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Ross County seal Premiership safety with comeback win away at Motherwell

By Andrew Henderson

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Motherwell 1 (Foley)

Ross County 2 (Vigurs, Gardyne)

Ross County did exactly what they needed to do – and a little more – to secure a third consecutive season of Premiership football.

Staggies fans could have been forgiven for fearing the worst when Sam Foley sent Motherwell ahead in the opening minutes, but goals from Iain Vigurs and Michael Gardyne saw them come from behind for the second match in-a-row to claim three points.

That meant that regardless of what Kilmarnock did against Hamilton, they could not catch County, who finish the season in 10th, one spot above the relegation play-off.

The match kicked into high gear early on, with bookings for both sides perhaps an indication of the urgency prevalent in the game.

Michael Gardyne's goal from a Jordan White assist was enough to see Ross County seal their Premiership status for another year. Picture: Ken Macpherson
Michael Gardyne's goal from a Jordan White assist was enough to see Ross County seal their Premiership status for another year. Picture: Ken Macpherson

Motherwell were the team to claim the advantage in the sixth minute though, as Mark O'Hara's cross from the ride wing took a couple of touches on it's way through to the far post.

There, Sam Foley got a strong enough connection on the ball to wrong-foot Ross Laidlaw and pick out the far corner.

Coupled with Kilmarnock taking the lead against Hamilton, that meant County had slipped into the relegation play-off spot in the live standings.

John Hughes' men were not to know as much at that stage, but they still set about keeping their fate in their own hands by scoring an equaliser.

They looked the more threatening side, responding well to going behind, with Blair Spittal's crossing a particular threat to the Steelmen's defence.

One cross from the left was aimed towards Jason Naismith at the back post, but the ball fell into the middle of the area where Jordan White swung a boot at it – crashing into the crossbar on it's way over.

Just a few minutes later another Spittal deliver, this time from a corner, was met by Keith Watson, who saw his seemingly goal-bound header hit Michael Gardyne in an offside position.

Motherwell managed to survive that onslaught, and the game settled into a midfield battle as both sides kept a solid defensive shape to make things difficult for their opponents going forward.

The Staggies were forced into an attacking change before the interval though, as Carl Tremarco – just restored to the starting 11 in place of Leo Hjelde after injury – broke down and had to be replaced by Charlie Lakin.

County's faithful would have been hoping the Birmingham City loanee could make a similar impact to their previous outing against Hamilton, but though County did get back on level terms early in the second half it was another left-footer they had to thank for it.

After Spittal and Naismith had done well to take County into the Motherwell half, Iain Vigurs took control of the situation in the middle of the park.

He played a one-two with Stephen Kelly to advance to the edge of the penalty area, and smoothly curled the ball into the top corner, leaving Liam Kelly with no chance.

That meant that as things stood, County would get the point they needed to secure 10th place in the league table.

The Staggies, with something to play for and to try and hang on to, tried to take time out of the match at set pieces.

It was still a precarious position though, with one Motherwell goal all that was needed to send them into a play-off – until the visitors took the lead.

With 25 minutes left on the clock, White played Gardyne through on the left side of the box, putting the County record goalscorer through one-on-one with Liam Kelly.

He coolly took his chance, picking out the bottom corner to give County the lead at Fir Park, and consequently put them in the driving seat in the battle to avoid a relegation play-off.

Motherwell tried to get back into the tie, but with their league status on the line County defended manfully to keep their hosts out.

That was enough to see them over the finishing line with the points, knowing safety was theirs.

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