Ross County will play in the Scottish Premiership next season after a 2-1 victory over Motherwell at Fir Park.
Sam Foley’s Motherwell opener piled the pressure on County early before Jordan White hit the crossbar for County. Iain Vigurs netted four minutes after half-time to level things up before Michael Gardyne put the finishing touches on the Dingwall club’s survival bid. Motherwell finish the season in eighth.
John Hughes’ side only needed a point in this one to survive or hope Hamilton avoided defeat to Kilmarnock. Their victory means Kilmarnock’s 2-0 win on the other side of Lanarkshire is irrelevant and they will contest Dundee in the play-off for a place in Scotland’s top flight next season.
Ross County were given a wake-up call after six minutes. Jake Hastie played in Mark O’Hara down the right and his cross was eventually bundled in by Foley for his first goal for Motherwell. The goal scored across the other side of Lanarkshire by Kilmarnock’s Mitch Pinnock was perhaps of more concern, County in the relegation play-off spot early doors.
The pressure was on and White missed a huge chance to get them level against his former club. White found space in the box off a County corner but the striker could only crack the crossbar with his volley.
Gardyne fired a shot high and wide on the half-time whistle as Pinnock added a second for Kilmarnock. County had the better of the closing stages in the first half but were unable to convert the one goal they desperately needed. Their captain provided inspiration after the restart.
Linking well with Stephen Kelly, the County captain curled an excellent effort past goalkeeper Liam Kelly to put County back in the driving seat for survival. Midfielder Kelly should have put County up shortly after but fluffed his lines with a near tap-in opportunity awaiting the Rangers loanee.
Gardyne put them on the brink of safety after some great hold-up play by White. The striker slotted him through and the County legend held his nerve to slot under Motherwell keeper Kelly. Hughes’ side hadn’t won three on the bounce all season but if ever there was a time to do it, this was it.
Blair Spittal had a late chance but by then it was job done as they look forward to Premiership football next term. Here are three things we learned.
Through the wire
Hughes always said it would go down the wire and thankfully for him, County are through the other side of it. His team battled and showed quality to retain their Premiership status. They could have wilted at 1-0 but desire shone to get them over the line. Hughes only signed a deal until the end of the season and his future can now be resolved.
The 34-year-old has had his playing time at Motherwell limited since arriving from St Mirren in January. But he’s proven a useful asset in the closing matches, opening his goal tally here. Foley looks like he’s got at least another season in him at Premiership level and with his short-term deal expiring, Motherwell may be keen to keep him.
Vigurs rallied the troops again and his impact in the last week has been key to County’s survival. He woke them up and roared them on to a 2-1 win over Hamilton last week and again in this, he grabbed the game by the horns and inspired his team to victory.
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