By Ramsay Banks

Ross County saw off Motherwell to win 3-1 upon the return of the Scottish Premiership after the winter break.

Sondre Solholm gave County the lead with an unfortunate own goal, before Jordan Roberts equalised for Motherwell. The Steelmen looked to be in control when Jordan Tillson saw the red mist and was sent off, but a Regan Charles-Cook brace, the second from the spot, ensured that the Staggies went home with the points against the run of play.

Dominic Samuel then spurned a gilt-edged chance to put the Staggies in front when the game was at a standstill. Debutant Declan Drysdale sent a hopeful ball over the top of the ‘Well defence., and Samuel was onside to the surprise of many. However, the striker took a poor touch and had his finish blocked by the backtracking Bevis Mugabi.

Not two minutes afterwards, Kevin van Veen passed up an opportunity that was clear as day. Stephen O’Donnell swung in a corner from the right and the striker found himself completely free 10 yards from goal, but could only glance well wide of the woodwork.

Celtic FC v Ross County FC - Cinch Scottish Premiership
(Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Just on the stroke of halftime, the Staggies got the lead in comedic fashion. Regan Charles-Cook used magnificent skill to send Mugabi a yard in the other direction and onto the deck. His inswinging ball into the box hit the flat-footed Solholm, and spun beyond the unsuspecting Liam Kelly into the net.

After half time, Motherwell came flying out the blocks. County’s backline failed to beat van Veen to a clearance, and he managed to send a bouncing pass to Jordan Roberts. Roberts then marked his first match under a permanent contract for the Steelmen by smashing a scintillating half volley beyond the helpless Ashley Maynard-Brewer.

The tide was turning in ‘Well’s favour quickly, and Ross County substitute Jordan Tillson was shown red for a challenge on Liam Donnelly that referee John Beaton was having none of. Tillson looked slightly bemused when given his marching orders, but whatever the County midfielder thought, the home side were a man down.

County took it upon themselves to try and make Motherwell’s advantage look negligent. Samuel broke down the right and drilled it into the area. The ball stood up in no man’s land, and a sprinting Charles-Cook got there first to prod home with his weaker left foot, sending the Staggies faithful into hysterics.

Charles-Cook was having a stormer, jinking inside and out to the byline. His cutback was deemed by Beaton to have been intercepted by the hand of Mugabi, and the Grenadian international had no hesitation in immediately claiming the spot-kick for his own. He stuttered in his run-up, and full of confidence, sent Kelly the wrong way.

Three things we learned

Slow Start After Winter

This clash took its sweet time getting into the action, as players were very clearly shaking off the rust from the winter break. Players went down injured left right and centre, with Ross County having to replace both Joseph Hungbo and David Cancola before half time. In the second half, Motherwell players went down just as frequently- refusing the game any time to catch a rhythm.

County Cooking up a storm

After immediately conceding at the start of the second half, and seeing Tillson down the tunnel not long after, County were facing an uphill battle. Malky Mackay was bold in not changing his system to be more pragmatic, and most importantly, Regan Charles-Cook had as much licence to go forward as he did in the first half. This paid off massively, with Charles-Cook scoring both goals that saw the Staggies out of sight.

Motherwell slip up

Motherwell were feeling good going into this game, with Graham Alexander earning a new deal over the break. Tonight though, the old cliche about matches sometimes being harder against ten men rang true. The Steelmen failed to take advantage of the momentum they had before the sending off, and seemed to tire themselves out searching for a second goal. The pace of Charles-Cook and Samuel then punished them on the counter. 

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