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Ross County win on penalties after incredible Montrose fightback in Betfred Cup opener

By Andrew Henderson

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Montrose 3 (Webster, Ballantyne, Steeves)

Ross County 3 (Shaw, Mckay, Charles-Cook)

Ross County win 5–4 on penalties

Ross County were taken all the way to penalties after appearing comfortable in their Betfred Cup opener against Montrose.

Oli Shaw, Billy Mckay and Regan Charles-Cook had given the Staggies a three-goal lead, but their hosts showed incredible spirit to fight back and take the tie to a shoot-out.

Ross County took control of the game early on, with their quality on the ball showing.

There was a hint of fortune about their opening goal though, which came from Jermaine Hylton's ball down the left to the ever-energetic Harry Paton.

The Canadian midfielder pulled a ball back into the middle, which fell to Billy Mckay whose shot was turned in yards out by Oli Shaw for the forward's first ever Ross County goal.

Picture - Ken Macpherson, Inverness. St. Johnstone(0) v Ross County(1). 19.09.20. Ross County's Oli Shaw started the game in place of the injured Billy McKay.
Picture - Ken Macpherson, Inverness. St. Johnstone(0) v Ross County(1). 19.09.20. Ross County's Oli Shaw started the game in place of the injured Billy McKay.

Montrose appealed for offside, but the flag stayed down and County were ahead.

It was only a couple of minute before their lead was doubled in the 15th minute, this time Mckay making sure to find the net himself.

This time Regan Charles-Cook was the instigator with a bursting run down the right and into the box.

He appeared to be stopped in his tracks, but he was still able to get a shot in which was deflected into Mckay's path for a simple header to mark his 100th Ross County appearance in style.

Montrose came back though, making the most of the space County were creating all over the pitch by trying to stretch their hosts to both touchlines.

They hit the woodwork twice, first when Sean Dillon attempted to catch Ross Laidlaw cold with a quick free kick from inside his own half.

The Staggies stopper was back-pedalling furiously to try and have it covered, but it took the crossbar to deny Montrose.

Just two minutes later a Cammy F Ballantyne volley just outside the box forced Laidlaw into action again, and it took his fingertips to push the ball on to the post to again keep the home side out.

County started the second half well though, and went even further ahead thanks to another maiden goal for the club.

This time it was Regan Charles-Cook who showed his class by taking control of a loose ball, cutting inside from the left and coolly stroking the ball into the far corner with a fine finish from the edge of the area.

After the hour mark passed the game threatened to turn completely on it's head though.

First substitute Martin Rennie delivered a pinpoint cross from the left which Graham Webster sent past a motionless Laidlaw and into the far corner to pull one goal back.

Then Mckay had a taste of what Montrose went through in the first half as he was denied by the crossbar after lifting the ball over Fleming, with his follow-up effort then blocked on the line.

The Staggies may have been getting nervous when the deficit was reduced to a single goal as Cammy Ballantyne's shot was deflected past his own keeper by Callum Morris.

County's vice-captain then went inches away from finding the net at the right end, hitting the post with a header after venturing up the park for a corner kick.

As Montrose pushed for an equaliser spaces began to open up for the visitors on the counter attack, and Mckay and substitute Ross Stewart both went close to sealing the win.

Those missed opportunities came back to haunt County though, as Andrew Steeves popped up in the 89th minute to smash home a late equaliser and take the game to a penalty shoot-out.

It went all the way down to the wire, as both sides scored their first four spot kicks.

Charlie Lakin on debut went last for County and found the net, before Rennie smashed the final penalty off the crossbar to give the extra point to the Staggies.

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