Malky MacKay’s gut feeling at full-time was that his team had tossed away two points after Bruce Anderson’s leveller against the run of play.
When the dust finally settles on the season next May, though, the Ross County manager suspects he will reflect on Saturday’s rough and tumble draw as a valuable point gained.
After the Livingston team bus broke down at Daviot prior to the match, there was a 15-minute delay to kick-off at the Global Energy Stadium to enable the visitors to properly limber up.
It felt like they were still trying to stretch the legs and find their feet in the first half, with County always in the ascendancy.
Home pressure after 61 minutes brought Simon Murray’s ninth goal in 10 games, but that proved a short-lived reward after Anderson’s reply 11 minutes later setttled the outcome.
The equaliser made ex-Aberdeen striker Anderson Livingston’s joint top all-time Premiership scorer, levelling him with Scott Pittman on 19 goals.
Mackay, though, was philosophical and is convinced his team is destined to get better and better.
“The initial feeling after the game was that it was two points lost,” he said.
“But I think if I look back on this later in the season it will be a point gained. Overall, Livingston are a tough team. They have a wise manager, and they will do well this year in this league. Davie Martindale knows how to put a team out and how to get points.
“In a sense, they’re a bit like us because of the fact that they punch above their weight to stay in this football league.
“I can’t be too critical of the players overall because I was so enthused by my team’s attitude and their willingness to keep striving to get three points.
“We switched off for one minute, but I’ve got three centre backs who were otherwise absolutely immense.
“All three of them made the wrong decision in that moment and they got their goal.
“But I don’t want to be too harsh on them, because they’re going to be good for Ross County. They’re experienced boys, and as the season goes on they are going to keep clean sheets for us.”
Staggies boss hails Murray
Mackay hailed goalscorer Murray for his relentless scoring form after managing just three goals in the half-season after joining the club last January.
“Simon’s someone who is so enthusiastic and so popular with his team-mates – and is working so hard,” he said.
“I’m delighted with him. Initially, when you think about it, he was stepping back up into the Premiership in the second half of last season.
“He played there as a kid and he’s climbed back up the divisions – it isn’t easy.
“If you look at the end of last season, that last month he was coming like a train and has just hit the ground running this season.
“There’s competition for places and it keeps the two up there hungry – and that’s what I want.
“I’m beginning to see consistent performances.
“I have four or five on the bench who, in a fair wind, last year would be starting.
“There’s a hungry group and people are thinking ‘I can take your jersey’.
“That makes a difference. I don’t think I had it last year or even the year before.
“They are all snapping for the jersey – and they can absolutely get better. We look like a tough team to play against in this division.”
County – unchanged from their victory at Kilmarnock – squared up to a Livi side featuring two selection tweaks.
Manager Martindale opted to restore striker Anderson to his starting line-up, with Kurtis Guthrie dropping to the bench after starting the previous three games.
Prior to this one, the Staggies had managed just seven wins from 37 meetings in all against Livi, losing 19 times – albeit with two of their wins coming last season.
County had the better of the first half chances, with Simon Murray’s poor connection drawing a 12th minute stop from Shamal George.
Nine minutes later, the lively Murray’s knockdown set up former Salford City defender Ryan Leak, but he lost balance and took an airswipe at it.
From a high ball forward, Murray then outmuscled Ayo Obileye and drilled a dangerous delivery across the six-yard box that was knocked for a home corner.
From Josh Reid’s inswinging delivery, Jordan White had a clear header but skewed it well wide of target.
Livi’s attempts were just as unconvincing – a Stephen Kelly strike deflected for a corner and Obileye fluffed a header over the bar.
County’s best first half chance came from Yan Dhanda’s outswinging corner.
Defender Will Nightingale nodded down and while White controlled and found the target, keeper George had the measure of it.
Livi were more lively from the second half restart, but momentum swung back behind the hosts and the breakthrough was thoroughly deserved after 59 minutes.
A long throw from Jack Baldwin on the right, was headed by Murray to Jordan White.
Josh Reid’s drilled effort was calmly redirected into the net by the alert Murray for his ninth goal of the season.
There was a red card VAR check soon after as Obileye clattered the scorer, but the initial yellow card decision stood.
County pressed for a second and the visitors were clinging on with some desperate defending.
From almost nothing, though, Livi were level in the 72nd minute.
County were caught on the counter with substitute Guthrie finding space on the left and threading a pass to Bruce Anderson on the left side of the box.
Anderson showed quick feet to switch to his left and fire a low finish through keeper Ross Laidlaw’s legs.
After a VAR check for offside, Livi could celebrate.
A scrappy, stoppage strewn finish ensued, but County stayed on top relentlessly chasing a winner, but to no avail.
Ross County (3-5-2): Laidlaw 7; Nightingale 7, Baldwin 7, Leak 7; Brown 7, Turner 6, Randall 6, Dhanda 7 (Sims 84, 3), Reid 6 (Harmon 84, 3); White 6, Murray 8 (Brophy 80, 3). Subs: Munro, Purrington, Loturi, Henderson, High, Samuel.
Livingston (3-4-2-1): George 7; De Lucas 7, Obileye 6, Devlin 6 (Parkes 90, 2); Brandon 7 (Lloyd 79, 3), Holt 6, Shinnie 6, Penrice 7 (Sangare 65, 5); Kelly 6 (Guthrie 65, 6), Nouble 6; Anderson 7. Subs: Hamilton, Pittman, Mackay, Bradley, Lawal.
Referee: Euan Anderson 7
Man of the match: Simon Murray (Ross County).