Scottish Championship
Ayr1Ross County3

Ayr United 1-3 Ross County: League leaders all but seal Championship title

Ross County look like they are returning to the top flight at the first time of asking
Ross County look like they are returning to the top flight at the first time of asking

Ross County all but sealed the Championship title after Brian Graham's hat-trick brought the league leaders victory against Ayr United.

If second-placed Dundee United fail to beat Inverness Caledonian Thistle on Saturday, then County are assured of first place and promotion.

Ayr took the lead through Calvin Miller's close-range finish.

But Graham levelled with his right foot, headed the visitors in front and added the third with his left foot.

The first of the striker's goals was struck from 10 yards just before half-time.

The big centre-forward nodded in his second from Josh Mullin's cross, before Michael Gardner supplied the delivery for Graham to complete a perfect treble.

Ross County are now nine points clear at the top with two games left to play, while Dundee United have Saturday's match in hand.

To make a late collapse even more unlikely, the Dingwall side enjoy a goal difference that is 20 better than their nearest challenger.

Ian McCall's Ayr still require one more point to seal a promotion play-off spot.

Missing Lawrence Shankland, Steven Bell and Michael Rose through injury, it was always going to be tough for the Honest Men but on-loan Celtic player Miller gave them hope when he thumped into the roof of the net from Nicky Cadden's cross after 12 minutes.

But errors led to County's equaliser before Graham continued to show his ruthlessness in front of goal after the break, taking his tally to 12 for the season.

Robbie Crawford nearly brought the hosts back into the match but his fine, cushioned volley hit the post.

Ayr's Ross Docherty was shown a red card after the final whistle for throwing the ball at opponent Daniel Armstrong.

County mentality makes the difference - reaction

Ross County co-manager Stuart Kettlewell: "It's a bit raw at the moment. Obviously, it's not arithmetically done but we're in a great position thanks to Brian Graham coming up with the goods.

"We showed great character like we have all season. It's all down to mentality. We asked a few questions of each other at half-time because we weren't at our best.

"This run of games has been really difficult but our second-half performance merited the victory.

Ross County striker Brian Graham: "Dundee United need a miracle now. We'll enjoy our night and see what happens tomorrow. I've won a few things with the club. It's a family unit, a really enjoyable place, and we all love it."

Ayr United manager Ian McCall: "I felt that some of our physically bigger players being out was a bit of a telling factor. Michel Gardyne was exceptional for Ross County and it's a tremendous achievement for their two young coaches. We want to win our last three games and go into the play-offs in good form.

"Lawrence Shankland might be OK for Tuesday against Partick Thistle. Steven Bell should be OK."

Line-ups

Ayr

  • 1Doohan
  • 6GegganSubstituted forKerrat 75'minutes
  • 3HarvieBooked at 57mins
  • 30Muirhead
  • 27Smith
  • 11McDaid
  • 18Murdoch
  • 8Crawford
  • 28CaddenSubstituted forDochertyat 75'minutesBooked at 90mins
  • 7MoffatSubstituted forForrestat 67'minutes
  • 29Miller

Substitutes

  • 4Kerr
  • 10Forrest
  • 19Hare-Reid
  • 21Ecrepont
  • 23Docherty
  • 25McCowan

Ross County

  • 1Fox
  • 2Fraser
  • 44Grivosti
  • 12Boyle
  • 3Kelly
  • 14MullinSubstituted forArmstrongat 87'minutesBooked at 90mins
  • 8LindsaySubstituted forSpenceat 88'minutes
  • 26Cowie
  • 7GardyneBooked at 84mins
  • 19GrahamBooked at 73minsSubstituted forMcManusat 85'minutes
  • 27Stewart

Substitutes

  • 4Fontaine
  • 10McManus
  • 11Vigurs
  • 16Spence
  • 21Munro
  • 24Paton
  • 31Armstrong
Referee:
Euan Anderson
Attendance:
1,692

Match Stats

Home TeamAyrAway TeamRoss County
Possession
Home43%
Away57%
Shots
Home8
Away14
Shots on Target
Home3
Away6
Corners
Home7
Away5
Fouls
Home9
Away14

Live Text

Match ends, Ayr United 1, Ross County 3.

Full Time

Second Half ends, Ayr United 1, Ross County 3.

Foul by Ross Docherty (Ayr United).

Declan McManus (Ross County) wins a free kick on the right wing.

Corner, Ayr United. Conceded by Lewis Spence.

Attempt blocked. Declan McDaid (Ayr United) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.

Hand ball by Don Cowie (Ross County).

Robbie Crawford (Ayr United) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Foul by Lewis Spence (Ross County).

Substitution

Substitution, Ross County. Lewis Spence replaces Jamie Lindsay.

Substitution

Substitution, Ross County. Daniel Armstrong replaces Josh Mullin.

Substitution

Substitution, Ross County. Declan McManus replaces Brian Graham.

Andy Murdoch (Ayr United) hits the right post with a right footed shot from outside the box.

Mark Kerr (Ayr United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Booking

Michael Gardyne (Ross County) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Foul by Michael Gardyne (Ross County).

Corner, Ayr United. Conceded by Marcus Fraser.

Corner, Ayr United. Conceded by Marcus Fraser.

Attempt saved. Ross Docherty (Ayr United) header from the centre of the box is saved in the top centre of the goal.

Corner, Ayr United. Conceded by Scott Fox.

Declan McDaid (Ayr United) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Foul by Marcus Fraser (Ross County).

Michael Gardyne (Ross County) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Mark Kerr (Ayr United).

Tom Grivosti (Ross County) hits the bar with a right footed shot from outside the box.

Corner, Ross County. Conceded by Ross Doohan.

Attempt saved. Josh Mullin (Ross County) right footed shot from long range on the left is saved in the top left corner.

Corner, Ross County. Conceded by Mark Kerr.

Attempt saved. Ross Stewart (Ross County) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom left corner.

Substitution

Substitution, Ayr United. Mark Kerr replaces Andrew Geggan.

Substitution

Substitution, Ayr United. Ross Docherty replaces Nicky Cadden.

Brian Graham (Ross County) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Andy Murdoch (Ayr United).

Booking

Brian Graham (Ross County) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Liam Smith (Ayr United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Brian Graham (Ross County).

Goal!

Goal! Ayr United 1, Ross County 3. Brian Graham (Ross County) left footed shot from very close range to the centre of the goal. Assisted by Michael Gardyne.

Attempt missed. Andrew Geggan (Ayr United) header from the right side of the six yard box is too high following a corner.

Corner, Ayr United. Conceded by Marcus Fraser.

Foul by Sean Kelly (Ross County).

goal

As It Stood

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Ross County34208657312668
2Dundee Utd3317884539659
3Ayr331481147351250
4Inverness CT33121474537850
5Dunfermline33118143236-441
6Alloa33108153648-1238
7Morton33813123245-1337
8Queen of Sth33811143940-135
9Falkirk33811143443-935
10Partick Thistle3297163649-1334
View full Scottish Championship table

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