Published: 17th July 2018
On Saturday United lost a point on penalties and tonight a missed penalty cost them dearly.
By Peter Rundo
Nicky Clark failed to net from a penalty seven minutes from time and paid the price with County scoring the winner five minutes from the end.
The result was a bit harsh on a United side who held their own against one of their chief rivals in the Championship, but it leaves Tannadice hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages very slim indeed.
For the second Betfred Cup up at Dingwall, manager Csaba Laszlo made four changes, handing debuts to goalkeeper Matej Rakovan, left-back Callum Booth, midfielder Adam Barton and bringing in Matty Smith. Dropping to the bench were Ben Siegrist, Jamie Robson, and Decan Glass, while Fraser Aird was out through injury.
No shortage of weel kent faces in the County ranks with Tannadice Old Boys as Michael Gardyne, Billy McKay and Keith Watson all started with Calum Morris and Ryan Dow on the bench.
First-half – The home side were first to threaten when McKay fired past the near post from Sean Kelly’s quickly taken free-kick on five minutes.
County had the better of the opening exchanges, but without calling Rakovan into any action.
On the 15 minute mark, United had their first attempt on goal, Frederic Frans heading over a Paul McMullan free-kick.
Three minutes later, Kelly headed wide of the target from a free-kick at the other end.
A series of free-kicks meant there was little fluency to the game.
Midway through the half, Sam Stanton saw yellow for a bring down Declan McManus.
Rakovan showed his worth after 25 minutes when he beat away Jamie Lindsay’s shot.
As United struggled to contain County, Matty Smith became the second player to be booked for a late challenge on Kelly.
Ross Draper became booking number three for another late tackle.
A surging run by Stanton brought some cheer to the attending Arabs, but he was crowded out, but the home side held the upper hand.
Seven minutes from the interval, there was a nasty looking, though accidental clash which ultimately resulted in the County defender being replaced by Calum Morris.
United had to thank McMullan for not conceding with goal-line clearance from Keith Watson’s header with six minutes of the first half left.
But before the break, United had their best chance of the half, Barton’s header from a McMullan corner being cleared off the line by Watson.
Defensively, it was a sound performance so far, but more punch is required up front if United are to get three badly needed points to boost their hopes of qualifying.
Half time – Ross County 0 United 0
Second Half – No changes in either side as the second half got underway and United looked a little bit livelier in the attack.
And ten minutes into the second period, United went close to getting the vital opener from Barton’s inviting cross from the left from which the hosts were grateful to conceded only a corner.
Declan Glass replaced Smith on 58 minutes and a cracking 20-yarder almost beat Scott Fox who was grateful to beat his shot away.
But just before that only a last ditch clearance by Frans prevented Couty counting.
The game was much more stretched with chances at both ends.
McManus went close for the Highlanders and then the home fans were shouting for a penalty when Gardyne went down in the box under a Murdoch challenge.
Gardyne then fired just wide from a good opening created by Lindsay just after Glass saw his shot blocked at the other end.
As time ticked by County upped the pace and McKay fired over from the edge of the box.
Then McManus drove in along the left hand touchline only for Rakovan to block his path.
Ten minutes from time, United squandered a golden opportunity, Stanton was brought down in the box by Gardyne for a penalty.
Nicky Clark’s kick was parried by Fox and the striker followed up only to his effort from the rebound diverted over the bar by a County defender.
But a goal was only delayed by a couple of minutes and former Tannadice striker Ryan Dow who had just come off the bench was the architect. He twisted and turned on the right before delivering a cross to the far post where Lindsay sent a diving header past a helpless Rakovan.
Right at the end Rakovan prevented a second goal again denying McManus.
Man of the Match – New boy Adam Barton had a sound debut and on the evidence looks as though he’ll be a decided acquisition.
Attendance – 1532
Ross County – Fox, Fraser (C), Kelly, Fontaine (Morris 39), Draper, Gardyne, Lindsay, McKay Dow 83), McManus, Mullin (Keillor- Dunn,60), Watson.
Subs not used – Munro, Dykes, Dow, Dingwall, Paton.
United – Rakovan, Wardrop, Murdoch (C), Frans, Booth, Rabitsch (Appere 88), Barton, Smith (Glass 58), Clark, Stanton, McMullan.
Subs not used - Siegrist (GK), Robson, Allardice, Scobbie, Edjenguele.
Referee – Willie Collum
Assistants – Graham Chambers and Kevin McElhinney.