Ross County left it late, but Liam Boyce’s spot-kick gave them one of their most crucial victories of the season as they moved six points clear of bottom spot.
The Staggies came into the match bereft of confidence following a poor recent run, which had seen them record just one league victory in their previous league nine league matches in 2017, but they were the better side for much of this match.
County could not have started better, with the returning Tim Chow putting them ahead after just seven minutes. Despite retaining their lead for the majority of the first-half, parity was restored when Dundee skipper Darren O’Dea levelled from the spot on 45 minutes.
County were in command of the second-half but had to wait until the 90th minute to find a winner, with Boyce showing composure to hand them their first home league victory since December 31.
Jim McIntyre went back to basics as he reverted to a 4-4-2 formation which included three changes. Tim Chow was back from suspension and Michael Gardyne and Jim O’Brien started, with Christopher Routis, Jay McEveley and Alex Schalk dropping to the bench. Leading scorer Liam Boyce returned to playing as an out-and-out forward, having occupied a deeper position in recent weeks, with McIntyre looking to the Northern Irishman to put pressure on a Dark Blues defence that leaked a remarkable seven goals at home to Aberdeen on Friday.
The blustery conditions made play difficult from the off, particularly for the hosts who were playing into the wind, however it was the Highlanders who still showed the greater intent from the start, and they were rewarded with the breakthrough after just seven minutes. Boyce was influential in the goal, taking on O’Brien’s fine pass down the left channel before jinking past Dundee defender Kevin Gomis and squaring for Chow to slot home from close-range.
It was exactly the start McIntyre had demanded, however the Dark Blues responded brightly, with Darren O’Dea guiding a free header wide from Paul McGowan’s free-kick, before Scott Fox was required to make an impressive clawed save to push Mark O’Hara’s long-range strike over.
The Staggies were forced to make two changes during the first-half, with Martin Woods failing to shake off an injury he had pulled up with earlier in the match, with Frenchman Routis coming on in his place, before Andrew Davies limped off with a back injury only minutes after he had sent a free-kick just wide, with Jay McEveley his replacement.
County’s rhythm was not disrupted however, with Naismith sending Routis’ corner wide, before Dundee goalkeeper Scott Bain hurt himself in palming Chow’s delivery behind under pressure from Craig Curran, only for referee John Beaton to award a goal kick.
Curran nearly caught Bain out five minutes before the interval when he beat the goalkeeper to the ball on the edge of his own box, however the wind prevented the Englishman’s effort carrying far enough to reach the goal, allowing the visitors to clear.
The visitors were handed a lifeline on 44 minutes however, when they were awarded a spot-kick after Fraser bundled Henrik Ojamaa to the ground as the attacker went through on goal following Marcus Haber’s flick-on. O’Dea stepped up and made no mistake, thumping the ball past Fox despite the goalkeeper diving correctly to his left.
The injuries caused six minutes of stoppage time to be added at the end of the first-half, and County nearly took advantage four minutes into that when Routis’ delivery was met by Boyce, whose header forced an outstanding save from Bain on to his crossbar.
County were intent on regaining their lead, with O’Brien’s lobbed effort forcing another fine fingertip save from Bain, before Boyce steered Naismith’s delivery inches wide on 58 minutes. The home side looked more fluent in possession but the lack of confidence in both sides was apparent, with moments of quality in short supply, as further efforts from Boyce and Routis went well off target.
The Staggies did well to keep Dundee’s second-half threat to a minimum, with McIntyre’s side doing far more to force the issue of a breakthrough. They spurned a fine chance on 74 minutes when Boyce teed up Naismith in a fine position but he blasted his shot wide of the near post.
County had to make a third enforced substitution of the night when substitute McEveley limped off, being replaced by youngster Reghan Tumilty, before their night went from bad to worse on 81 minutes when O’Brien was shown a second yellow card for diving to try and win a penalty under close attention from Dundee defender Kevin Holt.
County were given a penalty late on when Gardyne was taken down by Cammy Kerr, with Boyce making no mistake to coolly slot home, while there was time for further late drama when Dundee midfielder Danny Williams was shown a second booking following a late altercation.