Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

Malky Mackay backs Ross County to bounce back following difficult week

The Staggies followed up back-to-back defeats by Aberdeen with a 1-0 home loss against Hearts.

Ross county players
Hearts' Toby Sibbick, left, and Ross County's Simon Murray in action. Image: SNS.

Malky Mackay is confident Ross County’s squad has the mental fortitude to avoid allowing three defeats in a week to eat into confidence.

The Dingwall team were enjoying a promising start to the new campaign prior to back-to-back league and cup defeats to Aberdeen and Saturday’s eventual capitulation to Hearts.

Mackay knows sequences like the current one can be part and parcel of life at one of the smaller Premiership clubs, but will be looking to break the run away to Dundee next weekend.

After seeing Alan Forrest claim victory for the Edinburgh club, Mackay stressed: “I think over the piece a draw would have probably been a fair result.

“We were up against a good team with a big squad of players, and I thought we managed the game well.

“We knew the threats they had, especially Lawrence Shankland who is a clever player, and we managed that really well.

“I thought that as the game went on we would kick on.

“It’s the top end of the park where I thought we should have been better.

“The quality that’s usually there wasn’t today, so that’s probably what I’m most disappointed about.”

Mackay uses an evidence-based approach to nurture confidence, with honesty about his team’s failings but plenty of spotlight in video re-runs of what they have done well.

He added: “We’ve had a tough week, and we’ve had three defeats.

“The first thing you do is recognise that and see that for what it is, and not brush it under the carpet, but at the same time you have to take it in perspective.

“We weren’t good at Pittodrie, but I thought we were excellent on Wednesday night and I think a balanced view is that we were worthy of a point against Hearts.

“At the same time, we’ll come back in next week and get back on to the training field to get back into things again.

“I’ve been here before in my career, and you recognise that there are tough periods.

“There is no magic wand to turn that around, you just have to go out and do the basics correctly, and that slips you back into a vein of form again.”

Ross County manager Malky Mackay during the match against Hearts. Image: SNS. 

Attacking changes at the interval

Mackay had shown his unhappiness at what he was watching in the attacking third of the field by replacing both strikers at half-time.

Alex Samuel and Jordan White were taken off for Eamonn Brophy and top scorer Simon Murray and Mackay added: “We played on Wednesday night and they were Tuesday, so I just wanted fresh legs.

“In the second half, I thought going forward the ball should have been sticking a bit more with the front players, but when we started to do that, we just needed a little bit more quality.

“Today it was stuff letting us down that hasn’t usually been letting us down.

“I was really happy with the wing backs, our defensive midfielder, three at the back and goalkeeper.

“We were really solid, and generally we have been good – like we have in the final third, but not today.”

Hearts are now 13 games unbeaten against County, a run stretching back to March 2017.

Still toiling with an eight-strong injury list, they made two changes with latest casualty Cammy Devlin dropping out and Forrest stepping down to the bench.

Forrest’s moment would come, but he sat out 56 minutes of play with Aidan Denholm and Odel Offiah favoured.

County made four changes from the side knocked out of the League Cup quarter-finals by Aberdeen on Wednesday night.

Ben Purrington returned for his first league start of the season after a toe injury, while Kyle Turner, Samuel and White were also restored.

Hearts’ Alan Forrest celebrates after scoring to make it 1-0 against Ross County. Image: SNS. 

Top scorer Murray had to settle for a place on the bench, along with Victor Loturi and George Harmon, while Josh Sims dropped out completely after taking a nasty gash to the leg.

What unfolded in the first half was astonishingly poor.

Hearts held a dominance in possession, but seemed devoid of any great ideas as to what to do with it.

County, without the ball, seemed content to contain.

Far too frequently, passes spun astray or crosses were misjudged, particularly in the final third.

Lawrence Shankland mustered a couple of openings, the best seeing him turn sharply just outside the penalty area and fire a left foot strike a whisker beyond the angle of post and bar.

Malky Mackay’s unhappiness with his attacking threat was evident as he replaced his front two at the break with Murray and Eamonn Brophy.

Towards the hour, Hearts enjoyed a spell of hefty pressure.

A Stephen Kingsley cross from the left found substitute Alan Forrest sliding in to finish, but his connection spun off a home defender for a corner.

Forrest then whipped a cross come shot just wide from a tight angle on the right.

County’s James Brown went down in the box under Kye Rowles’ attentions, but referee David Dickinson waved the claim away.

The Irishman also hammered an attempt from distance well wide, before Hearts broke the deadlock.

It was a good move and finish, but the County defence seemed to go to sleep at the vital moment

A terrific ball in from the left from Lowry, just 12 minutes on the park, picked out Forrest for a well-placed header into the right-hand corner of Laidlaw’s net.

County reacted with Purrington going close with a strike just over the bar from the left side of the box.

Late on, Liam Boyce came on for his 100th Hearts appearance and unleashed a tremendous, defence-splitting pass to send Lowry through.

Laidlaw turned the Rangers loanee’s attempt around the post.

County squandered a couple of chances as well, with Brophy heading over from a great position.

ROSS COUNTY (3-4-1-2): Laidlaw 6; Nightingale 7, Baldwin 6, Leak 6; Brown 6 (Henderson 85, 3), Turner 6 (Loturi 65, 5), Randall 7, Purrington 6; Dhanda 6 (Allardice 65, 5); Samuel 5 (Brophy 46, 5), White 5 (Murray 46, 5). Subs: Munro, Harmon, High, Smith.

HEARTS (4-2-3-1): Clark 6; Sibbick 6, Kent 7, Rowles 6, Kingsley 7; Offiah 5 (Forrest 56, 7), Nieuwenbo 6; Vargas 7 (Boyce 84, 3), Grant 5 (Halliday 72, 4), Denholm 6 (Lowry 56, 7); Shankland 6. Subs: McGovern, Haring, Baring, Baningime, Tait, Kirk.

Referee: David Dickinson 6

Man of the match: Frankie Kent (Hearts).