Ross County must use the international break to regroup after a 1-0 defeat to St Johnstone saw them drop second bottom in the Premiership table.
Graham Carey’s second half goal settled an unglamorous encounter at McDiarmid Park, with County short of attacking spark.
The Staggies have had a busy recent schedule but this increasingly looked like one match too far for them, as they now approach a two-week break before their next match at home to Kilmarnock.
Saints had been rock bottom after nine games, however a return of seven points from their last three home matches has seen them rise up to 10th spot.
That is the sort of form which County must string together in the coming weeks, with the Staggies now without a win from their last eight league matches.
Five of their next seven matches are in Dingwall, making it crucial they capitalise on their return to action.
Mackay said: “It was a scrappy game. I said at half-time one moment of quality was going to settle the game, and Graham Carey scored a very good goal.
“We just didn’t have that extra little bit of cutting edge and quality all over the park, that we have shown in the last couple of weeks away from home.
“When I look at it, we didn’t have enough that were showing that extra bit of responsibility. It’s not like them, because if nothing else we are a brave team.
“In the away games at Dundee, Motherwell and Hibs we have shown up really well.
“It was always going to be a tough game – St Johnstone have had a little lift in terms of the results in the last week.
“We had plenty of the ball, we just didn’t quite make the telling pass.
“We have come off the back of four away games in five. It’s just the way it goes, but it’s a lot of travelling.
“We go into the break now and there are obviously a tonne of games after that, right up to January 2. We will be pedal to the floor again, but it gives us the chance to reflect over the next few days.
“There are a couple coming back from injury, and James Brown coming back from suspension as well which will help out.”
Mackay made two changes from the side which went down 3-0 to Celtic the previous weekend, with Brown ruled out through suspension and George Harmon on the bench, with Will Nightingale and Ben Purrington drafted in.
It was a cagey start from both teams, with neither goalkeeper tested within the early stages.
Saints enjoyed a decent period around the half hour mark, with former Staggie Carey taking aim with a low effort from the left edge of the box which drifted well wide of target.
A bizarre incident was reviewed by VAR on 39 minutes when Victor Loturi appeared to be bundled to the ground by Luke Robinson when the sides were setting up for an Andy Considine throw-in, with both players booked for the exchange.
County began to push as the half progressed, with Scott Allardice twice trying his luck from distance. His first effort cannonned off Ryan McGowan, before he had another strike clutched by Dimitar Mitov moments later.
Mackay made a tweak to his side at half-time, with Kyle Turner brought on in place of Loturi.
Saints made a flying start to the second half however, with Nicky Clark denied by the crossbar with a hooked effort he unleashed with his back to goal. Ross Laidlaw had to be alert to keep the home side out shortly afterwards, making a smart save to deny Graham Carey’s menacing low effort with his feet.
County had an opportunity on the breakaway when Simon Murray released Yan Dhanda in space, however the midfielder was unable to keep his effort down.
At the other end, Jack Baldwin did well to cut out a dangerous Matt Smith cross, with substitute Stevie May looking to pounce.
Saints took a stunning lead on 71 minutes, with Stevie May teeing up Carey to angle a curling strike into Laidlaw’s top-right corner.
County looked for an instant response, with Murray’s cross directed for Jordan White but cut out by Mitov.
They were largely frustrated in their efforts to claw back into the game however, with Laidlaw having to make a fine save to keep May out from close-range in the dying stages.
A Nightingale header which was easily gathered by Mitov was the closest County came, with Saints’ defence standing firm to the attacking efforts that came their way.
ST JOHNSTONE (3-4-1-2): Mitov 6; McGowan 7, Gordon 7, Considine 7; Brown 6, Phillips 7, Smith 7, Robinson 6; Carey 7; Kane 6 (Sprangler 81), Clark 6 (May 63).
Subs not used: Richards, Gallacher, MacPherson, Kucheriavyi, Jephcott, Olufunwa, Turner-Cooke.
ROSS COUNTY (3-4-1-2): Laidlaw 6; Nightingale 6, Baldwin 6, Leak 6; Randall 6 (Sheaf 89), Allardice 67 (Samuel 73), Loturi 5 (Turner 46), Purrington 5 (Harmon 52); Dhanda 7; Murray 6, White 6.
Subs not used: Munro, High, Samuel, Reid.
Referee: Nick Walsh
Star Man: Matt Smith