Published: 5th December 2014

United moved just a point shy of league leaders Celtic and put to bed their Friday night hoodoo with a 3-2 away victory in an exciting match at Ross County. By Graeme Webster The options available to Jackie McNamara were significantly improved for this Friday night clash compared to Saturday's cup win at Motherwell. Defender Jaroslaw Fojut was back from illness and John Rankin was deemed fit again after his recent injury woes. In addition, both Nadir Ciftci and Calum Morris were free from suspension. McNamara opted to draft in two of the quartet, contributing to a total of three changes. Watson made way for Fojut, Butcher replaced Telfer in midfield and Ciftci came in for Mackay-Steven. County made two changes with Toshney and Ross back in the side, replacing Boyd and Carey. County were first to threaten when an inviting Tony Dingwall centre flashed across the face of the United goal but no-one could take advantage. United burst forward in response and a great run by Townsend was brought shuddering to a halt at the edge of the County penalty area. Ciftci was unable to capitalise and his free-kick flew high and wide. Ciftci was the creator moments later when he released Erskine through the centre. The midfielder engineered enough space for a strike but Brown was alert to parry away. As County began to dictate play, United countered with lightening break to snatch the lead. A powerful run from Armstrong progressed his team deep into their opponents' half. A neat touch played in Erskine, who in turn fed Ciftci and the striker took advantage of some poor defending to round Brown and slot home. It should have been two just a few minutes later when a Ciftci cut back was met by Erskine at the edge of the box. A clever ball provided Armstrong with a clear sight of goal, but Brown blocked his sliding effort. Ross County monopolised possession for the second quarter of the match but were restricted to long range efforts that rarely threatened Cierzniak. Despite County's dominance of the ball, United looked most likely to score during the remainder of the first half. This was underlined minutes before the break when a Ciftci header was cleared off the line by Ross. Half Time: Ross County 0 - 1 United The second half exploded into life right from kick off when County forced Cierzniak to save just seconds in. The game raged from one end to another in the opening minutes of the second period and on 48 minutes United doubled their lead. A rampaging run from Butcher ended with a slide pass into the feet of Armstrong, leaving the midfielder with just the 'keeper to beat. In contrast to the match at Motherwell, the United number 10 showed great composure to side-step Brown and roll the ball into the empty net. With just under an hour played United killed the game with a crucial third. Again it was the away side's most creative player, Chris Erskine, who was the provider. A great first time pass from the midfielder provided Ciftci with the chance to double his tally for the evening. The big striker held off the defensive challenge to steer home a right foot effort low into the bottom corner. The County heads didn't go down and they continued to press for a lifeline. Dingwall fired in a great effort that Cierzniak did well to save on the hour mark. Then, with fifteen minutes remaining, the home side got the goal they craved. Substitute Arquin found space on the penalty spot and swivelled before slotting a left foot shot into the far corner. The same player came close just minutes later when he attempted to round Cierzniak but the ball got tangled up in his feet and was cleared to safety. With five minutes left, a high tackle by Boyce on Paton earned the County substitute a red card. That did nothing to dampen the home side's spirit and amazingly they pulled another one back with a minute remaining of regulation time. Substitute Darren Maatsen fired home off the underside of the bar. There was still time for United to go close again. Mackay-Steven forced Brown into a great save from his angled drive but there were no further goals. Full Time: Ross County 2 - 3 United Man of the match: Chris Erskine was at the heart of all United's creative play and was the provider for both of Ciftci's goals. His direct and penetrative play was a joy to watch. Teams: United: Cierzniak, Fojut, Dillon, Souttar, Townsend, Paton, Butcher (Rankin), Dow (Mackay-Steven), Ciftci, Armstrong, Erskine (Connolly). Subs not used: Szromnik, Watson, Spittal, Telfer. Ross County: Brown, Brittain, Toshney, Quinn, Reckord, Woods, Irvine, Cardle (Maatsen) Ross (Boyce), Dingwall, Jervis (Arquin). Subs not used: Reguero, Boyd, Dunfield, Saunders. Referee: B. Madden Attendance: 2922