Malky Mackay felt Ross County blew the chance of earning three points as a late Motherwell comeback saw the sides draw 3-3 in a Premiership cracker.
Eamonn Brophy’s first league goal of the campaign in the second half gave the Staggies the lead before Simon Murray crashed home a second at Fir Park.
Mika Biereth’s spot-kick offered hope to the Steelmen before Victor Loturi’s deadly finish made it 3-1 to the visitors.
However, late goals from subs Conor Wilkinson and Luca Ross salvaged a point for the mid-table hosts. County stay 11th, despite rising into the top six in the live table when they led.
The Staggies, who were three weeks without a game before drawing 0-0 at Dundee last Tuesday, are two fixtures into a run of 15 before the end of the year.
Mackay – ‘We cut our own throats’
County manager Mackay was thrilled to have shown bite and a clinical edge, but was less than impressed at how Well were allowed a way back.
He said: “We were brave to play the way we did in the first half, and we have to take those chances.
“At half-time, Motherwell had to come at us, but we picked their pockets and showed really positive play going forward to score two good goals.
“We miss another reasonably easy chance to go 3-0 up, then we cut our own throats.
“The penalty is dreadful. We had a free-kick, and within five seconds they have a penalty.
“The second one is even worse. One of our player smashes it off another one of our players, and it falls to their boy. Then in the last five minutes anything can happen.
“It was two points dropped, and I’m disappointed we gave them a sniff back into it.
“Murray’s goal was top class – I don’t know how many passes we had before the ball goes into the net – so to play the way we did and dominate the ball, I’m really proud of (it).”
Three changes from draw at Dundee
County made three changes from midweek, with George Harmon, Scott Allardice and Brophy coming in for Dylan Smith, Ben Purrington and Jordan White.
This allowed for County to go four at the back, with a fluid midfield four and Murray and White starting upfront in an interesting departure from the norm.
5⃣0⃣ Congratulations to both George Harmon and Yan Dhanda who both make their 50th appearance for the club today! pic.twitter.com/pnDHjaPkKU
— Ross County FC (@RossCounty) October 28, 2023
Former Ross County manager Stuart Kettlewell was out to arrest a Motherwell slump, following successive defeats against St Mirren, Rangers, Celtic and Livingston.
The first chance of note came the way of the Highlanders when a low cross from Randall was just too speedy to be met by the in-rushing Brophy.
Both captain Baldwin then Brophy were not far off with efforts as Motherwell looked uneasy, unsettled by the attacking start from a revamped Staggies line-up.
The hosts were gradually finding their feet, though, and were a whisker away from going ahead on 22 minutes when Brodie Spencer crashed a header off the post when he connected with a cross from Stephen O’Donnell.
Sub Kyle Turner made a real impact
Mackay made an interval change when he introduced midfielder Kyle Turner at the expense of Dhanda.
And it took just eight minutes for the ex-Partick Thistle midfielder to get a shot on target, with his drive from 20 yards held by Liam Kelly.
County were asking most of the questions and they got their reward with the breakthrough on 66 minutes.
A throw-in found its way to Turner, who supplied a pass to Brophy, who crashed an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net from just inside the box.
A VAR check for handball caused a moment of concern before the goal was given.
On 72 minutes, the game was all but put to bed when Murray swerved a terrific shot low into the net after Harmon played him forward at the end of a swift, incisive attack.
However, Motherwell were back in the contest seven minutes later when sub Biereth was taken down in the box by County keeper Laidlaw in the box. He stepped up and steered the penalty home without fuss.
County didn’t panic though and looked to have wrapped up the points when Loturi dashed clear and crashed a low drive past Kelly.
Double drama followed 3-1 away lead
However, there was more drama to come.
Sub Wilkinson rounded off a fine move with a clinical shot from just inside the box.
Four minutes into stoppage-time, Luca Ross scrambled the ball home after County failed to clear their lines.
It was a sore, sore result in the end for Staggies to keep them just one place off the bottom.
County’s third successive away game within a week takes them to Hibernian on Tuesday night.
MOTHERWELL (5-3-2): Kelly 6, O’Donnell 6 (Biereth 75), McGinn 7, Mugabi 6, Casey 6, Spencer 7 (Gent 75), Slattery 7, Paton 6, Spittal 6, Bair 7 (Wilkinson 62), Shaw 6 (Luca Ross 87).
Subs not used: Oxborough (GK), Zdravkovski, Blaney, Max Ross, Butcher.
ROSS COUNTY (4-4-2): Laidlaw 6, Brown 7, Baldwin 6, Leak 6, Harmon 6, Allardice 6 (High 74), Randall 6 (Smith 89), Loturi 6, Dhanda 6 (Turner 46), Murray 6 (White 74), Brophy 7 (Samuel 74).
Subs not used: Munro (GK), Purrington, Sheaf.
Referee: Graham Grainger.
Star Man: James Brown.