Published: 11/04/2011 00:00 - Updated: 29/11/2011 17:03

County triumph in cup final

A CLASSY Ross County performance saw them bring the Alba Challenge Cup back to Dingwall on Sunday after an impressive 2-0 win against Queen of the South.

Now the full focus for County is for them to beat Cowdenbeath to that eighth spot in Irn Bru Division One and ensure their status in the second tier of Scottish football.

The scene was set perfectly, with the sunshine sitting over McDiarmid Park in Perth.

The much-maligned pitch was patchy, but certainly not as bad as it has been for a number of St Johnstone's home matches lately, helped by the dry weather.

Michael Gardyne was quick off the mark to threaten and he won an early corner, which was well defended by Queens.

Then some fine play down the left involving Paul Lawson and Iain Vigurs in the build-up saw Andy Barrowman denied as he went to pull the trigger in the box.

Willie McLaren and Paul Burns almost found a way through for the Doonhamers, but seconds later a howler saw County edge into an ninth minute lead.

Barrowman a back-pass from David Lilley and put keeper David Hutton under pressure, robbed him and had the simplest of tap-ins to score the opener.

The Dumfries fans and players were stunned and it was a horrible moment for the former Aberdeen and Clyde keeper, though perseverance which paid off for the County striker.

Nothing seemed to be going right for nervy Queens and County were out to take advantage.

On 17 minutes, Brittain whipped a low free-kick just wide as he aimed to test Hutton.

Then, from a long County clearance, Barrowman headed the ball into Gardyne's path, but the goalkeeper got their just ahead of him.

Queens keeper Hutton matched up to Barrowman on the 28th minute when he stood strong to hold his close-range header, which stemmed from a Gardyne delivery.

Some of the Staggies' football was dazzling, but they needed to find another goal to deflate the Doonhamers.

On 34 minutes, the Queens almost found a way through, but goalkeeeper Michael McGovern raced out to halt Allan Johnston then a goal-line stop by Marc Fitzpatrick blocked Derek Holmes' shot.

Queens were upping their game and some last-ditch headers and clearances from County were shutting them out.

However, in the 39th minute, County moved one step closer to winning the trophy when Vigurs raced into the box to slam home a cross from Gardyne, which was sent in from the right side.

Last year's final also had a team from the North 2-0 ahead at the break Caley Thistle - and they lost it 3-2 against Dundee, so that would have been warning enough to the Dingwall side not to think this job was done in 45 minutes.

Yet, County almost grabbed a third goal within the opening minute of the second half, Johnny Flynn's header knocked off the line by Daniel Carmichael from a Brittain corner.

On 55 minutes, Ryan McGuffie got on the end of a free-kick from Craig Reid, but swept the ball wide of the far post as Queens sought a way back into the final.

A flashpoint saw two players booked on 64 minutes as Stephen McKenna and Paul Lawson clashed when they challenged for the ball. Then David Lilley and Barrowman were yellow-carded for having their say on the incident.

County stood strong against any attacks from Queens, with McGovern blocking sub Steven Degnan when he got a glimpse of goal and then was swiftly out by deny Burns.

The Staggies also looked lively in attack and Gardyne almost found the net when the ball broke to him in a goalmouth scramble in the closing moments.

It was County though who ran out deserved winners and boss Jimmy Calderwood will be demanding the same standard of performance in the vital battle to beat the drop in Division One.

Queen of the South: Hutton, Reid, Harris, McGuffie, Lilley, McKenna, Carmichael (Degnan 71), Burns, Holmes, Johnston, McLaren. Subs not used: McKenzie (GK), Black, Smillie, McShane.

Ross County: McGovern, Miller, Fitzpatrick, Lawson (Morrison 90), Boyd, Flynn, Gardyne (Milne 86), Kettlewell, Barrowman (Wood 89), Brittain, Vigurs. Subs not used: Malin (GK), Craig.

Referee: Euan Norris.

Attendance: 5,124.

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