Late goal sends Ross County out of Betfred Cup
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Betfred Cup Second Round
Hibernian 3 Ross County 2
Scorers - Hibernian: Gray (15) Mallan (70) Horgan (90) County: Gardyne (10) Mullin (64 pen)
ROSS County suffered late heartbreak as they were knocked out of the Betfred Cup by Premiership side Hibernian.
The Staggies twice took the lead in the game, being pegged back within minutes both times before the home side won it in stoppage time.
The visitors wasted no time leaving their mark on the game, Iain Vigurs surely setting a record for the quickest booking of the season when he was shown the yellow card for clattering into Stevie Mallan with less than seven seconds on the clock.
County started the better of the two teams, to the extent that it was no surprise when they took the lead with 10 minutes gone.
Sean Kelly’s free kick was headed out by Efe Ambrose but it fell to Michael Gardyne on the edge of the box and his first-time volley took a wicked deflection which totally wrong-footed Ross Laidlaw in the Hibs goal.
But that goal sparked the home side into life and they began to flex their muscles menacingly.
Martin Boyle tested Scott Fox, who made a good save low to his left, before the leveller arrived on 15 minutes.
Daryl Horgan whipped in a teasing cross from the left flank, and skipper David Gray rose highest to head home, giving Fox no chance.
The keeper was called into action again when Boyle used his electric pace to good effect, racing clear and leaving himself with a one-on-one, but the keeper stood strong and made a fine save to bail his team out.
County were living on the edge and almost fell behind when Sean Kelly diverted another Horgan cross towards his own net, but Fox was there again to spare his team-mate’s blushes.
Like they had in the first half, the visitors started the second half on the front foot and Vigurs tested Laidlaw’s reflexes with a terrific free kick, the keeper tipping it over the bar.
However, they were dealt a blow when midfielder Jamie Lindsay was carried off with a worrying-looking injury.
But that didn’t deter the visitors and after Hibs had a penalty appeal waved away, the Staggies were awarded one of their own at the other end. Efe Ambrose’s clumsy tackle on McManus was ill-advised, and referee Kevin Clancy pointed to the spot.
Josh Mullin stepped up, smashing the spot-kick low to Laidlaw’s right to restore County’s lead.
They almost went further ahead seconds later as Hibs wobbled. Mullin darted forward down the right, and only the quick thinking of Laidlaw prevented McManus from reaching the winger’s low cross.
The keeper was proving vital for the hosts and he was forced into action again, making a sharp double save to deny Gardyne and Kelly.
But once again the home side were level within minutes of going behind. County failed to close down Mallan, who calmly took a touch and sent a spectacular dipping shot beyond Fox from all of 25 yards.
And there was to be heartbreak for County right at the death as Hibs won it in stoppage time.
The impressive Horgan shifted the ball inside onto his left foot and curled a wonderful shot past Fox to seal their place in the quarter finals, with a home tie against Aberdeen lying in wait.