes.
County continued to push for a winner, with Spittal sending a free-kick straight into the arms of Kelly, however it was Well who struck the decisive blow against the run of play on 80 minutes.
Rickie Lamie’s diagonal ball from the backline released Watt through on goal, and the former Celtic forward showed excellent composure to drill past Maynard-Brewer and keep the points in Lanarkshire.
MOTHERWELL (4-3-3) – Kelly 7; O’Donnell 6, Ojala 6, Lamie 6, McGinley 6; Grimshaw 5 (Donnelly 63), Slattery 7, O’Hara 6; Woolery 5 (Roberts 63), Watt 7, van Veen 6 (Carroll 82). Subs not used – Fox, Maguire, Amaluzor, Crawford.
ROSS COUNTY (4-2-3-1) – Maynard-Brewer 7; Watson 6 (Clarke 51), Baldwin 7, Iacovitti 6, Burroughs 7; H Paton 6 (Robertson 80), Tillson 6; Spittal 7, Callachan 6, Charles-Cook 6 (Hungbo 46); White 6. Subs not used – Laidlaw, Cancola, A Samuel, Paton.
Referee – Craig Napier 5
Attendance – 4,477
Man of the match: Jack Burroughs