It probably says all you need to know about Ross County’s group spirit – and survival chances – that nobody threw in the towel as luck deserted them on Saturday.
Reduced to 10 men for the final 15 minutes or so, chance after chance went a-begging and the Staggies could easily have written it all off as a bad day at the office.
Instead they kept at it relentlessly – and were ultimately rewarded for that hard endeavour from Joseph Hungbo’s free-kick deep in stoppage time.
Another reflection of the squad mentality cultivated by Malky Mackay came post-match amid confusion over the identity of the late goalscorer.
Joseph Hungbo’s free-kick may or may not have crossed the goal-line unimpeded. It may or may not have been touched into the net by skipper Jack Baldwin, on, or indeed over, the goal-line.
Baldwin, tellingly, was happy after the game to give it to Hungbo, and content simply to have seen a point salvaged after Louis Appere’s early second half opener for United.
Mackay was likewise delighted with the comeback, but frustrated that overall dominance of one of the Premiership’s shining lights this season had not been fully rewarded.
There was also exasperation from the manager at the red card decision on Arsenal loanee Harry Clarke.
Clarke was correctly yellow-carded for a foolish arm around an opponent’s neck.
He seemed harshly treated, though, after taking a second booking for bundling into Florent Hoti, who made much of it, writhing on the ground.
“It was more than harsh. It was a second yellow and I couldn’t believe it,” County manager Mackay said.
“Harry was slightly late but there was no connection – it was nothing. I was amazed and it spoiled it, it really did.
“Young Clarke was playing really well. There was no malice in it – it was a foul, no more.
“Five minutes before it, their left-back emptied Jo Hungbo when he nicked the ball through his legs and didn’t get a booking for that. You just look for parity.”
Mackay’s sense of injustice at the red card was mirrored by a sense of frustration that County found themselves behind. The draw maintains momentum, but the gap on second bottom Dundee is again three points.
After a fiercely competitive opening period, Florent Hoti finally mustered the afternoon’s first attempt of worth with a powerful 25 yard drive parried and then gathered by home keeper Ash Maynard-Brewer.
County had pulled off a tremendous effort in clearing the pitch of snow and ice that morning, but there wasn’t too much football gracing it approaching the half hour.
Then, County’s Harry Paton won a free-kick against Peter Pawlett on the left outside the area.
Spittal curled in a teasing ball and Jack Baldwin’s header smacked off the inside post.
The rebound fell into Paton’s path square on goal but, remarkably, the Canadian’s right foot blast was headed over the bar by Ryan Edwards.
Moments later, a Regan Charles-Cook cross flashed across the six-yard box from the right. Charlie Mulgrew turned it for a corner, but it was a close call.
United took the lead just after 49 minutes.
County had a couple of attempts at clearing their penalty area, but Ilmari Niskanen was able to prod the ball to the feet of Louis Appere just outside the angle of the six-yard box.
With back to goal, the 22-year-old swivelled sharply and struck the ball low past the home keeper.
County worked hard to respond and Spittal’s powerful left foot crack at goal from the left side of the box was blocked by Benjamin Siegrist and then cleared by his defence.
Then, after 74 minutes, Jack Baldwin’s header crashed off the top of the bar from Spittal’s corner with the Dingwall side’s luck out again.
County were in deeper trouble soon after with Clarke’s sending off, but kept battling and Spittal’s deflected shot almost crossed the goal-line before the keeper salvaged it.
Then, three minutes into stoppage time, Hungbo mustered that unlikely equaliser.
“A neutral here today would have seen a team that went at it from the first whistle,” Mackay said.
“After playing Wednesday night, I said to them to make sure they gave a good account of themselves at the start of the game – start well, because Dundee United will be fresh.
“And I thought we were great in the first half. We had three chances where we should have scored. but we gave a slack goal away in the first few minutes of the second half.
“After that, it looked like there was only one team wanting to add to the scoring. We probed and we pressed.
“Before the sending off, we had various chances and obviously then that happens.
“We had the confidence, even then, to go and try to get the equaliser, so I’ve got to be delighted not only with their work ethic, but their actual play.”