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Ross County forced to settle for 2-2 draw against Livingston – keeping them six points above bottom spot

The Staggies twice led through Simon Murray, but were pegged back on both occasions.

Simon Murray nets his second goal against Livingston. Image: SNS
Simon Murray nets his second goal against Livingston. Image: SNS

Ross County were unable to extend the gap on bottom side Livingston after the two sides shared a thrilling 2-2 draw at Almondvale.

Derek Adams’ side had been on course to claim their first victory in seven games after Simon Murray’s second goal put them ahead with four minutes remaining, after his first half strike was cancelled out by Scott Pittman.

A late header by Livi substitute Daniel MacKay secured a point for the home side which sees the gap between the sides remain six points, and preventing County from leapfrogging St Johnstone into 10th place.

County showed up strongly in their 1-0 defeat to Celtic at Parkhead on Saturday, with Adams giving the same starting 11 another opportunity to impress in West Lothian.

The side was once again captained by Yan Dhanda who is destined to join Premiership rivals Hearts on a free transfer in the summer, however the Edinburgh outfit are believed to be hopeful of striking a deal to take him to Tynecastle before Thursday’s transfer deadline.

County looked to get into an early rhythm on Livi’s artificial surface, with Cameron Borthwick-Jackson sending in a dangerous cross to the far post which was unable to pick out any takers.

Yan Dhanda in action against Livingston. Image: SNS

Their first attempt at goal came on 12 minutes when good work by Victor Loturi led to a shooting opportunity for Eli King, who saw his shot blocked to safety.

Dhanda was next to try and manoeuvre an opening, with his cross narrowly evading the head of Brandon Khela.

Livi’s first meaningful surge towards the Staggies’ goal came on 23 minutes when James Penrice’s deep cross caused goalkeeper George Wickens to make a clawed save, with Steven Bradley’s follow-up delivery forcing a strong clearance by Will Nightingale.

The Staggies had the ball in the net on 27 minutes when Dhanda’s ball over the top released Murray through on goal, with the striker bearing down on Michael McGovern before sending an exquisite finish into the roof of the net.

Murray’s goal was immediately flagged for offside but was subsequently checked by the VAR monitor, with more than two minutes passing before referee Alan Muir received word the goal should stand, which prompted delayed celebrations from the County players.

Simon Murray nets his opening goal against Livingston. Image: SNS

Livi showed a bright response to going behind, with Ayo Obileye making a surging run upfield which saw him exchange passes with Joel Nouble before curling a low effort wide of target.

County had an opportunity to extend their lead on 39 minutes when Teddy Jenks released Khela down the right flank, with the teenager appearing caught in two minds over whether to shoot before sending across a cutback which Murray was unable to capitalise on.

The Staggies looked like going in ahead at the break before conceding a cheap goal right on the stroke of half-time. Kurtis Guthrie knocked down a Steven Bradley delivery, with Pittman nipping in ahead of the County defence to prod an effort past Wickens.

Livi could have taken the lead in first half stoppage time when Penrice made a burst forward before releasing a pass for Bradley, but he side-footed wide with the full goal to aim at.

Scott Pittman equalises for Livingston against Ross County. Image: SNS

Boosted by their late goal, the home side made a bright start to the second period, with Andrew Shinnie and Jamie Brandon both causing problems with deliveries which were well cut out by the Staggies’ rearguard.

Adams made his first changes on 53 minutes, in an attack-minded double switch which saw Loturi and Khela make way for Jordan White and Josh Sims.

Livi continued to threaten though, with a Bradley free-kick causing problems before Borthwick-Jackson got in to make a vital clearance to prevent Joel Nouble from getting a shot away.

A fine chance for White presented itself on 68 minutes after Dhanda exchanged passes with King before whipping in a delivery which eventually fell for the forward, however McGovern was alert to thwart his effort at the near post.

At the other end Livi spurned a glorious chance on 82 minutes when Daniel MacKay’s cutback set up Bruce Anderson, who side-footed his effort wide.

County looked to have had the final say when they regained the lead through a fine breakaway move. Nightingale released Sims down the right, with the winger’s cross dummied by White to allow Murray to control the ball before rifling another superb finish beyond McGovern.

Simon Murray celebrates netting against Livingston. Image: SNS

Livi struck back within just a minute however, when MacKay was left unmarked to steer a header beyond Wickens.

The Staggies goalkeeper had to make a fine late save to deny MacKay his second deep into stoppage time. Although Livi remain without a win in 15 league games, County will rue not landing a serious blow to their survival hopes.

Player Ratings

LIVINGSTON (4-2-3-1): McGovern 6; Brandon 6, Obileye 6, Nottingham 6, Penrice 7; Holt 6 (Yengi 88), Shinnie 6 (MacKay 75); Bradley 6 (Kelly 71), Pittman 7, Nouble; Guthrie 5 (Anderson 46).

Subs not used: George, Donnellan, Anderson, Sangare, Culbert, Lawal.

ROSS COUNTY (4-2-3-1): Wickens 6; Brown 6, Ayina 6, Nightingale 6, Borthwick-Jackson 6; Jenks 6, King 6; Khela 6 (White 53), Loturi 6 (Sims 54), Dhanda 6 (Sheaf 88); Murray 8 (Harmon 88).

Subs not used: Laidlaw, Henderson, Brophy, Reid.

Referee: Alan Muir
Star Man: Simon Murray