TWO goals in the dying minutes saw Ross County prise victory from the jaws of defeat in Dingwall and leave Hearts wondering how they failed to win this game. Callum Paterson’s first half goal had the visitors ahead and looking relatively comfortable until headers from Melvin de Leeuw and Richard Brittain turned the result on its head.
Goals: Ross County - De Leeuw 88, Brittain 90. Hearts - Paterson 23
De Leeuw headed Steven Ross’ cross into the net on 88 minutes, whilst Brittain’s winner came in the second minute of stoppage time. The result was much welcomed by the Ross County manager Derek Adams after a difficult start to the campaign, although it leaves Hearts still on minus eight points in their fight against relegation from the Scottish Premiership.
Ross County took control of the early stages with Brittain and Ross flashing attempts wide of the Hearts goal. Then came the opener after the visitors began probing. Kevin McHattie’s corner was cleared and landed back with the full-back for an inswinging cross which Paterson instinctively prodded beyond Mark Brown into the bottom corner.
The away support, boisterous since kick-off, erupted and there was a short delay as a smoke bomb was cleared from Jamie MacDonald’s penalty area.
Paterson might have scored again in the 32nd minute after searing pace took him in behind the Ross County defender Scott Boyd to collect Jason Holt’s lofted pass. However, the teenager’s first-time shot was well wide of goal.
Stuart Kettlewell headed Graham Carey’s corner narrowly over the Hearts crossbar before Ivan Sproule’s piercing run and cross was scrambled clear. Ross County were making a concerted effort to haul themselves level, although Brown was alert to hold Paterson’s low drive as the interval approached.
After an untidy opening to the second half, Hearts fashioned a glaring opportunity on 62 minutes. Paterson’s shot from distance ricocheted into Jason Holt’s path and his low cutback found Paterson on the run and unmarked around six yards out. However, the striker was slightly ahead of the cross and could not connect properly, hence the ball bounced wide of target. It was a chance he would later rue.
County replied with Brian McLean’s header from a corner which MacDonald held comfortably. The goalkeeper also collected a 25-yard effort from substitute De Leeuw. At the opposite end, Brown was at full stretch to prevent Holt killing the game with a second goal from more than 20 yards out.
Predictably, the hosts applied sustained pressure during the final minutes of the match as their search for an equaliser intensified. The pressing paid off two minutes from time when De Leeuw staked his claim for a starting place by heading Ross’ cross away from MacDonald for the equaliser.
Then came the killer blow. In stoppage time at the end of the 90 minutes, Brittain rose to nod Carey’s outswinging cross into the same corner De Leeuw had planted the equaliser. It completed a remarkable recovery act, leaving Hearts stunned at the final outcome.
Ross County (4-4-1-1): Brown; Kovacevic, McLean, Boyd, Gordon; Sproule (Glen 78), Brittain, Kettlewell, Carey; Quinn (De Leeuw 73); Ross. Subs: Fraser, Micic, Munro, Maatsen, Saunders.
Hearts (4-2-3-1): MacDonald; McGowan, McKay, McGowan, McHattie; Hamill, Robinson; Smith (B King 78), Holt, Walker (Nicholson 87); Paterson. Subs: Ridgers, McGhee, Tapping, Carrick, Oliver.
Referee: Euan Norris.
Attendance: 4059 .